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Thank you for this diary.  Many questions, but one point I was wondering if you could clarify is this:

The main difference between the Anglo-saxon view of city (community, collectivity, christianity, protestantism, etc.) and the Latin ones might just be about the Roman urban and agricultural techniques and way of life seduction...

Do you mean that the Anglo-Saxon view of the city was primarily ideological in nature, while the Latin view was more based on engineering/logistics/"urban planning"?

What exactly are you referring to by "way of life seduction"?  (I do agree "seduction" sounds more Latin than Anglo-Saxon!  ;-)  )

Do you see either view -- Anglo-Saxon or Latin -- as being more closely connected to a view of life that would permit or encourage the emergence of the lotissement-based dystopia you are very worried about?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 06:06:57 AM EST
Most countries that were in the Roman empire, either by conquest or by negotiation ( a bit like wanting to join Europe, economical interests as a seduction :-) ), were taught new way of living.
Roads, bridges, water ducts, building techniques and agricultural ones for Engineering.
But political an economical assets as a full hierarchy of civil servants and an wider market for import export.
Better medical facilities and hygiene...

Half or Gaul, joined the Roman empire without a fight, because they wanted the "riches" of the empire. They were impressed by the architecture, the efficiency of communication means, the Sarko's Pax Romana...!

The other half fought to defend the cast system (same as India's Vedic one, same origin, same gods), the "freeness" of the individual, women's right, and an articulate system of political control through assemblies of Chiefs with the Druidic politburo...!

The City was felt as dehumanizing... As a foreign concept, aggressive. Might be what a North American Indian felt when "white men" started to get in their way...
It was more about ideology!

Most of the North of Europe didn't  live in Roman's ways but kept through negotiation and alliances their original way of living (improving it by external imports). Till the Christianity push.
Still, even when changing religion, some concessions were made.

It's not a surprise that from Charlemagne to Louis XV, France was "THE" country with such centralized power... Almost more Roman then the Roman themselves :-)

In todays Latin countries, as in France's Middle Age, you can see on a Michelin map the two superposed layers... The Roman territorial management AND the cluster of Villages that served well feudal times.
The Northern countries evolved differently and you can still feel it on satellite pictures.

For the South the City was a dreamed utopia, for the North it was just a commodity.
Most Latin cultured urbanist, shudders when he looks at North American cities (or Australian's ones)... He feels it's wrong, while for the people living in them, it seems quite natural.

While the Anglo Saxon culture speak a lot of community, Latin culture try to break those systemically... The City heritage!
The "freedom" of each feeling, individual centered shows by houses, religion, politics. Most of those from the North.
While in the South, individual freedom is not seen as so important vs the belonging to a greater level of life quality (or power, or richness) in a collective way...

I'll get back must go for now... :-)

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 06:47:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While the Anglo Saxon culture speak a lot of community, Latin culture try to break those systemically... The City heritage!

The juxtaposition which remains puzzling to me is the one you pose between community on the one hand and city on the other.  And you say "If somebody asks me, I vote for the City."

But isn't that giving too much weight to the city, the polis, and if I may go that far, the state (but maybe it is oversimplifying to identify "city" and "state")?

Why does Latin culture's emphasis on the city have to "break" the emphasis on community?

Indeed, aren't the individual, and the partnerships/community (koinonia) among individuals, prior to the city (polis, civitas, imperium), and shouldn't the city be an expression of the values evolved in and by the community, rather than have the values of the community be derived from the externally imposed disposition of the city?

I am afraid when Aristotle wrote:

Hence it is evident that the state [polis] is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal [politikon zôion]. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state [apolis], is either a bad man or above humanity.

he went too far.

Humans are by nature social animals, but while a well organized polis can certainly enrich and enhance our experience as humans living in community with one another, no city, no matter how well designed or organized, can replace community.  Furthermore, humans do need each other and the socializing bonds of community; but we do not need the polis to create healthy, thriving communities, and to be fully human in them.

(You could probably guess by now, but I grew up in the "freedom" and "individualism" loving "Anglo-Saxon" United States, so no surprise where my bias come from!)

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 08:55:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eh, eh... I knew it :-)
The real drift-even at ET- is exactly where you are pointing at!
An good american friend of my daughter was recently arguing about the presidential fuss, that french people were mostly "socialists" (right and left included).
It is true, however that the english word of community has a completely different meaning in French, as maybe the proper word would be communitarianism!

