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Farm Friends by Tom Fels
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Farm Friends

by Tom Fels

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I always enjoy a "Where are they now?" story. Fels was one of the members of The Farm, one of those northeastern U.S. communes of the late 60s. The subtitle is "From the late Sixties to the West Seventies and Beyond" which I thought was very clever. I have read several books about communal living and this was especially fun, finding out what happened to people later in life. The later was only ten years initially, altho there was some added info.

Fels introduces the members of this commune individually so that you begin to feel that you know them somewhat in depth. This is a study of individuals and relationships rather than a study of the process of this lifestyle. Then Fels describes what he learned from them or heard about them from other members, at The Farm's ten year reunion. Careers, relationships, philosophies, what has changed, what stayed the same - all fascinating to me.

It seems to me that most of these people managed to stay true to their beliefs and philosophies on some level at least. And I am speaking here of stereotypical values of communal living, democracy, class issues, social justice, materialism, etc. from a progressive perspective. At the same time, there is a certain amount of compromise involved of course. Nevertheless, many of them managed to find a way outside of The Farm to make a living in a manner congruent to their beliefs in SOME way. For example, there were a few writers, one of whom said that he learned to follow the market by writing in the particular genre that would sell such as SF, while still shaping the story to express his beliefs. Many chose to work at non-profits working toward social justice. It seemed they mostly had to invent their own work, which I found particularly wonderful. One member who loved music managed to work putting concerts together that served as fund-raisers for his favorite issues.

Here's what bothered me somewhat - it turns out most of these initial members were not just a bunch of hippies hanging out. They were mostly well educated people with family connections. It seemed to me THAT is how they were able to put together those social justice careers. It is easier to get published if your family is in the publishing business or if you have a Harvard degree or if your parents are ivy-league professors. It is easier to put a concert together if your friends include James Taylor and Carly Simon, even if they were all just starting out.

However, I still found this book to be lots of fun to read and also inspiring. I think it is full of great ideas about living your values, even if you don't have the social connections to back them up so easily. ( )
  mkboylan | Sep 22, 2013 |
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