I was talking to this friend of mine yesterday and she was telling me about how much she loved where she used to live because she could walk her kids to school, the park was across the street, and she could put her kids on their Big Wheels and take them to get ice cream a few blocks away.
Now, this woman has no real interest in planning and she had no idea that I do either. It was just a conversation. She was remembering a time when she had a happy, comfortable place to live and she was missing it because she didn’t have that anymore, so she wanted to share and talk about it. At one point she said, “It all just seemed so right.”
And see, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. Isn’t that logical? Wouldn’t most, if not all people want that kind of life? I mean, clearly not, because there are still millions of people either living in the suburbs or wishing they could. For them, a large house outweighs a comfortable and convenient community.
So this is what I’m trying to get a grip on: Is the this desire for a large home rather than more convenience rational? Is someone who puts more weight into more home rather than more time with family and friends making a valid decision or has his thought process been somehow corrupted?
I know, this sounds incredibly patronizing. “The only way these people could possible have a differing opinion than me is if they’ve somehow been brainwashed.” I get it, and I really don’t want to be that guy. I just want to understand it. Why is a big house more desirable? Is it just subjective materialism, like the desire for a cool car? That I get. I like cars because I like design. Personally I’m not going to sacrifice my savings account and nice stuff for my house so that I can have a great car, but I at least get that. I can comprehend that kind of difference of opinion. But a house over a community…. It’s different. Isn’t it?
I love houses, too, because they’re also about design. They can be amazing, but for me size isn’t what makes houses amazing. I think for many people, they equate quality with size or quantity, but that’s maybe for another post. What I want to know is how so many people not only sacrifice a community for a big house, but they don’t even consider it a sacrifice. It’s just not something they want. All they want is the big house and the cul-de-sac.
This is the root of the problem. If people want it, we have to give it to them. I mean, we’re capitalists in this country. That’s how it works. A supply is created in response to a demand. Or sometimes a demand is created by creating a supply, and that’s what happened with suburbia. Nonetheless, it’s a demand (as John Stewart would say, “like crack cocaine or prostitution”), so someone is going to supply it. We can’t just ignore it. There’s money to be made.
But what if it was an education issue? What if some of it was a matter of people not fully understanding the situation? What if there really was an outside influence in this matter that was not allowing people to make a proper decision? Let me give you an example:
The tobacco industry.
I’ll elaborate tomorrow in case you don’t already get it.