Several years ago I came upon the detective fiction of John Sandford. I can't tell you how refreshing it was, after several of these novels, to read about a hard-edged genuine good guy who generally solved crimes and beat the bad guy. It was good for the soul. In one of the Sandford novels, the hero works with a woman who is ex-KGB and she notes about America that it is full of signs. Back in Russia if you didn't know the name of a street, then you simply didn't know. There weren't a bunch of signs to tell you every single feature of every part of the city.
Since then I've been noticing how much of American 'culture' is taught through signs and music, movies and tv that speak the obvious at a 8th grade reading level. How politics 'teaches values'. How little of public education actually does that through literature or history, and quite notably how we have fewer and fewer mature men and women as actors but more cartoons, witches, vampires, superheroes and other idiot-level signs doing the lifting in cultural production.
We lurch towards and away from the Welfare Nanny State. These days towards. And I think about the political agitation towards 'equality'. At the movies tonight during 45 minutes of propaganda 'previews' we were reminded about how not to think of our paraplegic friends as disabled. Except of course that they get public service announcements at the movie, but they're all the same right? Every curb in California is cut for the wheelchairs. Every parking lot has the blue striped stalls. The city makes it easy for everyone. And if you have no job skills, then the minimum wage should be raised to a 'living wage' and 'affordable housing' should be made available as well.
At some point, a point our public fails to assess with anything resembling scientific accuracy, it will become too expensive to insure all pre-existing dysfunctions. But that is the kind of discrimination the idiot-proof, no-fault city seeks to eliminate. It is the kind of discrimination many of us understand that makes efforts at self-improvement worthwhile. An elevated and sophisticated society discriminates. It knows the difference between failed, weak, satisfactory, very good and excellent and it cares about that difference. An proper society rewards the good and punishes the bad. A dysfunctional society wallows and refuses to make distinctions; it lets its judgments lapse. It knows something is wrong but can't seem to do anything about it. In a dysfunctional society people know that you're very lucky if you get what you deserve.
A degenerate society rewards the bad actors and punishes the good. I say we are mostly dysfunctional but we have quite enough degeneracy to make people almost comfortable with the dysfunctions. Thoughtful, sensitive people have deep concerns about American society. Unfortunately, most of them think that political solutions can be engineered, and so they engage in politics to strengthen what they beleive should be society. They do not realize that society must be grown, not genetically engineered. And yet they continue to build themselves into activists, one Frankenstein at a time.
These are the classes, who through democratic propaganda seek to aggregate the votes of the masses into self-sustaining policy. It is a well-worn path towards the Nanny State, and the protectionists are winning. It makes sense that one should not overeat. Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins known since antiquity. But outlawing fast-food restaurants merely creates a police state. Policy becomes the deadly vengeful god of the Progressive whose prophets of truth are TED lecturers and university studies. And so all media with any sense of not using cartoon avatars dutily repeat the memes on the 6 o'clock news and dissenters are shunted. All the signs and billboards and public service announcements and afterschool specials and celebrity reminders need to march in step. But I digress and pontificate.
We're Los Angeles, not Boston. So we have homeless living comfortably on the streets in the dead of winter. There's a little idiot-proof part of downtown reserved especially for them. A no-reality zone. It's where all the charities setup their soup kitchens. It is a subsidized economy, healthy as far as subsidies go. There aren't literal signs to let you know that you are in Skid Row, but the place is unmistakable.
While I'm amenable to reversing the idea, my bias is towards the idea that cities should be cosmopolitan and modern. What that means practically speaking is that people engage in commerce and society according to organic class status but with conscious efforts to conform to their best public minded and public spirited social behaviors. Such behaviors should be so easy and naturally understood that one couldn't graduate from high school without having been socialized properly. I'm talking ethics and civics as required reading, and perhaps even on standardized tests. I wouldn't mind terribly if men wore color coded earrings to demonstrate their social proficiencies, which is to say I'm not defending any hidebound mannerisms or status quo. But cities should have that character of socially elevated and that people should conform towards the order and not have that order undermined by every tribe of non-skilled transients and immigrants who arrive there.
Now you know what I mean. The idiot-proof city is antithetical to sophistication, and while some cities may ultimately fail, great cities like Los Angeles should not. Great cities like Detroit shouldn't have. If we are to remain the land of the free and the home of the brave, we should be brave enough to resist social engineering that comes from political arm-twisting. We should be free enough to make our own rules outside of anti-democratic governance. The city is where it begins.