Rugged Individualism & Arcosanti


We’ve had a stream of documentaries coming out or being worked on about Soleri and they probably all help to give different and possibly valuable insights about Soleri and his lifework.

Most recently an Italian-American magazine called The American in Italia presented the story of Lisa Scafuro who has been devoting much of her life to another video about Soleri titled The Vision of Paolo Soleri: the Prophet in the Desert.

I’m not sure how this movie portrayed Soleri or Arcosanti but I suspect its another Soleri-centric documentary. I’m still hankering for a true to life documentary and not a PR piece that just shows us the best of Soleri – as many of the documentaries I’ve seen seem to gravitate towards. I’d also like to see more efforts at documenting the many incredible stories of the people that lived at and made Arcosanti Arizona. This leads me to consider some of the deeper issues that may have prevented Arcosanti from being a place where many great minds could have come together to create Arcosanti Critical Mass much sooner than now seems possible.

Soleri fiercely confronted the twin demons of the American Dream – sprawl and overconsumption. He relished the conflict with the establishment mainstream in a way that seemed to play out in a historical dialectic between him and his mentor Frank Wright. He said it was not enough to promote reformism and that we must fundamentally reformulate society from the ground up.

However if we are serious about doing this reformulation, we need to address the myths that drive our society at their core. This is not just about materialism, but includes the one man and his castle notion of “rugged individualism” that moves us in the direction of equating freedom more with our rights to guns, property and money (as well as the importance of corporate personhood for the rich who control the corporations), than in considering the responsibilities and obligations that living in a free society involves.

The case of Steve Jobs is just one example of the problem with people with big ideas who don’t know how to give credit to others and share in the process of that idea’s evolution into globally transformational product or innovation. While no doubt Jobs deserves credit for making Apple a true leader and innovator in technology development, it also clear that the way he treated people was in many cases not only disrespecful, but may have been unethical.

Many in the mainstream society believe this is how the world works and they are OK with that. In fact they believe that our nation’s ability to capitalize on that kind of Rugged Individualism is what makes America great. They also believe the continuation of these kinds of mentalities and approaches to leadership will ensure the USA continued success as a nation. However there is one thing advocates of such leadership models overlook – its undemocratic and objectifies human beings as if they were commodities to be traded on Chicago Board of Trade. If our core basic institutions are run this way, why would we expect genuine democracy to exist in such a society? Well with recent reports of income inequality reaching historical highs we can see that trend paralleling the demise of our democratic process and the rise of corporate power/personhood not just nationally but globally.

A core division attribute between conservatives and progressives relates to this idea of rugged individualism. If you look at the main issues that truly define the divide and resulting polarization of politics in the USA, its about a concern that our rights to have or accumulate as much as we want and spent it however we want are being undermined by the government. Indeed suspicions about global multilaterialism.

Indeed for the NeoCons it makes perfect sense for them to see the USA as exceptional in relation to the rest of the world, because of the “Complexified” (as in Soleri’s description of Complexification) matrix of systems that have been installed and evolved into a modern nation state capitalist society. What it really has to do with at the core level though is rugged individualism and this idea of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” This is how we define the haves and have nots. If you pull yourself up and amass great wealth you have extended citizenship rights, if you don’t too bad, you just don’t deserve the same rights that the exceptional ones have. Thus US governments sanctioning of Extra judicial killings through the use of drones has little to do with a real sense that All US citizens are better than the rest of the world. Rather its that the exceptionality of the US experiment as defined by Rand’s Supermen and women of the capitalist society and their continued freedom to operate as they do which defines our extended and bloated sense of self globally as Americans. Again the Supreme Courts notion of freedom that focuses on corporations over individuals is not about corporations, so much as the elevation of the entrepreneur and capitalist deal maker as the true citizen of the corporate democracy – one who knows how to get things done (and make a lot of money) shall be rewarded with the real power of society being within their grasp.

So its no surprise that Hollywood and the rest of the corporate media echos this dominant form of storytelling in America that centers on one great leader who “saves us all.” They are in fact part of the Corporate Media that is owned by this very group termed by the Occupy movement as the “1 percent.”

Yet what I am getting at is this embrace of the “one man leader theory of history” at Arcosanti by Soleri is what created a contradiction within that “collective Noosesphere of Arcology Visioning” that we were a part of… What if this reality actually held us back from our natural tendency and true potential to come together as empowered beings and co-create something incredible as a group like manifesting Arcosanti Critical Mass?

