...the people in the group seemed genuinely interested in each other's ideas. When Patrick, our firefighter, read out loud one of his meticulously detailed, erudite essays about neocapitalism in China or the prospect for workers' resistance in Vietnamese garment factories, everyone leaned forward with anticipation. Now we were going to learn something. Now we were in for a treat! Was that only because nothing tangible, money or fame or careers, was at stake? There were moments when, through the blue haze of Matt's cigarettes, I could glimpse what thinking together might be, something joyful and devoted. Thinking together was not something I was good at or, to be honest, cared to be good at. But maybe that was my own limitation. Some of the people in the group were a little odd, perhaps, but then so are most people. If you accept the world as it is, though, if you are strange the way everyone else is strange, people don't look at you closely or inquire about your motives the way they do of those with different ideas. You're like one of those quiet people whom the neighbors can't believe ax-murdered his whole family, because he smiled in the elevator and said, Yes, it looks like rain. In the same way, it's easy to make fun of council communism as impractical and unrealistic. Of course it was unrealistic--- to imagine that the working class could run a whole complex modern society by organizing and linking democratic and egalitarian governing groups in workplaces. To insist that the society's scut work be shared, so that nobody got stuck for life cleaning toilets or glaring from behind the counter at the Department of Motor Vehicles. To ask how scarce luxury goods, like grand cru Burgundy or opera tickets, could be distributed in a way that didn't reflect and entrench privilege. G. used to infuriate me when he suggested that under communism everyone would change their work every few years; he insisted that with exceptions like science or medicine, anyone could pick up the skills needed for any job in a couple of weeks. Wow, I'd say, I hope I'm not on I-95 when you come barreling down in a semi. He made communism sound like one of those vocational schools advertised on the covers of matchbooks. But were these woolly utopian proposals wilder than the accepted wisdom of the 1990s---for example, that immense wealth could be generated and the economy transformed by Internet start-ups that produced and sold nothing, that "the market" was the ultimate arbiter of every question, and that every human need or desire could be met by the quest for profit?