Fury fuels Ideafarm's campaigns
Man of many messages seeks utopia, end to system he says failed him
Wo'O Ideafarm, 55, has been fixture on the streets of Mountain View for years. He is embraced by some and derided by others for the messages he displays on the sides of his large white bicycle trailer. The trailer, in addition to serving as a nighttime shelter, is used as a medium for his brand of "spontaneous direct civic speech."
Passersby have praised him, egged him, ignored him and scratched their heads in an attempt to understand him.
His legal name is Wo'O Ideafarm. It means "the first citizen of Ideafarm" — Ideafarm being the "imaginary culture that I want to make real," he explains, and "Wo" corresponding to the first digit of the base-16 numeral system used in his utopian land.
He changed his given name in 1999 as a symbol of commitment to the cause he has been faithfully pursuing ever since — to "connect people wholesomely."
He views himself as a civic speaker, and uses terms like "project" and "ministry" to describe what he does. Ideafarm says all of his signs are part of campaigns, which revolve around a specific theme and last for a week or more.
Mountain View police receive complaints about Ideafarm "all the time," according to police spokeswoman Liz Wylie. These complaints are often about messages perceived as homophobic or racist.
Ideafarm uses the word "queer" when referring to gay people and says opponents of Proposition 8 are trying to silence "centuries of social conversation that puts them on the defensive." He has referred to Mountain View's Hispanic residents as "colonists" and believes that everyone should speak English at work and in public places.
Yet Ideafarm insists he is not intolerant. He says those who call him bigoted are missing the point of his campaign, which is intended create a civil community discussion on divisive issues. "I think we need to talk to each other," he says. "We need to listen to each other."
In his quest to get people talking, Ideafarm has done more than ruffle feathers.
In September, he was arrested twice in two days, both times on charges of trespassing and obstructing an officer. His bicycle trailer — the Doghouse, as he calls it — was impounded, and is currently being held as evidence. He has been issued a notice from City Attorney Jannie Quinn telling him that he may not encroach upon city property with his trailer, and he is scheduled to appear in court at the end of November in connection with his September arrests.
Ideafarm says his recent troubles with the law are little more than trumped up charges and violations of his constitutional rights. He has built another Doghouse, which he frequently parks by City Hall. A recent message on it read, "Dirty deeds done dirt cheap by MV City Council. Day 41."
He is working to get the original Doghouse back from the city, and handling most of his own legal work.
"It is time for the city to cease acting as if it is above the law," he wrote in a recent e-mail to the Voice. Ideafarm contends that corrupt Mountain View officials are attempting to silence him, fearing what he has to say.
The roots of Ideafarm's discontent stretch back to his childhood, he says.
"As a kid, I saw that there were two different ways of experiencing life," he says — one that is cold, sterile and steely, and another that is "warm and fuzzy."
While this moment was significant to him then, Ideafarm says it did not fully crystallize in his mind until 1999, the year he changed his name. In the time between his childhood epiphany and his adoption of the Ideafarm moniker and current "locationless" lifestyle, he earned a master's degree in economics from the University of Chicago; he says he completed all but a dissertation for a doctoral degree in economics there before becoming disillusioned with the selfishness of the financial industry; he then started a family and software consulting business in Milpitas, where he lived until "a repeated kind of craziness" changed the course of his life.
That "craziness," Ideafarm says, came in 1992, when he hit his wife. He was arrested for spousal abuse, the couple separated and Ideafarm lost custody of his two daughters.
"I became furious at the system for setting my wife and me up for failure and making it impossible for my kids to have what we thought we were going to have."
Ideafarm's campaign is essentially a fight against the system he says destroyed his marriage — against the cold and steely world he glimpsed back in middle school. "Now, I'm just as furious," he says.
In Ideafarm's mind, bloated government bureaucracy and degenerating social codes pose the greatest threats to the "warm and fuzzy" life he would like to see everyone enjoy.
"We didn't win the Cold War, we just took a long time to lose it," he says, decrying what he sees as the feminization of America. "I think gender roles and all the related issues — all the issues related to gender and sexuality — are central to fixing our society and our economy." He yearns for an age where the men are strong, the women are feminine and "nobody uses birth control."
So, he is speaking up. "Everything I do is speech," he says, referring to the way he chooses to live — the holes in his shorts, the dirt on his shoes, the messages on the sides of his Doghouse.
He says he will continue to speak up through arrests and in court; over the cries of those who support him and those who find him offensive. He will continue to speak about his fury and do everything in his power to make his voice heard over the din of what he believes is an indifferent and changing world.
In his mind, he has no other choice.
"I'm trying to save the United States," he says.