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Il Manifesto, Italy


By Luca Celada

We all know about the apolitical and paranoid streaks of the American imagination. Another widespread national characteristic is utopianism...

Translated By Micaela Bester

13 February 2013

Edited by Rachel Smith

Italy - Il Manifesto - Original Article (Italian)

We all know about the apolitical and paranoid streaks of the American imagination. Another widespread national characteristic is utopianism, which is perhaps all too predictable for a nation born to break with the past and focus on the future, and which is evident in its "intentional communities.” Perhaps there is a direct line joining the villages of the Puritan colonies with the agricultural communities of the counterculture. There is certainly a long and rich history between the two. The impulse to find oneself in a local community with people of similar character and converging convictions originates perhaps from the homesteading impulse, or perhaps it is about the famous search for happiness which is constitutionally guaranteed. The fact remains that settlements based on a political, religious or philosophical utopia have never been lacking there.

From the Quakers to Arcosanti, the desire to gather together to make a better America within the imperfect America has produced the most varied experiments. They range from Icarians — nineteenth-century proto-socialist followers of Etienne Cabet, arrived from France to found a "communist" city in Texas and in Illinois (in Nauvoo, a small town recently vacated by another group of utopians: the Mormons) — to the eccentric New Age pioneers of Oneida, a community founded in upstate New York in 1848, devoted to free love, eugenics and the manufacture of silverware. Beyond that is an assortment of experimental communities, from creative ones like the utopian city of Paolo Soleri to disturbing religious sects; from Jonestown to Scientology; from the playful, like Burning Man, to the "scientific," like Biosphere 2 in Arizona and the Mars Research Station in the red desert of Utah.

It is a varied collection of start-up prophets and priests of the future — including Disney, the "visionary" designer in Florida of the futuristic city of Epcot and the nearby Celebration, a suburban ideal of sound patriotic values. This last place is one in which utopianism combines with slightly leftist diffidence and homogeneity. The latter also pertains to Independence, the perfect city planned by Glenn Beck, columnist for Fox News, from which he was separated when his apocalyptic invectives on Obama's socialist conspiracies became excessive even for Murdoch's reactionary station. Now on his webcast he continues the paranoid drifting and launches his very own apotheosis. It is a plan for the umpteenth perfect city conceived for a select number of virtuous Americans who could build themselves a life based on “the values of freedom, responsibility and truth" on which the world turns — plus, naturally, a theme park, a church in the form of the Alamo and the archives of Beck's TV sermons, preserved for posterity. In sum, a Disney with an abundant splash of Dr. Strangelove. Who knows, maybe this time it will finally be the right utopia.



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