This is like the Mars and Venus thing...  We prone social mixity as a "must", even though in most cases we avoid the problem. Whereas we feel that the Anglo-Saxon solution is to have a number of satellites (communities) sharing a exchange hub called "dowtown".

That doesn't mean that, through cultural exchanges (TV) the communities aren't seen as a distant utopia... Still,  we have the back of the neck hairs that rises :-)

State, till now is just a blown up extent of the City/Village archetype. Europe is very interesting (while it doesn't yet really work on a political basis) because it might be a third way... If we manage to escape to the memories of the "Ruins of the Roman Empire" !

My point here is more to show why we don't always understand each others, on very basic facts, then to judge that one system is better then the other... :-) This everyday subconscious acquired culture, limit in a very pragmatic way the way we perceive new ideas !

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 09:25:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I might ask, for your part of the world, how you perceive the only non monotheistic  high level industrialization culture... Meaning Japan!

Most major monotheistic religions have given to man the right on "Nature" (he's a model of God), enabling it's plunder for industry.
Most non-monotheistic religions or philosophical beliefs, on the contrary argue more about an equilibrium or balance between Nature and Man.

Japan architecture and even urbanism is very different in it's relationship to Nature (even if it's "virtual")... :-)
It "looks like"... But isn't really "the same" !

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 09:33:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, I wish I was informed enough on that subject to give you a reliable answer.  I will be visiting my uncle next week, who is a graphic designer but has done a lot of thinking on this topic, what he thinks.

If you lined up models of building designs by Japanese architects alongside architects from Western -- monotheism-dominated -- cultures, I doubt very much I could pick out the Japanese designs.

I can say, however, that to my very unknowledgeable and superficial eye, Japanese cities are incredibly ugly and characterless, particularly in comparison to European and American ones.

We must remember that most Japanese cities were razed to the ground by ferocious U.S. firebombing during WW2.  However, Kyoto -- supposedly the mainstay of Japanese traditional architecture and culture in general -- was spared from the holocaust, and yet it, too -- in fact, it in particular -- is just ugly, almost depressing, in its banality and lack of imagination, lack of effort even, except as far as cleanliness, efficiency and safety go.

The most persuasive (even if not 100% convincing) explanation I have read is that the Japanese value the private, the inside, the small-scale far more than the public, the outside, the large-scale.  Thus, while private interiors, individual buildings, and smallest accessory can be utterly rich and beautiful, the overall assemblage of buildings, roads, bridges, train tracks, telephone poles, etc. on the town or city scale is just a mess, or a yawner, esthetically.

I have a couple of Western friends who claim they find Tokyo to be a beautiful city, but I think they mean beautiful "in a quirky way" or "from certain angles" or "at certain times of the day".

Oddly, though, I should admit that occasionally I stroll through some neighborhoods that I have been to in years, and while the first time I found them ugly or boring or characterless, the second time I say to myself, "My, what a lovely little neighborhood."  Is it that they have become "lovely" only in comparison to the even greater ugliness of the average neighborhood, or is that my subconsciousness has slowly started to become able to decode the esthetic language of Japanese "urban planning"?

As for Japanese "non-monotheistic" views about nature, I cannot think of a clear connection to architecture or urban planning in particular.  However, more generally speaking, I have noticed that what I read in books to be a certain "animism" that supposedly exists in Japanese culture does in fact exist: Japanese people have an astonishing sensitivity to cleanliness, order, form, and I believe part of this may come from a deepseated respect, even reverence, for almost any sort of object -- and its respective category -- you can think of.  So, everything is kept in good condition, everything is taken care of -- nurtured even -- almost as if it were a living being.  I remember, when I was about 7 or 8, I was rifling roughly through the pages of a book I was reading, and when my father (who is Japanese) saw these, he was a bit shocked and immediately explained to me, "Gently, gently!  You have to be nice with the book.  Books are nice (gentils).  They are so important and valuable.  You have to be nice to the book."  He wasn't talking about the monetary value of the book, which was almost nothing.  He was talking about books qua books, as well as about that book in particular, having a sort of inner value, even inner essence.  At the time, I thought my father was crazy, but I did as he said.  Only later did I connect his behavior with what I see now in how Japanese people handle things in general.

