28 June 2008

La vie urbaine

This state is unlike its largely rural neighbors to the north and east in that it contains several urban centers of at least moderate size.  And then there is one rather large city within our borders, which is the metropolis from which I was born and where I lived most of my life.  

This may help to explain some of my obvious urban bias.  There is something about living in an urban environment which cannot be replicated in a suburb, exurb, small town, or rural hinterland. Call it liveliness, or human activity, or vitality, or whatever, but it is that something extra which gives our cities a verve and excitement which our vast suburban wastelands cannot easily replicate.

When everyone is trapped in their cars whizzing from one place to another, this of course serves to cut off human interaction.  And thus we become more hermetically sealed, more easily able to choose who we wish to associate with and who we wish to avoid, more easily able to cut off all contact with the Other if we wish, and allow their lives and culture to become strange, alien, and threatening to us.

Even the environments which permit an easy mixing of cultures, incomes, and races become anathema to the suburban privileged majority, and so they are thus cut down and defaced, for what? - to more easily accomodate the auto, so that suburbanites can race home to their McMansions on one acre lots more rapidly through the increasingly wasteland-like and socially degenerate center city.

If you don't believe me, bip on down to your local 'central' business district now and then. You will see that the moonscape of parking lots and garages has now grown widespread enough to render downtown more like a specially built type of suburban office park than a real true urban downtown.

Urban environments, I believe, are critical for fostering the exchange of ideas and innovation, an ancient role which cities have played throughout history.  This is why as we destroy urban environments, we destroy our competitive economic edge and cede our economic dominance to Asiatic cultures (which are prosperous less due to innovation and more due to thrift and work ethic) and one-horse economies such as the Persian Gulf countries (seen Dubai lately?) which will revert to the primitive wildness from which they sprang once the oil runs out.

And who could question the fact that cities are more romantic and appealing than auto suburbs? I don't think the excreable Sex and the City would have been as popular if it had been Sex and the Suburbs.

A little food for thought for your weekend musings.