07 January 2008

Sanssouci Collective : Do not judge Memphis co-ops based on them.

The "Sanssouci Collective" sprang up about the time we at Rozelle were starting to make some headway as far as networking, gaining attention, and cleaning up the warehouse. They consist of one MCA student, one MCA dropout, one U of M student, and one floater, to my knowledge, who rented out a house together to cut down on the cost of living in Midtown. A financially-wise decision, if one actually knows of four people they'd depend on to bring in the rent every month. Now, it's not the living situation that bothers me, no not at all, though I must say the 2 founders either have a very understanding or very awkwardly twisted relationship, as they are ex-lovers, yet live together. No, my qualm, is simply that they HAD to have a name. It's as if they're all so proud of the fort they built out of couch cushions and tablecloths, that they must tape a notebook paper sign on the chair leg, by the entrance flap. Although I use that a bit condescendingly, I'm sure such playful, childlike imagery would appeal to them greatly; they'd probably make a whole party based off of forts! I'm getting ahead of myself though.

It's the NAME that irked me to begin with, and it's that bloody, awful, bad example that name perpetuates that just infuriates me. The Sanssouci Collective. They've been so gracious to provide the definition of a collective on their website for me:

" collective: (n.) a group of people who share or are motivated by at least one common issue or interest, or work together on a specific project(s) to achieve a common objective. collectives are also characterized by attempts to share and exercise political and social power and to make decisions on a consensus-driven and egalitarian basis. "

Quite a mouthful, eh? Sounds very in-tune, very intelligent, very Midtown-saavy, eh? It's easy. A collective is a group of people that don't even have to live together, who are united by one or more ideals or goals, and work toward them together. Rozelle does not live together (although living in Midtown pretty much ensures that no one is farther than 4 blocks from another), yet we call meetings to UNITE in one living room, to discuss the COMMON GOAL of making money to incorporate.

My point is that collectives, BY VIRTUE OF COLLECTIVISM, talk. They get together. They discuss. They argue. They agree. But most of all, before any of that happens, they have GOALS, they have IDEALS, and they have STRATEGIES or IDEAS for REACHING those GOALS. You see, I was skeptical of the group from the beginning. A group of kids sharing a kitchen does not in any way, shape, or form mean they are working collectively, collaboratively, cooperatively, or that they have the slightest idea what those words truly mean. They may be cooking for each other once in a while, or splitting the cost of whiskey on a Friday night, but COLLECTIVELY is not a word one can throw around just because you pay the rent all together.

The Sanssouci Collective, EVEN THOUGH members could literally walk down the hallway or up the stairs to run an idea by the others, do not talk. They do not meet, and discuss, and argue, and agree. They have nothing TO discuss. They would honestly be building forts to meet in all week long, and then sit inside them, confused. Or plan a fort party, as I mentioned before.

Whoa, Lauren, what are you saying, here? How about we give the Sekisui kids a chance to tell us what they are about:

" the sanssouci collective strives to cultivate a genuine community in memphis through egalitarian, consensus-driven participation while sharing and practicing alternative ways of thinking, of interacting with each other, and of living. "

Those sound like goals to me! Big, optimistic, vague, idealistic goals, but goals nonetheless. Let's break it down. EGALITARIAN: referring to a governing system that provides equal voice to all its members, yet every I talk to, other than to 2 founders, about anything at all to do with SC, looks at me nervously or blankly, and tells me to ask them. How are all your members to be equal, when they are not even endowed with the same information. If they don't know what time the party is tonight, did they really have any say in its happening?

Which brings me to my next point: they probably didn't. CONSENSUS-DRIVEN: meaning the group has deliberated and then agreed on a particular mode of action, and that only those ideas which were widely agreed upon will ever reach fruition. I am confident in saying there is not a more hypocritical group of syllables in their entire mission statement. Let me back that up with a few firsthand accounts.

The Dr. Suessy Collective announced plans to host a Nude Party directly following Rozelle's spiel about incorporation, affiliation to CAM, and keeping a professional reputation for the public during a monthly Collectives Association of Memphis meeting. When I expressed opposition to a member, I was told, "I had nothing to do with it, I didn't even know, it was ____'s idea."

The week of the Rozelle Rummage Sale (which had by that point already been advertised on the CAM calendar, message boards, & mailing lists for over a month), Sanssouci planned a party for the night before, which consisted entirely of dancing drunkenly to 90's music until late into the night, and actually had the nerve to ask if they could come use the warehouse when they were done, sometime in the wee hours of the morning, to play capture the flag, as if completely oblivious to the fact that all of Rozelle would be in bed early for that silly 7AM Rummage sale thingy. When I expressed my frustration on this matter to a member, I was told, "I had nothing to do with it, I didn't even know about the sale, it was ____'s idea."

After Rozelle was robbed of all it's funds during Thanksgiving, we needed a big moneymaker show with low overhead before the end of January, to recover and be prepared for our big event on the 26th. We spent weeks discussing a New Year's Eve show with DeCleyre, booking bands, collecting money, even discussed it at the December CAM meeting and sent out several mailing lists (CAM & Rozelle) about said show. Ten days or less before the show is scheduled to happen, I find out two of the bands I had booked, had double-booked with Sanssouci, for their New Year's Eve party. I spent a day tracking down the ONE member responsible for the show, explained that Rozelle is in quite a pickle and needs this show to happen, competition-free, to rescue us, to which I was met with, "Oh, I just kindof planned it, but didn't follow up, the rest of the house doesn't even know."

