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Re: Decision making

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  • Ken Kifer
    Jason Fahrion wrote: I ll go a step further and take the risk of saying that democracy hasn t even made america less inclined to loot, murder, and pillage. I
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2001
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      Jason Fahrion wrote:
      I'll go a step further and take the risk of saying that democracy hasn't
      even made america less inclined to loot, murder, and pillage. I understand
      the risks of voicing such sentiments at a time of swelling "patriotism," but
      everytime bush calls us a beacon of democracy I cringe.

      Ken Kifer replies:
      Y'all have mentioned Athenian democracy several times in your discussion, and I
      wanted to point out that while Athens was the most democratic of all Greek
      city-states, and while that democracy was very good culturally, Athens was
      terrible in its behavior towards its neighbors, and democracy did not do a thing
      to help them.

      Certainly, our democracy did not help the Amerindians at all!

      De Clarke wrote:
      there are good solid reasons why people from all over the world dream
      of coming to this place that offers freedom of religion, the right to
      peaceable assembly, freedom of speech and movement, the Miranda law,
      laws against discrimination in employment, etc. I often criticize the
      US and sometimes harshly, but there are some basic Enlightenment-legacy
      ideas embedded in American culture (liberte', egalite', fraternite'!)
      that I love dearly. a lot of Americans are really decent, fair-minded
      people -- at least, when dealing with their fellow-Americans.

      Ken Kifer replies:
      I credit William Penn and the Society of Friends for bringing those ideas to the
      US, although our country was founded during the age of reason, which led to the
      French revolution.

      De Clarke also wrote:
      and there are contradictions more subtle than that. one we all know about,
      is the way people are almost forced to own and drive cars if they want to
      participate fully in the "freedoms" Americans enjoy; and the reduction
      of freedom of movement and travel for anyone who can't afford to drive or
      doesn't want to. a 'freedom' (say, to own and use a car) isn't really a
      freedom any more once it becomes a requirement; junk food isn't a fun
      treat if it's the only kind of food available...

      Ken Kifer replies:
      This is something I began to recognize as I moved into my late teens, back in
      the early 60's. Those living in the 50's (especially in Alabama!) either had to
      accept a cookie-cutter lifestyle or had to hide their deviancy. There has been
      quite a bit of cultural expansion since then, with differences in ethnicity,
      lifestyle, and even sexual practices now much better accepted. This greater
      tolerance has helped people as diverse as homosexuals and the Amish. But, in
      spite of our social improvements, our culture still bulldozers people into a
      physical reality that allows little room for divergence.

      Some years ago, a man in the Birmingham area put a bird feeder in his front yard
      and was immediately informed that he would either have to remove the bird feeder
      or find a new place to live. He commented to the newspaper that he had chosen
      to live in his suburb with its extra restrictions, because he did not want his
      neighbors to be free to do whatever they wanted to do, but that he never dreamed
      that the restrictions would include bird feeders.

      But people find themselves locked into much more important no-choice options
      than that without ever having signed any agreement to that effect. If you want
      to have a garden or to allow your yard to go back to Nature, if you want to walk
      or bicycle to work or even just around the neighborhood, if you want a
      solar-heated home, if you want products that you can repair yourself, or if you
      want food that is not genetically engineered to survive high doses of pesticides
      and herbicides, your only alternative may be to quit your job, move out into the
      country, and become totally self-sufficient. The irony of all this is that
      most people do not want to be locked into the lifestyle that they find
      themselves in. While there are some improvements in some regions, I think that
      for most the situation is going to continue to get worse as the suburbs march
      outward.

      Not long ago, I was going to visit someone, and as we arrived in his
      neighborhood, I started to make a comment about the ugly new houses all looking
      exactly alike, but I held back, and we soon arrived at his house, which looked
      just the same. A Japanese student of mine once wrote about the people she met
      on her first weekend trip, "They all had look-alike names and look-alike faces,"
      an opinion that reflects a natural ethnocentricity rather than reality, but I
      think American suburbs do all have look-alike homes and look-alike yards. Back
      in the 50's, there was a song about the houses being too much alike ("they're
      all made of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same"), but houses and yards
      since then have become even more alike. There are many laws requiring your
      house to be built like your neighbors, and even laws requiring your yard to be
      maintained like your neighbors. A house can pick up a good bit of solar energy
      during the winter just by being oriented towards the sun, but mine is the only
      house in Alabama that I know of that was oriented in that fashion for that
      reason. In the South, a house that is built partially below ground level can
      have drastically reduced energy requirements, yet I have seen only one house so
      constructed. I have read that a lawn mower produces 40 times as much pollution
      per hour as an automobile, and I know that having a house surrounded by trees
      instead of by a lawn is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, yet I
      rarely see houses without a lawn. In addition, if we allowed our yards to be
      part of the natural forest, the local wildlife would have a good habitat. Our
      construction of suburbs is destroying the songbirds of America. Do people
      really get all that much satisfaction out of growing and looking at grass?

      The battle to change opinions is uphill because hundreds of billions are spent
      every year for propaganda to teach people to conform to the standard lifestyle.
      Every cereal commercial, for instance, is not only teaching people to eat cereal
      but is also selling them all the cultural background that goes into the
      commercial as well. As an example of how our commercials reach out, I had some
      students from Nepal one year about whom I commented, "They dress and act more
      American than the Americans." That is, they had completely assimulated our TV
      and movie culture and looked more like TV extras than like students. Besides,
      even if people do want to live a different life, what model do they have to
      follow?

      Over the last few years, I have received hundreds of messages about my website
      from people telling me that they felt entirely alone until they read it. I
      believe that in spite of all the efforts to assimulate us into a _Brave New
      World_ that thousands, perhaps millions, of people have rejected it and are
      looking for or are living alternatives. These kind of messages only fuel my
      desire to work harder.

      PS: I thoroughly enjoyed the debate between Jason and Simon about using numbers
      to make decisions.

      --
      Ken Kifer's Bike Pages: Over 130 web pages -- touring,
      commuting, health, lifestyle, health, advocacy, skills,
      humor, and hundreds of links.
      http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/
      What's New? http://www.kenkifer.com/whatznew.htm
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