Tuesday, September 15, 2009
On Hell Masquerading as Progress: In his essay What is Metaphysics? (Was ist Metaphysik?), Martin Heidegger asserts that humans are constantly on the edge of the Abyss. That is, each person faces the prospects of non-existence on a constant basis. A certain Being-toward-death (Sein-zum-Tode) exists to put each person in despair from time to time. It's that primordial feeling of anxiety, which subtly creeps into a person's unconscious, especially in times of extreme self-awareness. This anxiety constitutes an irrational fear, which is neither directed at a specific entity nor governed by personal insight. As a result, one becomes increasingly hardened in his attempts to repress the visceral fears that afflict him. For example, flying on an airplane demands a conscious trust of the aviation process (physics, machinery, etc.) by people. After attaining this trust, a basic co-relationship develops in which people effectively become machines. When the pilots grasp the controls, they are, for all intents and purposes, man-machines (Die Mensch-Maschinen). And whenever turbulence strikes, it reminds people of the greater-than-thou physical forces acting on the aircraft. At that point, death is merely an accepted risk that one assumes when flying.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
The Suburban Ghetto: Suburbanization, at least in the 1950s, was an exclusive process. It entailed the movement of whites from an area of high concentration in the city to an area of low concentration in the country. And like the inventions of jazz music and the hamburger, suburbanization was a wholly American phenomenon. Europeans never quite adopted the cookie-cutter style housing techniques, as they preferred to use brick and mortar instead of wood. There was simply less land available in Europe for this kind of mass development. Even so, planned communities effectively became the norm throughout post-World War II America. These communities came to fruition in the midst of Jim Crow. The federal government in the 1930s, with New Deal agencies like the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC), systematically sought to prevent certain social groups from moving to the suburbs. By denying loans to people in urban minority neighborhoods and guaranteeing them to white contractors who built massive suburban communities, the federal government essentially controlled the sociological aspects of suburbanization. The classic example is Levittown, New York (pictured above). Between 1947 and 1951, this suburb saw a net increase of 20,000 homes; but not one of them contained a black family.