Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Blast from the Past, Part I

I was rereading something I wrote and was subsequently published back when I was about 23. It is interesting to reread, because I've been so disconnected from it that it's almost like reading someone else's thoughts. While much of it still applies, many of my positions have shifted; some just became more nuanced, others differ moreso:



"We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of NOW. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there "is" such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. THIS IS A TIME FOR VIGOROUS AND POSITIVE ACTION." Rev. MLK, Jr.
Often when I meet new people of a similar age and engage in conversation regarding worldly issues, I come to find that they too, inherently understand that the world does not have their best interest in mind. By world, I might mean everybody else, or just everybody 'important'. We are a generation caught in an age of critical importance as the fate of the world teeters on the fulcrum of decisions and directions we collectively choose to take. This won't be a conscious decision, but rather a movement.

We are a lost generation, one that lacks the voice and the open and publicized audible angst of "Gen X". We are simply all the more silent. And numb. And disenfranchised. And disillusioned.

In 'Fight Club' Tyler Durden begins his dramatic speech by lamenting, "Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars." Regrettably, this is an all too appropriate assessment of our current condition. I can't pass blame; this is how the system spits us out. The educational system in this country requires conformity so we can adequately and subserviently offer labor for the me generations before us. Pump their gas, serve their food, and work in their offices, pushing papers, so the money flow continues right up the ladder.

Sifting through all of the published and disseminated writings regarding the peril of today's age, very few offer a vision for the future, and even less address our generation, about which the Worldwatch Institute stated there are only one or two generations left to make radical changes if we wish to save our planet and civilization. I prefer not to pass on this debt accrued through years of mismanaged growth and blind ambition.

Personally, after graduating from college last year, I feel as though I am growing intellectually for the first time in fifteen years, traced back exactly to the moment in third grade when my interest in school ceased. Perhaps, intuitively I knew I wasn't really learning much that I needed or cared to know. However, I think I might be one of the lucky ones who is happy in their current job. Without path or direction I stumbled into a career where I feel like I have some positive influence in the direction of the world, at least naively in my own head.

Today, I am an urban design professional in Dallas, Texas (yes, I relocated into the belly of the beast). This profession requires a broad understanding of a number of issues and fields of study, all of which must operate under the current free market economy (the accuracy of this nomenclature is debatable), which is diametrically opposed in terms of goals and needs.
One might say the city is a microcosm of our world, but more precisely articulated, it is the constructed representation of our selves as a people, with regional detail manifestations, but for the most part, the larger systems are very much universal. The study of these systems can offer an insight to the location of the breakdown of the human systems.

We live in a world built on outdated economic theories, among other things, that substantiate the insatiable pursuit for the most dollars. This constructed world is one that requires infinite resources for infinite growth, when the truth of the matter is that these resources are quite finite, and in fact becoming increasingly scarce. And is forever growth really possible? Or ideal? We check the Dow everyday as if it is some sort of daily horoscope. "Up 50 points, four-star day. Tonight: curl up in bed and read a book."

The measures of our economics must change. We do not adequately account for what are the most important factors to be considered: quality of life, environmental and economic sustainability, and natural resources. These are priceless. Or stated in another way, immeasurable, precisely the reason to leave them out of the equation. And why not, this would only cut today's profits, forget long-term consequences.

The idea of Social Darwinism failed miserably, so why do we continue to practice Economic Darwinism, especially as corporate conglomerates grow in size and shrink in number. How many times must we prove the inadequacies of social Darwinism as a sophisticated mantra for contemporary culture? Modern civilization is capable of providing such necessities as a free education, free healthcare, along with standard living wages for all in the work force.

White flight to the suburbs has left our cities barren of tax base to support inner-city public schools, opening a virtual Pandora's box of problems. Money in one generation leads to better schools, better colleges, and better paying jobs for another, talent and ability regardless, only exasperating race and wealth gaps. Where one public school in the suburbs is brand new with modern facilities, computing and networking capabilities, the best teachers, better lunches, and books, the counterpart in the city is falling apart and in many cases cannot even afford books. The assumption of the more privileged classes that if one student can make it out, the rest are able, with effort, seems incredibly racist to me. Drug use and Gang prevalence rises exponentially where hope is nonexistent.

There is no possible way for a civilization to operate when private enterprise controls the healthcare of the masses. To make profits, despite all of the altruistic claims and/or ideals of the industry, is the ultimate goal. From first hand experience, the industry is worried more about cheap building construction then how design can help patients. The lust for profits requires you to be sick. It leads to impersonal and improper care or healing, which should be the goal. 95% of monies raised for breast cancer research go towards treatment, rather than prevention. Rather than in terms of quality of life, we often rate our progress through misguided economic data. The GDP rises with every school bus accident and oil spill.

Part Deux, manana.