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Till human voices wake us
November 25, 2008 7:19 AM   Subscribe

Alone Together. In American lore, the small town is the archetypal community, a state of grace from which city dwellers have fallen.

Yet the picture of cities—and New York in particular—that has been emerging from the work of social scientists is that the people living in them are actually less lonely. Rather than driving people apart, large population centers pull them together, and as a rule tend to possess greater community virtues than smaller ones.
posted by plexi (90 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
It also doesn't hurt that New York Magazine publishes this story three times a year.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:31 AM on November 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


I live in a marvelous neighborhood in the middle of San Francisco called Cole Valley, in the upper Haight district. We have a main street with a hardware store, a little supermarket, a dry cleaner, a pharmacy, an auto-repair garage, a bar, three cafés and five restaurants, all locally owned. Everyone knows everyone, at least after a while. I've lived here for 30 years, and when I walk out my door and up the block, a dozen people say hello to me by name. My neighborhood homies include Craig Newmark of Craigslist and Jonathan Ive, the designer of the iPod etc. Alienated urban living, this isn't. It's more like the elusive small-town existence I saw in movies like It's a Wonderful Life when I was growing up. When I visit my husband's family in Illinois -- the alleged core of middle-American small-town life -- we usually end up eating in strip malls (though my father in law, as mayor, also helped revivify his downtown).

I don't even know how to drive, having grown up in NYC. I can't imagine ever living in suburbia -- I'd be terribly isolated.
posted by digaman at 7:35 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


...and we drown.
posted by nasreddin at 7:39 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Also, small communities mean that people have to bond over the lowest common denominator. Whereas in a large community, you can find multiple people who fit your specialized interests.

The "community spirit" you see in small towns (and this is coming from someone who has lived almost exclusively in small towns) isn't the entirely wholesome thing you see in movies. The big HELLO you get from Joe at the hardware store isn't just friendliness. It's also "oho, so he must have a plumbing problem" and "I'm spotting you before you spot me, so I have the upper hand". In a small town, you don't even have the option of being anonymous. If you want to keep something private, you have to watch everything you say to anyone. I find that very stifling and, ironically, isolating.
posted by DU at 7:43 AM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Romans had a difficult time conquering Germany or Germania in part because the Germans of that era largely did not live in cities or even have houses close together. Cities to the ancient German were like tombs. In some ways this kept Germania largely free from Roman control, because the people were not close together and easy to control by force or cohersion. The apartment dwelling city person is also at least somewhat removed from the the forests, vegetable gardens, the profound silences where all one can hear are birds and insects, and the stars at night. Consider that throughout most of European history people were nature worshippers and these things speak to something primal and virtuous to the ancestors of most people reading these words.

As far as culture and social responsiblity goes, cities aren't necessarily the best place to live. I can name Ernest Hemingway as a great writer/artist who lived most of his life (especially later life) outside the large cultural and population centres. In the realm of politics a lot of the more radical strains of political thinking started out as prairie populist movements.
posted by Deep Dish at 7:45 AM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I liked the isolation of growing up in the country, and when I moved to the city, I liked the anonymity. However, the longer I live in the city, the less anonymous I become.
If I could go back to the country, I would.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:49 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


As far as culture and social responsiblity goes, cities aren't necessarily the best place to live.

I hear you claiming that but I don't see any proof. Oh wait...

I can name Ernest Hemingway as a great writer/artist who lived most of his life (especially later life) outside the large cultural and population centres.

Never mind, case closed!
posted by DU at 7:58 AM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Never mind, case closed!

Point taken. I'll counter with Mark Twain and Thomas Jefferson
posted by Deep Dish at 8:13 AM on November 25, 2008


The apartment dwelling city person is also at least somewhat removed from the the forests, vegetable gardens, the profound silences where all one can hear are birds and insects, and the stars at night.

I do sometimes miss the glorious sound of all those stars. :P
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:15 AM on November 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


One thing that happened after the whole "Real Virginia vs. Fake Viriginia" flap that Sarah Palin caused, and which Jon Stewart so rightly mocked her for, was that I started to re-evaluate what a city is. Right around this time, my friend went away on business for about a month and I had to go to his house every day to feed his pets. He lives about forty blocks away - easy biking distance - and given the nice fall weather, I started to bike to his house every day. I made sure to take a different bike route every time, just to get more of a sense of the part of town I'd just moved to.