So, in the context of buildings and cities, the same applies: everything well taken care of, almost in perfect condition.  Everything is clean.  After a terrorism scare some years ago, perhaps the sarin gas attacks, the city of Tokyo got rid of public trash cans.  And yet, trash on the ground is seen rarely, or only at certain times of the day:  people feel "dirty" when they throw stuff on the ground; and the city itself makes it a priority to keep parks, trains and streets clean.  If a park gets dirty/polluted, not only will it be unpleasant for people, but the "God of Parks", and the "God of That Park In Particular", will be sad.

One caveat:  My mother's friend who in Tokyo in the late 60's for a year said that the city was a mess and stunk, chaotic, something like Shanghai or Beijing supposedly are today.  I have yet to hear someone else say that, but it could very well be true.  Even so, it might only have been a regrettable and exceptional but unavoidable phase in Japan's hyperaggressive industrialization, such as the episode of intense air pollution in the 60s and 70s.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 12:15:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From my viewpoint (I can say it now), Japan is not an Urban civilization while China is. Some part of the Chinese knowledge went to Japan in old times as the fractal sense (or holographic) of the City and buildings (the part being the whole)...

But the local animus overrode it in the feeling of impermanency... The building should be a frozen state of a movement of gravity, not a balanced state as we would think of. A building is a threat to Nature if it becomes permanent.

While in the historical feudal system there were big cities with a Chinese sort of grid, it was mostly the influence of the occidental states (Er... Mostly the Anglo-Saxon ones :-) ) that led them to use industrial time tools for building and designing urban areas (see, I don't really say cities).
It was felt as useful... Not as "nice" !

Being on a limited island where square meter is wealth, they do have a very high coding for social relations..! Still now I believe ?

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 12:43:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When I was a kid on the Kanto Plain (Yokota AFB), 1962-65, Tokyo was not particularly clean and Yokohama definitely smelled bad.  And I'm not talking about benjo ditches, which were everywhere and which I was accustomed to.  
by cambridgemac on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 10:17:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I would not have believed it unless my mother's friend had told me so emphatically.  What you say confirms it.  I should ask my mother, who also lived in Japan for a few years in the late 60s.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 11:08:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are some areas where Japan has been enlightened -- the age-old forestry regulations which probably saved it from becoming deforested like other island countries (Ireland & Iceland would have benefited from a few thousand Tokugawa bureaucrats) and some of the recycling programs a few high-tech companies have launched are pretty amazing, but specifically in cities, I defy you to find ANY examples of a particular Japanese concern for "equilibrium or balance between Nature and Man."

Just one example: up until World War II, Tokyo was famous for its waterways and canals. Now even the Sumida River is mostly paved over. And in terms of trees and park space, there is simply no comparison between Tokyo and, to take the example I'm most familiar with, New York. Central Park alone has almost 200 species of trees and a diversity of bird and small mammal species greater than the entire Kanto region.

If I were going to mount a "religious/non-religious" theory of environmental relations, Japanese agnosticism is not what would inspire me.

   

by Matt in NYC on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 11:43:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since the 19th century... I'll agree :-)

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman
by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 12:17:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember hearing an anthropologist say that Japan's traditional organizational economic unit was the homestead, like Sweden or Ireland. A family would be based at the same homestead for centuries. This is a circum-polar (nordic) pattern.

Japan differs from China and the Mediterranean in this.

It seems odd to me because Japan is an irrigation culture based on rice, or so I had thought.

by John Culpepper on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 04:44:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a mix... Artic culture originally, surely, with the Aïnus, but some real contact with proto-China  !
It's always more complicated when it's islands ! Each ripple crosses over many time, you loose track !

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman
by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 06:11:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I didn't mean to suggest an Arctic pattern, but a more Northerly one -- or perhaps it would be more correct to say, Old European -- I think the Basques, too, may have had homesteads. Of course there is mixture and overlay when you look at la longue duree! I think I remember hearing that some Japanese homesteads had remained in certain families for a thousand years and that in homestead cultures it was customary to go on pilgrimages.

It's not a field I know much about, myself.

by John Culpepper on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 06:58:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember hearing that some Japanese homesteads had remained in certain families for a thousand years and that in homestead cultures it was customary to go on pilgrimages.

That's an intriguing thought...anyone got any possible info?

