Friday’s post ended asking if there was anything particularly wrong with living the suburban commuter’s lifestyle. It’s important to note here that the question isn’t an indictment on the individual, but rather a question about the way of life. That distinction is important because there are many people who may want to live a more sustainable lifestyle in a more complete community, but find that such a community doesn’t exist in their region or that they’re priced out of the option.
But what about the people who have no interest in living a more sustainable lifestyle. Even if given the option to live in a complete community, they simply wouldn’t take it because they enjoy driving two hours per day for their commute, living in a sprawling gated “community,” and eating McDonald’s. Is there even anything wrong with that? I know it’s not permissible to judge someone else’s lifestyle, so let me put this delicately. Yes, there is something wrong with that lifestyle. Just because someone enjoys clubbing baby seals for recreation doesn’t mean we have to allow them to do that. We should question that behavior and moreover question that individual because actions have consequences and that kind of behavior is indicative of an even larger problem.
We have to ask, why would someone enjoy clubbing baby seals? It’s certainly not for the hunt, as such creatures are defenseless and without guile. Because they enjoy ridding the world of such a dangerous threat? Nope, they’re baby seals. So, the reason someone would enjoy something like that is because they are disturbed and likely even psychopathic, and therefore someone we need to be concerned about. Moreover, if that practice is common, then we need to be very concerned about why a group of people are displaying such a dangerous and destructive pattern.
OK, so choosing to live in the suburbs and commute is not psychopathic behavior. The point here is about the importance of examining certain behavior. Action and inaction have consequences. It’s not excusable if someone just says, “The system is set it up so I can live this way. I’m living the American lifestyle. I commute a great distance and contribute to sprawl because I can. I’m not hurting anyone.” Ah, but therein lies the rub. You are hurting someone. Millions of people, in fact. That behavior is reinforcing a problem. It’s legitimizing dysfunction and destructive behavior. And here’s the worst thing about it:
It’s a compounding problem. The problem with isolating yourself from the rest of the world is that it keeps you ignorant, so you feel like what you’re doing is OK. See the snowball effect? You start living in a homogenous bedroom community and none of the interaction you have with other people is spontaneous, so the information that you do get is limited and filtered.
Human interaction is important. And not pre-arranged and sanitized either. Running into people with whom you don’t share common interests or opinions and listening to what they have to say is how we learn. Learn how to do things better. Learn what not to do. Learn about the world, people, and other animals that inhabit it. That’s important stuff. Our goal should not be to isolate ourselves and wall ourselves away from the rest of the world. It should be the opposite of that.
So, yeah, there is something wrong with making a deliberate decision to live that lifestyle. But we have to remember that those people have been deceived into believing it’s the best of all lifestyles. The real problem—the big, big, BIG problem—are the people who are making the decisions to develop the communities that promote and cultivate that mentally and emotionally oppressive way of life.
What’s more troubling, the fact that people actual want to live that way, or the fact that there are a whole lotta folks out there who want to live a smarter lifestyle but find they don’t have that option?