March 29, 2004

Another Surf Report

Here's another article culled from a blog called "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts". I found it in this supercool blog (The Ministry of Minor Perfidy) that excites several topics I'm fascinated about:

-The problems that issue from Modernity and the scarring stretch marks that technological innovation wrecks on the social fabric. (Don't get me wrong here. Modernity and tech innovation rocks.) I remember reading Marshal Berman's "All that's Solid Melts into Air", wherein I got a vivid picture of how this scarring takes place and how we are compelled to persist in it. Dr. Faustus, big time.

-My earlier adventures in visualizing a schema for expressing the urban/suburban and finding a place for human scale in nesting pedestrian cities that relied on Leon Krier's "Houses, Palaces, Cities." and recalled Louie Kahn's prescription for Philadelphia. I called this "Parallel Cities".

-Our recent experience in Texas. We realized two things: 1. Things aren't necessarily less expensive as you go farther inland, away from New York and Los Angeles. And 2. There is no cultural lag in the satellite cities. Everyone has the same hip tip. Gentrification is national and perhaps, now global.

An excerpt:

Geitner Simmons of Regions of Mind (an excellent blog that everyone who appreciates American history and culture should read) has a wonderful entry on the disappearance of the "South." The problem that he underlines (through a newspaper article written by his friend) is the disappearance of Southern culture as it is preserved in rural society.

You could argue that the farm South wasn't the only South. There was the small-town South of Andy Griffith, the mill village South of Norma Rae. ... Yet both of those Souths had roots in and lived on top of the foundation of the rural South.

The journalist continues:

I wonder how the young urban people of today can have a consciousness of being Southern. When I see them on their skateboards or in bands wandering through the mall in [a North Carolina city], it doesn't seem possible they could be any different from kids in California or Michigan.

The journalist whom Mr. Simmons quotes faces a classic dilemma of modernity: the disappearance of one's milieu in the face of progress. Europeans began lamenting the decline of rural society in the mid-nineteenth century. By 1870 English aristocrats stopped earning significant rents from their country lands. It became more of an obligation to manage the resources of their lands and to deal with the requests of their tenants (whom increasingly were small agricultural capitalists than peasants). The productivity of their lands dropped as grains and meats from Australia, South America, and USA drove down the productivity of farming. At best, they could profit from animal husbandry. Most aristocrats sent their children off to the urban world. They took advantage of the privileges of rank to profit from service to the government (there are historians who would relate the intensification of British Empire to the boredom of the elites). The Germans had a unique reaction: the Heimat movement: preservation of ruins, objects of everyday life, dialect, history, study of geology, museum making, etc.

Jumping down:

I think the problem is not so much the growth of the city (or urbanization) but (what Mark Clapson calls) the dispersal of the urban. The problem for rural America is that too many elements of urban life are allowed to seep into the rural world, and rural villages and towns never had sufficient organization to provide for an independent cultural life. It became more necessary to leave one?s hometown to get what one needed, and much easier to reach a place to get it.

...But how different is urbanization from de-urbanization. Both refer to the construction of malls. Both refer to the decentralization of economy into office parks and industrial parks. Both refer to planned communities. I assume that re-segregation is as much a problem in the rural South as it is in the urban North. I don?t want to raise the complaint about having a Starbucks in every Wal-Mart, but the rural and urban worlds are becoming too similar. And culture is preserved by the balance between the two.

Posted by Dennis at March 29, 2004 3:23 AM


Hi Dennis, I just wanted to tell you how much I was enjoying your site.Also your paintings look amazing.

David Quadrini

Hi David:

Thanks for the high five! Nice to hear from you. Texas is forever near and dear for us. We're richer for having been there. Here's to seeing you again somewhere, someplace.


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