I noticed two things: one, its nice to live in a city that hasn't gotten strip-mally. (I live in Northeast Portland, Oregon.) There aren't a lot of developments in this part of town, few condos, mostly houses, and there was no overarching sense of uniformity. Some were two stories, some one. Some had driveways, others had people park on the street. Bright houses, earthtone houses, brick houses, houses at sidewalk level, houses with yards, houses with porches. Pointed roofs, flat roofs, roofs with multiple arches. If a house was on the corner, sometimes its front door would face the numbered street, other times the named street. Seeing how houses reflected individual people, and how different and well maintained they were, really did give me a sense of civic pride. I didn't vote the way Palin would have wanted, but I still feel like I'm part of the "Real Portland", whether or not she even considers it a possibility for Portland to ever be "real".

But I noticed another - more relevant - thing. If you were just in this one small neighborhood, where you couldn't see any of downtown - you wouldn't know it was a city. It was a quiet neighborhood, with people tending their yards, little stores, not a lot of traffic or business. It wasn't that different from some of the small towns I've lived in. The difference, it seems to me, is that if you go a few blocks over in a small town, you hit emptiness, but if you go a few blocks over in a city neighborhood, you'll hit another neighborhood. I've had that experience in other cities, too. Not in New York City, of course, because so much of that is apartment complexes. But in Nashville, and Seattle, and Columbus Ohio - there are a lot of places where you can get away from skyscrapers and have a local dive bar, and a local church, and not even see the city at all, unless you start to drive.

Honestly, I think most of the stuff that a small town offers you can get in a city, if you pick the right city. Hell, I run into random people I know all the time just walking around on Hawthorne - it's not like a sense of community is impossible. The only real difference as far as I can see is that a city offers more options in concerts and restaurants and stores - and I hardly think that's a negative.
posted by Kiablokirk at 8:22 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've moved from the 'burbs into the city in the last two years and have found much less anonymity in the city, actually zero. I think that I'd met everyone on my block within the first week of moving in and because we were the newbies, everyone in the neighborhood knew about us instantly. A year later and I find myself on the board of directors for the neighborhood group.

The big difference is that people's front doors face the street and everyone walks. When I lived in the burbs, everyone drove right into their garages and closed the door behind, you never saw anyone. So you end up seeing your neighbors pretty constantly, even just getting the paper off the stoop often turns into a conversation.
posted by octothorpe at 8:24 AM on November 25, 2008


Portland is fabulous that way. One neighborhood after another that reminds me of Cole Valley here in SF -- and a lot cheaper.
posted by digaman at 8:26 AM on November 25, 2008


if you go a few blocks over in a small town, you hit emptiness

um. no. WTF.

while i'm not a huge fan of small towns (i love my small urban center, with no ringing suburbs), i am really irritated by the devaluing of nature by so many urbanites. at the edge of town is not some sort of vacuum--it's where you can gather wild plants to eat, witness animals that are displaced by human domination, and hunker down on your heels to be quiet for several minutes and start to see things like how dragonflies hunt or how tree frogs are just about invisible until you stop moving.

it is this belief that there is "nothing" there that leads to all kinds of poisonous bullshit like "drill baby drill."

so stop it.
posted by RedEmma at 8:37 AM on November 25, 2008 [18 favorites]


About 8 years ago I moved from "real" Virginia to "fake" Virginia. As a single guy, "real" Virginia sucks. There's not much to do if you like to get out of the house, and most folks are married and have 2.5 kids. Being single and over the age of 25 is regarded as strange.

Not so in "fake" Virginia. Lots of single young professional folks here, and a very diverse crowd cutting across all the racial and religious spectrums. It's much better - I have a much wider social circle and there is always something to do. Staying at home on a weekend night feels weird. And, I am close enough to the office that I can ride my bike to work.

The city is better for me.
posted by smoothvirus at 8:43 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I do sometimes miss the glorious sound of all those stars. :P

Saturn's not a star, Senor Cardgage, but it's up there. Makin' noises.

Alvy ampersand: If I could go back to the country, I would.

Me too. And someday, I will.
posted by nosila at 8:45 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


To each their own.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:48 AM on November 25, 2008


Not in New York City, of course, because so much of that is apartment complexes

Bay Ridge, Kensington, Astoria, Jackson Heights, and other leafy, sleepy subway-suburbs abound near the edges. I was quite taken by Bay Ridge when a friend moved there, it seemed to have an ideal Small Town feel with the added bonus of being 40 min train ride from Manhattan. Not sure what it would be like to live there tho.
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on November 25, 2008


smoothvirus has it, for me at least. I'd hate to give up all the green I've become accustomed to, but it occurred to me that were I single, I'd either hate it or become a recluse (or both). Your relationship/family attachments are a big factor here. In that regard, I'd be particularly interested in happy tales from (non-recluse) single country or burb dwellers, and families in urban cores.