I'm thinking...yes...you have the homestead, land, food, maybe some form of wealth stored up (not just money) over the years, so then someone wants to go...on a pilgrimage...they'll have the time...the homestead will not be left empty...

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 07:12:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I heard it by chance on a taped recording of a conversation by the late anthropologist Conrad Arensberg. I believe he has written several text books, as well as a  definitive ethnography of Ireland (years ago).

As far as cities, I don't have any formal knowledge about city planning, but to me, the Mediterranean-European  pattern with numerous handsome squares setting off public gathering places, such as a guild hall or cathedral, is  most appealing -- with markets and recreation close by -- and lots of Parks.
 

by John Culpepper on Mon Feb 26th, 2007 at 09:00:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Originally those weren't Parks (that's an end of 19th century concept), but were often "Foirails" (fair grounds), either in, and most often on the border, of the city's limit.
Green because not so often used and not paved as the central piazza.

Still, you're right. :-) Public gathering spaces is one of those main quality of the Mediterranean city...

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Mon Feb 26th, 2007 at 10:04:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but specifically in cities, I defy you to find ANY examples of a particular Japanese concern for "equilibrium or balance between Nature and Man."

Overall, you're right:  Tokyo is virtually a concrete jungle, with trees and greenery too few and far between.  Yet there are some ("ANY") examples, weak though they may be, of city-level efforts to inject some nature in the urban gray that you can't totally dismiss:

Yoyogi Park,


Meiji-jingu Garden


Shinjuku Garden
,

and, to a lesser extent, Ueno Park.

And an aerial view of Tokyo shows that it is not altogether barren of greenery (click on "Satellite" to view the image more clearly.)

If I were going to mount a "religious/non-religious" theory of environmental relations, Japanese agnosticism is not what would inspire me.

Rather than, or perhaps in addition to, "agnostic", I would say "non-monotheistic" and "non-dogmatic".  There is plenty of "theism" in Japan, if only the polytheistic/animistic/pantheistic kind.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 10:47:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A very nice summary page of parks and gardens in Tokyo (although the ones towards the bottom are definitely way out from the city center, even if technically within the city's boundaries.)

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Sun Feb 25th, 2007 at 11:02:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, I followed the communitarianism link and got lost for a while.  I fell back into World Book mode, following links to other entries and then following links from those entries to other entries and ... Sorry, I wandered quite far afield for a while there.

Umm, I think I'm not a communitarian -- economically liberal but socially conservative -- but I may in fact be a social democrat, although all such terms have been so mucked about by straw man arguments and deliberate misrepresentation by those of opposing views that their meanings are very suspect, at least to my muddled mind.


We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 02:52:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eh, I don't know either what I am, reading those lines... But I was trying to understand some of those definitions in english. After all, my english was never raised to philosophical or high political levels.

Trying to clear my way through ET can, indeed, be challenging for my rusted english ! :-)

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 08:24:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]

REG: Yeah. All right, Stan. Don't labour the point. And what have [the Romans] ever given us in return?!
XERXES: The aqueduct?
REG: What?
XERXES: The aqueduct.
REG: Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that's true. Yeah.
COMMANDO #3: And the sanitation.
LORETTA: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like?
REG: Yeah. All right. I'll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done.
MATTHIAS: And the roads.
REG: Well, yeah. Obviously the roads. I mean, the roads go without saying, don't they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads--
COMMANDO: Irrigation.
XERXES: Medicine.
COMMANDOS: Huh? Heh? Huh...
COMMANDO #2: Education, Health...
COMMANDOS: Ohh...
REG: Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.
COMMANDO #1: And the wine.
COMMANDOS: Oh, yes. Yeah...
FRANCIS: Yeah. Yeah, that's something we'd really miss, Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.
COMMANDO: Public baths.
LORETTA: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.
FRANCIS: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let's face it. They're the only ones who could in a place like this.
COMMANDOS: Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.
REG: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
XERXES: Brought peace.
REG: Oh. Peace? Shut up!

Monty Python, Life of Brian

Sorry, I couldn't help!

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 05:20:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chuckles- I didn't remember that part !!!
They have forgotten the "Theatre", as culture in the form of epic poems, plays, and games ( the famed Panem et Circenses)... They would have loved TV shows (snark)!

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman
by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 06:12:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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