Now, one could argue that these were islolated incidents, that perhaps most things are discussed and agreed on. I can reconcile that, but I must also point out that by declaring themselves a collective and joining the Collectives Association of Memphis, albeit a group of passionate amateurs still, Sanssouci is committing to a entirely separate code of behaviors. They have, theoretically, committed themselves to being tuned into the rest of the cooperative community, and thus, should at least have the organization and forethought to check out a calendar before planning a party. It's only event planner's common sense, really, but beyond that, it's a simple act that Rozelle Artists Guild, DeCleyre Housing Co-op, and Media Co-op all adhere to quite easily.

Further than conflicting parties and lack of communication, the Sanssouci Collective, fuck it, the Sanssouci Housemates are flakey when it comes to following through, and generally hipster.

Sanssucki, who had told us from the beginning they had nothing to make money for, just their individual rents to pay, swore from the get-go that any fundraising they did would be all for Rozelle's cause. A month in, they began throwing Stir Frydays that COST $5 A PERSON to eat, which is in my opinion way too much for contribution toward the groceries considering they make vegan stir fry, to supposedly benefit their library. The library, I'm sorry to say, was some crockpot idea they had when a friend moved away and gave them a sum of books. I expressed that I would never give them a dime until I saw a thoroughly kept ledger of their funds, in & out, and receipts of books bought. (I mean, look at this: BRUNCH PARADE?. Would you really donate money to kids that say, "we are trying to raise money for our travels to far off lands on our picnic parade!")

This wasn't met well either, and Rozelle was angrily accused of being beaurocratic. Yeah, man, fuck the system, wahhh. Institutions are all just brainwashing tools of the government, right? The only way to make a difference, apparently as expressed by a SH, is to be informal and unofficial. I let them be. Afterall, we're chasing very different goals, and although I do in some respects consider the goals of DeCleyre, Rozelle, the Media Co-op, and Revolutions to be more meaningful, and see much more progress being made to meet them, I conceded. Let them be messy art students and live out every stereotype the rest of us are trying so hard to abolish.

When they monopolized the fabled, beloved, rotational Monday night potlucks, and turned them into vegan banquets, I quit going. In this action, I lost the little respect I had for them. Sanssouci claims to believe in "practicing alternative ways of thinking, of interacting with each other, and of living.". Perhaps veganism and nude parties are alternative. They have, individually, expressed an interest in being open-minded, open to anyone and anything, which I suppose is why member Colby Painter wrote a long-winded response to me once on the "pure and untainted form of expression" that is nudity. However, I can't help but think a bunch of 20-somethings drinking and playing strip-poker is little more than living out highschool fantasies under the excuses of intoxication. However, the idea of restricting potluck dishes to animal product-free food because they respect veganism, to me, is the same as atheists claiming to be open-minded because they subscribe to a minority belief, yet rejecting Christians because they acknowledge God. I acknowledge the deliciosity of cheese and chicken, so damned if I'm going to trek over there to drink beer and eat soy.

I do not believe the members of Sanssouci read the things they supposedly represent. I do not believe that anything they have done for the public has been more than providing a place to get wasted on a weeknight. They have successfully filled the void of being those immature kids who have now been kicked out of TWO houses now for being loud, irresponsible, uncleanly, and a general neighborhood nuisance.

I remember really talking with the one person I believe uses their brain in the group, the one I thought may have an idea of Collectivism & Cooperation. He's a smart kid. I remember asking, nearly begging, for a real goal. A real tangible goal that would actually impact the community. "Social hangout" is all I got out of that, and all I got out of the rest of them. Maybe I was trying to push their efforts in a less frat-boy direction because I knew they had brains to do it, or because I didn't want to be affiliated with a group that hosts nude parties, or because I needed that out of them to not loathe that stupid name tacked above their door. Either way, they didn't change. They quit coming to CAM meetings long ago. They quit having their own meetings, if they actually ever did, because they had nothing to discuss. They have weekly or monthly events that have literally dropped in attendance by 90% since the first few weeks, because it's never different. There are 450 places in Memphis to drink beer, smoke cigarettes, and talk to empty shells of people who like to do the same. Whatever set Sanssouci apart has waned and faded.

Now, I know most of this could be classified as a diatribe. I was never a supporter of Sanssouci. I consistently had issues with them, and it was always something stupid and childish. But for the record, I am not gloating over the current slope of demise they seem to be slipping down. They are going to fail as a collective, not because they are stupid people, but because they do not understand the idea of collectivism, and because they have short-term, low-end goals. As long as they believe collectives live in the same house, they will be kicked out for occupancy complaints and beer cans in the yard. As long as they believe existing simply as a meat-free party house is how they will "cultivate a genuine community in Memphis", or make some kind of actual impact, they never really will. They will forever be one of those things hipster Indie kids include on their Myspace Interests because it was one of those cool, underground places they were a part of, although to people who read that, people like you and me, we'll snicker and know that it's not different than saying, "I'm interested in beer, pot, and unemployment".

3 comments:

taylor martin said...

hey hey lauren rae rae

The King of Carrot Flowers said...

I know this was written forever ago, but I just had to pop in and tell you I really enjoyed reading this. People attempted to suck me into the hipster nonsense that was Sanssouci, but I refused, only going over once to eat some of their leftover food because I was hungry and friends with their one sane housemate, Brett.

I completely agree I am tired of people basing their judgements of art school students purely on people like them. I am NOT obsessed with "free love", alternative lifestyles, wearing vintage clothes, I do not drink, I don't do drugs, yet here they are, pushing all of these things and making it look like a standard, like it's cool. I'm glad to hear that they are fading into nothingness, because there for a while, they made me lose all hope in any sort of collectiveness in Midtown.

Lauren Rae Holtermann said...

Dude, Kayla, I was looking back through my posts and just now realized this was you who commented. Glad to know you are on the same page. I think we should probably be friends.