Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Most interesting diary, margouillat.  Much food for thought.  This one goes in my hotlist for future reference.

I come from a long line of rural folk.  We have always lived outside the city and viewed it with some suspicion.  As a child growing up, I remember "going to town" with my grandparents.  It was a major event that only happened once or twice a month.  They would get up very early and drive the 15 km or so to the nearest town.  They would try very hard to do all their accumulated business and shopping needs in one day and get back home by nightfall.  

The feeling back then, not so long ago really, was very much of traveling to another country, an alien place where we did not belong.  And that was just the nearest town, not so big as towns go, perhaps five thousand people or so.  The City, Oklahoma City, was perhaps a three hour drive away.  They only went there once a year, if that, in the most extraordinary circumstances.  

Our attitudes about going to town, about The City, have modified somewhat in succeeding generations, but the underlying sense that urban centers are an alien place, somewhere we do not belong, still colors our thinking even today.  I live on a small acreage a few kilometers outside the town where I work.  I have lived in one town or another in my life, though never a real city.  I have never really felt at home there.  Perhaps my perspective is not so far from the Angle or Saxon who travelled to the nearest village only when the needs of commerce demanded it.

I have argued with friends that the Old Testament can be read in a very different, not so religious, context if we think of it from a similar perspective.  If you read past all the angry monotheist themes, it can be seen as the chronicle of a nomadic, tribal, pastoral people coming in from the desert and learning to live in "the city."  Much of the stern moralism that pervades the Bible in general and the Old Testament in particular can be read as the painful adjustment of a close-knit, tribal society to the unsettling exposure to multi-cultural influences of urban life.  Or so it seems to me.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 07:31:17 AM EST
We'll do a swap.  You come stay in the very very centre of the city with me...if I can come out to the farm with you...

You'd enjoy the centre.  It's the peripheries that are dangerous...and every area has its peripheries I think...where it meets another area...and sometimes those are the most interesting places.  The best pub in Brighton is less than two minutes from the station...as are another, er, six to ten pubs...so...which one is the best?

(Cough...The Evening Star!...cough)

yes...it's about danger, no?  Not sure who's doing what to whom where when and why?  In cities people howl...I learned that.  But often they're country folk finally getting to...howl...ach...trouble is we live on different continents, so maybe I'm not comparing like with like?  People here--where I live--like NY and SF, so those are probably the best comparisons...but super huge, I think...where I "live" takes forty minutes to walk from one end to the other...going on two hours...for a sense of space...well...okay...it's a long walk to the city edge, but the central edge...spreads along the coast...narrow and long...with some stretches...ach worra great diary!  Got me thinking a whole lot of thoughts...the city states...yoiks!  I have to rush...

I no make-a ze sense...!

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

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 07:41:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Most of todays urban dwellers have a countryside family past, one way or another... :-)
But why did all those people shed their local origins to join the "Big City" ?
Agricultural crisis for one... But often the feeling that "things" couldn't be done in the village... (the Hollywood dream as of Norma Jeane)!

Before the Old Testament,  the "Epic of Gilgamesh" relates more accurately this shift in the society of that time (global warming or flood included)... When at the end of the Epic, Gilgamesh finds the Gods and asks for the immortality they had promised, they tell him to look behind him, on his recent progress and learnings he had to achieve to join them... And told him that it was better then individual immortality !

Somewhere in the text, Adam is a pub tenant with rooms and Eve the Madam of an army of girls to keep those rooms busy...! (He should have tried to keep Lilith, the first female of the species :-) )

This Epic was, as it seems the first "best seller" (from North of Africa to India) and the old testament has full chunks of it ( Esau and the lentils soup, Noah and the deluge, etc..)

As you can see, I'm a Gilgamesh fan... :-)

"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 08:43:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary entry...

I would just point out how Henri Lefebvre would talk about the city-country dynamic.

