A better way: 2009
A Commentary: 2008
City of Nanaimo BC: 2008
Comparative building typologies: 2007
Of the Stones: 2007
Cultural Event 2008
Cultural Event 2008
Poor old Socrates: all he did was speak his mind and look what happened!
As far back as 900 BC, the Agora of ancient Athens was the civic meeting place: later it was surrounded by The Stoa of Attalos.
Within this surrounding columnated space, around 429 BC, Pericles declared, "We look upon those who hold aloof from public office not a quiet but as useless!" . . . Good point . . .
Later, 399 BC, Socrates and his eager students took advantage of the sheltered spaces. The result was not salubrious . . . hemlock!
In ancient Athens public interaction was "mano-a-mano." "Speculation" meant searching intellectual stimulation: quite different from the modern meaning.
Rome, after Augustus, a precursor to us: had a sort of "kill 'em all" way out. We never learn, though:
" . . . The most self-destructive example of financial short-termism is the decline and fall of the Roman Empire into debt bondage and ultimately into a Dark Age. The political turning point was the violent takeover of the Senate by oligarchic creditors who murdered the debtor-oriented reformers led by the Gracchi brothers in 133 BC, picking up benches and using them as rams to push the reformers over the cliff on which the political assembly was located. A similar violent overthrow occurred in Sparta a century earlier when its kings Agis and Cleomenes sought to annul debts so as to reverse the city-state's economic polarization. The creditor oligarchy exiled and killed the kings, as Plutarch described in his Parallel Lives of the Illustrious Greeks and Romans. This used to be basic reading among educated people, but today these events have all but disappeared from most people's historical memory. A knowledge of the evolution of economic structures has been replaced by a mere series political personalities and military conquests." . . . Michael Hudson, Global Research, 2008.
Monarchs of early Europe secured their realm my appointing march knights to defend their marches. King Lear hoped his daughters would fulfill that role assuring his peaceful old age: to no avail. In typically Shakespearian fashion everyone ended up dead on the stage. Is that portentous?
1492 Cristobal Colon set sail for China with instructions to layout towns in the image of Palos, his port of departure. The concept being: "town," administrative, market center, surrounded by the homes of farmers' who walked to their fields. Very sustainable!
The idea didn't quite work out in the new world. Instead the conquistadores rampaged killing everything insight. Somehow they missed China!
That probably inspired (provoked?) Phillip ll of Spain to enact the Laws of the Indies ostensibly to protect the rights of the indigenous population but also to shape urban communities. One legacy: Distrito Federal, Mexico recognizes 12,000 official public urban spaces even today. Seldom does a town in Latin American lack a central plaza for public use.
Sin embargo, the system over the years is a litany of abuse. At the commencement of the 20th century the Mexican civil war was fought, principally by campesinos to bring back common land into use for common people: in response El Presidente Lazaro Cardenas establishing "los ejidos."
NAFTA put the kibosh on that!
Piazza del Campo
12th century the great burgers of Northern Europe were fortunate: cars, telly, cell phones, and computers had not been invented. So they had to make do. And the resulting eye-to-eye commerce and contact gave us a legacy of sheer beauty.
Thinq back to the English "Glorious Revolution:: William of Orange brought the money lenders with him. The Bank of England introduced fractional reserve banking in 1694 and it wasn't even English.
. . . Then, in the late 1700's Britain's powerful ruling class flush with empire decided, quite unilaterally, to close off common tracts of land that had been in the public domain for centuries. Folks who lived off the commons, cultivating veggie plots, grazing their cattle were declared lazy and unproductive.
Actually, it started a little before that, in 1746, at the Battle of Culloden Moor when the Hessians defeated the Clans, resulting in the "clearances."
The English Parliament enacted the enclosure laws of 18/19th centuries. To a great extent the incentive to close common lands was the result of the exponentiating rise in the cost of wool. So much for public participation!
In North America English lords, ladies and princes were way ahead of the cowboys on the range. The best watering holes were sewn up well before even the wild-west gunslingers saddled up.
By this time 21st century "democracy" has completely eschewed any meaning of public access or pre-enclosure land use: speculation has taken on the modern meaning with a vengeance.
1948, Basildon, Essex, UK, was perhaps, the last town to be built around a public urban place.
Today the legacy of the enclosures allow, with impunity, land to be traded like poker chips: public urban space is seen essentially as an amenity to enhance the value of real estate. Public use is confined to "your back-yard barbeque," designated parks, malls, busy smelly, noisy, streets and parking lots.
Early 21st century economics is still about large chunks of land: convenient labels such a "green field" development, "brown fields" or "grey fields," cute phrases that distract. The purpose of these phrases is to placate: i.e. "green fields," we are assured, are inexpensive tracts (usually farm land) built upon by developers to provide new homes for young family first-time buyers. Unfortunately between the conception and the sale enters the speculator and the result is sprawl upon sprawl upon sprawl.
And decision-making has devolved into a supine public dutifully listening in on information meetings: as the ecology of the environment is sorely taxed and under threat. What was once "public paticipation" has degenerated into "public information." Some admirably try: to little avail! Shut up and listen!
Maybe abuse can go on forever: huh . . . highly unlikely.
We protest: write letters to the editor, collect signatures and speak to public info. But remember the enclosures!
We believe we control our destiny, Yet for the last century, we have been blind-sided by the likes of Edward Bernays while failing to notice how our land, once a resource, has become a commodity.
This is not an attempt at amateurish history. Nor a proposal to return to the "commons." Common man is as capable of abusing common resources as any entity. This is about civic self-respect and a recognition that mindless sprawl cannot continue. Who wants to live in a town renowned for malls and sprawl? The result of yester-years political complacency. So . . .
Unwittingly, we "the powerless" have control if we would just exercise it: by forsaking the auto, stepping onto the bus and shunning the mall the demise of sprawl would come into focus.
There are solutions galore: everyone knows what should be done to save the sinking ship of state. But the "experts" are caught in the headlights; saucer eyed afraid, like, "hey we need invites to party!" So, we are left with . . .
"Practice what we preach!"
"Make ourselves unpopular at city hall."
Say no to sprawl: yes to farms!
It will take one hell of a lot more than good intentions to change . . . scary . . . eh!
SPRAWL: in Canada, in Nanaimo, we live with the consequences.
Hey, I'd rather be sailing.
Hey, I'd rather be sailing.