Yesterday the post was about the choices people make to live in bedroom communities with little to no amenities in the area, at least not without the use of a car. It would seem to reason that people would want to have certain services and amenities, like grocery stores, cafes, and shops that they could easily walk or bike to, but this is not the case in this country. A huge population does not even consider these things when looking for a home. Their primary concern is the house, and more specifically, the size of the house. It’s not even about the quality of the house.
But what I believe is that there is a corrupting influence in the decision-making process of these people. It is an unnatural decision to choose an unnecessarily large house over a true community. And there is precedent for this kind of behavior which is reflected in the story of Big Tobacco.
Tobacco has been a major player in the global economy for about as long as there’s been a global economy. As time went on we figured out that smoking tobacco isn’t so good for things that like to be alive. And although the Tobacco Industry knew this, they not only kept this information from the general public, they added things to the tobacco that made people who tried tobacco want to keep using it even more. What’s more, they aggressively targeted people who weren’t fully capable of weighing a proper decision about mortality. That is to say, the Tobacco Industry knew that young people aren’t fully aware of things like consequences and their own mortality, but they are very concerned with fitting in, getting people to like them, and what people think about them. So, Big Tobacco spent a whole lot of money convincing those young people that smoking was good for their image. Then, by the time they were old enough to understand and care about the longterm consequences that tobacco had on things like physical appearance, health, and longevity, another element had entered the equation that effected their decision about smoking: addiction. Now it was so engrained as part of their life that they would rather continue smoking than live a long, healthy, happy life. In fact, they now believed that smoking was what actually provided happiness for them and without it they would be miserable. Even more than THAT, some of them believed that the scientific facts about the effects of smoking were not to be believed. That the stories of some smokers living to a ripe old age was the real evidence, and that they too would be unaffected by the crippling effects of smoking.
That’s called denial, but it’s the aftereffect of a massive whitewashing. The same thing happened with the suburbs. GIs came home desperate for exactly the opposite of war (which is off the charts buzzin’ space for those of you who have read the post “Social Spaces“). For the veterans that meant not only love, but quiet solitude where they could smell the grass and touch the sky (chillin’ space). And developers like William Levitt saw that he could capitalize on that hunger for not-war by building cheap houses in the middle of nowhere, and the government made it happen for them by building the highways out to the middle of nowhere. Everyone can drive! It’s the future where everything is automated. Walking is for the birds. It was the American dream.
It made sense. The developers could sell the houses cheap because they could buy the land cheap because there wasn’t anything else out there. And they could do it fast for a quick profit because there was virtually no planning involved. Just houses. It was easy money.
But people still need food, clothes, and entertainment, so now what? Well, the same concept as the bedroom community: Cheap land, limited planning, single use. Strip malls and mega malls. People have cars. They can just drive. It’s easy.
And yeah, maybe for a while it did seem sort of easy. Until we could see the land running out and the air making us sick and the countless hours we were spending sitting in traffic to just get a goddamn gallon of milk. And the effects were making it so our kids couldn’t breath right anymore. We were getting fat and lazy. We were angry and sad and losing the ability to interact with one another.
So, some of us could see it and wanted out. But by now the infrastructure was in place and it made it exceedingly difficult to live a life where you’re needs were met within the community, so whether you liked it or not you had to drive, drive, drive. And like the addict, others just refused to recognize the fact that they were addicts. They liked their comfortable life where they could drive for the stuff they needed. They saw no problem with the fact that they could go days on end without actually being outside, going from house, to garage, to car, to parking garage, to office, back to parking garage, another parking garage, to shopping mall, etc. etc. It was the modern age. And those self-righteous environmentalists who said it was a problem needed to live their own lives. And some of them got in their cars and drove to the gym and hit the treadmill and weights in air-conditioned comfort, and they weren’t fat anymore, so there! Nothing wrong with the way they live, right. They look healthy, they have a good income, they pay their taxes, they’re raising a family. That’s the bottom line, right? Call it denial if you want, but they’re living the dream and procreating. They win. End of story.