Sunday, March 21, 2004


We are told that the first cave paintings represent the first evidence of the universal human desire to seek organization in chaos, to make sense of things. In this morning's NY Times, a writer cites the modern version: "Sounds of Silence". She discusses the popularity of Real Simple magazine and the up-to-date gizmos (such as "e-mail filters and air filters, noise-canceling machines, noise-canceling headphones, ..." etc.) that it features to help us organize our lives. Pretty quickly you know where this is going. "Minivans, the original suburban bubble ..." are cited, as is Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone. The dark side of progress, the dark side of the choices free people make to organize their lives, are often grist for comment and disapproval. The more socializing choices (having coffee at Starbucks, hanging out at "lifestyle centers" where we do more than shop but also meet friends and others for a conversation, a drink or a meal) that are blooming all around are most interesting for their dark side (coffee worker exploitation abroad and suburban sprawl here).

The concern over illegal border crossings is entirely misplaced. It should be simple to place large signs all along the border that report "No Jobs", "Health Care Hard to Get", "Growing Inequality", "Anomie and Alienation", "Money Will Not Make You Happy", "Sprawl", etc. The blockbuster might read: "Beware: Many Personal Trade-offs and Lifestyle Choices Available."