The Communicator

The socialist lifestyle

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I’ve been an active member of a youth movement since around the age of eleven. The movement has instilled some values in my mindset that are not exactly considered mainstream, but these ideals that I have worked into my life make me feel more complete as a person. In short, I am a socialist.  This isn’t the “democratic socialism” pushed on by media that says young people just want free stuff. It’s a set of basic morals that let me form my life into something constructive and purposeful.

Saying you’re a socialist evokes quite the reaction, depending on who you talk to. Some don’t believe me or tell me I don’t understand what it means. Others ask if I’m a communist. A lot of the time, people don’t know how to respond. The discussion on socialism in our country has surfaced mainly through healthcare debates in government, our public education system, and social security; although these are only a few of the many ways we experience values based in socialism in our day-to-day lives.

I started out with only a basic ideology of socialism — an idea of a shared community space and items along with generous mentality — but quickly progressed to having a set of values I wanted to incorporate into my life.

It seems hard for many people to comprehend a socialist lifestyle that doesn’t involve being in a fringe cult living in the middle of the woods, but my day-to-day lifestyle is probably quite similar to those I pass on the street.

I recently spoke with a friend of mine, Sam Siegel, who is another member of my movement.

“Do you think you are living a socialist lifestyle?” I asked this because as members of a movement with multiple founding ideals, some participants highlight other aspects of the movement instead. Before I talked to Sam, two other members denied being socialists and didn’t want to be interviewed.

“Well yes, that’s the goal, I really hope there are avenues for me to live socialistically throughout my life not just in youth. It can be socialistically, communally, collectively. Whatever format of shared non individualistic lifestyle I can find.” Siegel said, to answer my original question. He currently lives in a co-op and sees that as a large facet of his socialistic identity. Co-ops, better known as cooperatives, are a fairly common living situation for students in Ann Arbor. They focus on group living, so that one will not only have roommates but also housemates. Co-ops aren’t just for housing, but are also found in businesses. A famous example is REI, a co-op for consumers instead of a publicly-traded company.

I brought up a question I had been trying to figure out myself for some time. “Do you see any common misconceptions about socialism in today’s society?”

“Yes, it makes sense. You can look at any collective living situation and see the financial benefits and that it makes more sense. The co-op I live in right now — including rent, electricity, water, food, wifi, and everything one would look for in living situation — ends up costing less for me than living in my own apartment. Not to mention the social benefits of living with other people, and you can count those as just sharing space or the cooperative in general where you are buying into a community.”

We discussed some of the social benefits of his living situation and other group living spaces. Through both mine and Sam’s collective living experience we’ve seen these situations work well. Not only because it brings people together, but also because it introduces conflict and healthy resolution. Issues are unavoidable in any group situation, but if you want to have a positive experience, you can learn to mend them in a healthy way. He ended our discussion with, “Capitalism, western, and masculine thought is based in negatively creative work-arounds and strong handing the problems away, often with violence.”

In this modern era, many opinions differ from one another, and it causes tension and conflict in areas where it is unnecessary. I take pride in my socialist identity. It keeps me grounded in a world that turns difference into a battleground. I only hope others can find the same sanctity before an unhappy identity is formed.

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