I think he would say that until the nineteenth century, even the city was situated in a rural mindset.  City-dwellers knew the countryside was never far away and they realized that their urban energy was an accumulation of countryside production.

Modernity, however, has changed that.  In most of the developed world--and, importantly, in the "developing" world--"country folk" do not see themselves as primarily rural, but, rather, as producers for the city, for the market.  Lefebvre's point being that, while the city-rurual dynamic is in place in terms of physical space, the way humans think of themselves (no matter where they live) is completely urban.

Urban dwellers interested in sustainability now find themselves in the ironic position of having to convince rural folk to grow organic, skip petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, and "get in touch with the land."  This is not because farmers don't understand these concepts, but market forces have selected farmers over the last 150 years that embrace modernization and the "green revolution" (not green at all).  To compete with agribusiness and embrace seemingly rural values, farmers have had to adopt attitudes and self-defeating practices of fertilization associated with the urban in its worst forms.  So now enlightened urban dwellers realize they have to change their markets in order to influence those who see themselves as the producers for it.

(this is not to say that farmers were not producers for the city from the very beginning, simply that it was only certain farmers limited to nearby regions.  Transport has changed all that, and, more fundamentally, it has changed thier attitudes...)

Again, great work.

by andrethegiant on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 10:00:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree... :-)
The subject is so vast that I voluntary refrained citing the 19th century part... As it is also the "Time of Utopias" !

I'm not sure, however, that in terms of physical space every culture today relate in "urban" perceptions... Did you find that in Levebvre ? (must re-read his books-sigh!)

Those two point anyhow will surely be in some future diaries, as the way we perceive built space, symbolic attitudes, and a look in materials as "form carriers" :-)

And writing in english, even though I read it fluently, isn't so easy !

"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 10:15:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But why did all those people shed their local origins to join the "Big City" ?

One of the great dilemmas for rural communities, at least in my country, has always been the great brain drain to the cities.  The general decline in the agrarian economies has meant diminished opportunities for young people.  At the same time, the lure of (at least perceived) greater opportunities in industrial or professional careers in urban centers has led many if not most rural youth to move away.  And it always seems that the best and brightest are the most likely to go.  

My job used to involve a lot of driving, all across western and southern Oklahoma.  A common and depressing aspect of that was the many, many small towns in rural Oklahoma that were and are in obvious decline.  Closed businesses, abandoned or poorly maintained housing, general signs of neglect and decline were all too common.  On the other hand, the larger urban centers of the state like Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Norman, are thriving.  New business activity and new housing developments are the rule in all of our larger urban centers.  The contrast with rural areas is striking.

Over time it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.  As more and more of the younger generation moves away, general economic activity declines, resulting in further diminished opportunities for those who stay.  That seemingly inexorable trend has been a reality for most rural communities for a couple of generations now, at least, and probably much longer than that.

I suspect that none of the above is unique to my country or my state.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 03:22:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 It's the consequence of the "de-sacrilizing" of the agriculture... The shift of values. It happened everywhere...!

The trouble is that the City needs this countryside ! While in the 19th century many small experiments were done with the relationship between the Big City and the countryside, none survived through the pressure of industry... And war!
Let's not forget that it's the 14-18 war that shifted France in the industrial time by killing most of the farmers. Society was definitely changed.

This one of the reasons I started these sort of diaries... Because we start a, so called, environmental era. That is still felt as fashion for most or as a nice motto for politicians.
One one side the "greens" that refuses any pragmatical project that doesn't serve their direct agenda, on the other the power of politics and wealth that will speak a lot but won't start the action... In the middle, most of us !

The era is a bit radicalized! There have been, there are, there will be, possibilities to think, and design a better territory... As a whole!
Not by peppering projects here and there, just to calm some voicing group. It's counter productive !

It is sad to say, but on such overall projects, people in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and even Israel are much more attentive... Even if they don't have the capacity to start them.. Yet!

"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 06:29:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What comments!