In order to create an alternative school of thought in the mainstream, we first have to figure out how to create a thriving democratic governance system at Arcosanti and within the supporting networks. We have to reframe the way we work together as well as tell stories about these efforts. The “one man theory of history” and how things get done won’t work any more, because it denies the reality that it takes a community of people co-creating together to manifest something truly remarkable and inspirational that moves humanity towards greater consciousness and awareness.

Let us hope for a movie or documentary that truly represents what I see as the only real possibility for Arcosanti success and revitalization: the empowerment of the community of people who always wanted to co-create Arcosanti Critical Mass with Soleri, but for some strange reason were never allowed to. Possibly or dare I say it has to do with ego?

What if Soleri became his own worst enemy through his difficulty in truly creating a space at Arcosanti to encourage and develop an alternative sense of ownership? To see that ownership is not just about having a consumer trinket, but its about the sharing of power in a social system with others so that the I becomes the WE. Consider that this embrace of the “one man leader theory of history” created a contradiction within that “collective Noosesphere of Arcology Visioning” that we were a part of. One explanation was that it was his philosophy and management style that actually held us back from our natural tendency and true potential to come together as empowered beings and co-create something incredible as a group – like manifesting Arcosanti Critical Mass and securing Paolo Soleri’s legacy in history as the great visionary mind that he is.

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3 thoughts on “Rugged Individualism & Arcosanti

  1. Jeff writes, “I agree that it is about the ego and that is at the core of the human struggle that we are part of, but are you ready to look critically at your part in that as well?”

    Neutopia:
    I’m the one who initiated this conversation; so I am looking for the reason for the conflict of interest. You have explained to me that my thinking doesn’t resonate with you because you see it as too negative. You tell me to be the change I want to see in the world rather than focusing on the problem. You see your POV as the way to positive change and my POV, for you, is aggressive and anti-love. In your mind your POV represents the thinking of Gandhi and King and my POV leads to war.

    When you said that to me, I was really shocked because you misunderstand me to such an extreme degree. Since I’ve embraced pacifism all my life, saying such a thing was hurtful. It was like we were not on the same side of things and there was no common bond between us. Gandhi and King both went up against a brutal establishment. Yes, they loved their enemies, but they were still the enemy.

    You write:
    “For me the solution I want to be part of, revolves around spending more time on dialoging with the power structure and people who have different world views so as to create a dynamic in society that facilitates peaceful and compassionate change and less on talking about what is wrong – BE THE CHANGE.”

    Neutopia:
    My slide shows are half and half, half about looking at the problems we face and really understanding the problems of the world we live in. and half on how to solve the problem by bringing about a good governance and economic structure that don’t harm the ecology. There will never just be positive change because there will always be new problems that arise.

    As far as talking to the Arcosanti power structure, well in the past few days, I had the opportunity to talk and correspond with two of the Board of Trustee members. Why friendship is important in this transition is because friends supportive and value each other’s contribution. They don’t trash each other’s work, but give constructive criticism to improve their POV. Then through this friendship, common bond grow that has the power to form respectful partnerships.

    The best way I knew of reacting to your response was to go outside, meditate, and watch my breath. I realized then that there was nothing I could do or say to make you like my work. This was a very sad realization for me, but I knew this could be temporary because the nature of life is change.
    10 hours ago · Like

    Doctress Neutopia Jeff: “I see humanity moving towards a war posture. As I noted your use of the word coup, army and rebellion as if they were positive things to me was a turnoff.”

    One of the images in my presentation is about forming army of Lovolution. Well, so be it. I’m part of a non-violent people’s movement to protect life on this planet. When I talked about “coup” I was talking with you about political science terms. Then you got defensive about my use of such political terms. When I started to talk about forming a strategy, you said that was sexist language and began arguing with me. Do you like the word “plan” better? Is plan more feminine?
    10 hours ago · Edited · Like

    Doctress Neutopia Jeff writes: People need time to make that shift and this mean using words that bring people together not pull them apart. People need reassurance and they need to see alternative to that system that begin to work on a very systematic level replacing the prevailing ones that now dominate our reality and consciousness.

    There are people whose cores, their souls, have matured into lovolutionary spirits. They want profound change. I’m not sure we have a critical mass yet necessary to change society, but it is coming or we are looking at the human race going extinct.

    Jeff writes: “People need time to make that shift and this mean using words that bring people together not pull them apart.”

    From my POV, we need to pull people away from the dying paradigm and push them to the other side, the peace paradigm.

  2. Finally in this discussion, Jeff, I don’t use the word “revolution” because I feel it has been a word of violence in the past. I want a change of heart so that we stop living under bad government and we start honoring people like Chelsea Manning for exposing the truth. My slideshow is in support of him. It’s very sad to me after all these years, our friendship come to this. I started this conversation in hopes of conflict resolution.

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