Monday, August 15, 2005

We're off on the road to Montana (this Jihad is tough on the spine)

Walter Kim, substituting for Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish, fashions himself a sociologist. Unfortunately, he turns out to be a reactionary one. Today he recommends that we turn out backs on the metropolitan and the cosmopolitan, all to enjoy security from Terror.
I think it's high time that we did a few thing differently that maybe we should have done already. Like, say, spread out a little geographically. I live in Montana, way out in the country, near towns that have been abandoned and depopulated and could use a few resources from the threatened cities that have made themselves sitting ducks for sabotage by building their infrastructures so dense and tall that a pellet gun could knock them over. There's a price for supersaturating small areas with people, wealth, and technology, and now we're paying it by trying to secure in thousands of ways targets that are inviting as they come. This folly of rebuilding the World Trade Center proves that we'd rather be proud and stubborn than safe. Here we go piling up the blocks again just to show how bloodied but unbowed we are instead of learning our lesson and reshaping things. It's not the de-urbanization of the cities that I'm dreaming about here, it's the re-urbanization of the towns -- places where strangers can easily be spotted and people can't be vaporized by the hundreds merely by stuffing a few bombs into some backpacks.
First, the United States is, for a modern, industrial nation, very rural. Cities and towns are spread thinly, and cities tend to be less dense than counterparts elsewhere in the world -- even when comparing larger US cities to smaller international cities.

Second, the development of the urban realm was not folly, but progress. The capitalism is unimaginable without the the velocity of transactions possible in a densely packed space. Certainly farmers were not economic pioneers -- they naturally tended towards anti-capitalist controls. Cities, however, reduced the distance between individuals, making their interactions more frequent and necessary, their commerce and traffic more fruitful. They were also portals whereat locally produced goods entered the global market. From an historical perspective, Americans might enjoy an iron-age existence without cities.

Third, Walter suggests deceptively that OBL and al Qaeda would have attacked any opportune target. Wrong. New York City was picked for a reason. Manhattan was picked for a reason. The Twin Towers were picked for a reason. Sept. 11 was an attack on this country, but it was also an attack on a specific city as the vanguard of this country. NYC is a symbol of both open society and globalization. Trust me, Walter, terrorists would never want to attack Montana if it were its own country.

If Walter wants to "re-urbanize" small town life, great idea. But dismantle metropolitan life? The most rabid of Tönnies supporters eventually realized that town life could not exist without the Groߟstadtvolk.

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