I don't know if it's sad to say that at least someone's beginning to (try to) do it.  Best practice and all that.  There maybe--somewhere--a generation on the rise (connected by...the internet! among other things--shared interests, approaches)...who can play the game...get voted back in.

I'm not an expert on the Green party, but as far as I understand its agenda it is all for sensible town planning among other things.  It's frustrating for me to see that when people come to choose, they refuse what they think might work--because it probably won't!  Vote for what you know!  So then it takes huge damage done by a party (Black Wednesday in the UK)...and then the voters think...hey, there's this other lot.  And all the other parties (and voices) shout:

No, no!  Over here!

Including the small nationalist parties, the racists, the revolutionaries, the single issue groups--

Well, I really don't know enough about the Green party.  Round our way they come over very reactionary...I think because they want to be seen as "listening to the people", though it seems the people are conservative with a small "c".  When they could be agitating for getting local farmers to supply produce direct to the area's schools, hospitals, care homes, council offices...

But they'll complain about the new parking regulations...

...as if they too care about the issues of car drivers...

coz they're so caring!

So local individuals make a difference, sometimes a big difference...

...so, yeah.  Yeah!  Some nations (oh how I don't like the concept of the nation...such corrupted routs)...

well, cough!

I like the concept of the city state, city states, cities as centres, as support to the...areas between...coz there will always be areas between...

It'll take the public wanting real change that will push real change.  Seen already in wind power.  But also seen in the sense of injustice among english (british?) car drivers....because the govt. has it in for drivers.

No!  For driving...too much...unnecessarily.  And then we're back to town planning.

I'm waiting for someone to build the boom housing....called...I dunno...a...homesite?  All eco-housing, all wired up and electricity supplied by wind/solar/water/other renewable source.  The houses capture rain water, there's agricultural land...

...build 'em (with perhaps many grants available?), then decide to...

...sell them to the wealthy (lotsa cash!)
...give them to...people chosen out of a hat!
...lease them to co-operatives, using an LLP (Chris Cook!) to maintain the houses, and maybe getting leasees to sign agreements (a la "no domestic animals, no visitors after 10 pm" in the laws around here [well, used to be, maybe they've changed])

But yes, all kinds of tensions rising, but also all kinds of old tensions maybe being dissipated (between the old and the young perhaps...also...and between men and women...perhaps...in some ways...

...The age of Aquarius!  

according to the Arabs, is a constellation associated with the rainy season of the ancient middle east. Persian, Syrian and Turkish languages call it the Water Bucket. The Egyptians associated these stars with Khnum, their god of water, who caused the Nile to overflow when he dipped his water bucket into the river. Remember the importance of the overflowing Nile as it brought nutrients and fertility to the crops. The Egyptian heiroglyph for water is the same as the sign used by astrologers for Aquarius, a pair of wavy lines suggesting the surface of a river. At times the constellation has been depicted as an ass carrying two water lugs on its back.

The Greeks held to this same idea, but named the constellation for Ganymede, the Trojan boy carried off to Mount Olympus to serve as cup-bearer to the gods.

Aquarius is the first sign of the zodiac in India, where its patron saint is Varuna. This ancient god was originally the all-powerful lord of all the heavens and creator of the stars. But later he was looked on as just god of the water who looked down on the Earth through the thousand eyes of the stars. From his throat issued the seven streams of heaven. Varuna patrols his realm on a fabulous steed, half crocodile and half bird. So he is quite able to patrol both the air and the sea.


...you know, I'm presuming on your diary...on yer goodself, margouillat!

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

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 07:58:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If it can help for a good sleep without nightmares... I know quite a lot of students who learn to design those "urban" eco- social housing in historical cities at school.... :-)

So do not abandon all hope, the Aquarius (Hair's music) might be there still :-)

"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 08:14:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All sorts of things snap into place.
by cambridgemac on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 10:19:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Occasional Series