So I'm good, for now. But I can't see any northern lights here, and that makes me sad.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:02 AM on November 25, 2008


To each their own.

That would work if rural votes didn't get disproportionate voting power.
posted by srboisvert at 9:03 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


That would work if rural votes didn't get disproportionate voting power.

Yes, because politicians should only have to campaign in big cities. It makes it much easier to ignore the fact that some of the poorest places on the Western hemisphere are in this country.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:19 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


We actually have acreage outside a large town of 20,000 (county population 50,000) and LOVE the location but during the couple of years we were there we were completely unable to connect with anyone like us. I was crossing my fingers that telecommuting and the ubiquity of the Internet would really take off and cast a few professional stragglers OUT of the urbs/suburbs/exurbs and somewhere within 30 miles of us, or that the Internet would connect like minds in that area, but it never happened. Everyone we ever met in that area was solidly either focused 100% on family, focused 100% on their Baptist or Methodist church, or was a xenophobe, crackpot, drunk, or crackhead. Yet I was the one who was optimistic we'd find a couple of "different" or intellectual types of folks and kept my eyes wide open. Nope. That place was dry. There was a small city of 80,000 an hours drive away that I ended up tapping into occasionally for social needs, but even that was marginal pickings.

When my wife got offered an interesting job from an institute she used to work for, we threw in the towel and moved back to a metropolis exurb where have some semblance of a social life again. The dichotomy of the cities and the rural areas is really clear cut, and while anyone could have seen it coming, it's really something to see it divided firsthand with such certainty. I live in flyover country but I totally understand why people choose to move to places like NYC and SF. There's a social magnetism there that I think is polar opposite to the dynamics that exist in many rural areas. I never really appreciated it fully, even having lived in Austin, until we spent that time out in that rural area.
posted by crapmatic at 9:24 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like the country and I like the city. It's the suburbs that I can't deal with.
posted by Tehanu at 9:31 AM on November 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


"I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life."

-- consummate NYC poet Frank O'Hara
posted by digaman at 9:35 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


I lived in a small Montana town for four years. You basically have to be nice to people, because it's extremely likely you're going to run into them in the next few days. Like DU said, it's not necessarily sincere. I prefer cities, because you can keep to yourself if you want to, and when people do reach out, you know they mean it.
posted by desjardins at 9:41 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, what Tehanu said. My experience of the suburbs is that everyone pretends no one else exists.
posted by desjardins at 9:42 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I pretend no one else exists, but not for the uncool reason of living in a suburb. For the cool reason of just hating people.
posted by DU at 9:47 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yes, because politicians should only have to campaign in big cities. It makes it much easier to ignore the fact that some of the poorest places on the Western hemisphere are in this country.

Yep, American cities are delightfully free of poor people.
posted by naoko at 9:53 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


at the edge of town is not some sort of vacuum--it's where you can gather wild plants to eat, witness animals that are displaced by human domination, and hunker down on your heels to be quiet...

It's nice when genuine open space is available, but for the small central California city I grew up in--I guess Palin's "real California," if she were aware of it--the urban boundary was surrounded by large-scale monocrop farms, which equals private property, which equals no trespassing.

Yes, because politicians should only have to campaign in big cities. It makes it much easier to ignore the fact that some of the poorest places on the Western hemisphere are in this country.

So...having land should still equal more political power even if it doesn't necessarily guarantee wealth?
posted by kittyprecious at 10:03 AM on November 25, 2008


Like DU said, it's not necessarily sincere. I prefer cities, because you can keep to yourself if you want to, and when people do reach out, you know they mean it.

This leads to the rather grounded cliche of the oblivious or rude urban dweller.
But I'll take that over insincere socializing any day.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:05 AM on November 25, 2008


i am really irritated by the devaluing of nature by so many urbanites

Nature is smelly, itchy and boring. Damn right I don't value it.
posted by dame at 10:15 AM on November 25, 2008


at the edge of town is not some sort of vacuum--it's where you can gather wild plants to eat, witness animals that are displaced by human domination, and hunker down on your heels to be quiet for several minutes and start to see things like how dragonflies hunt or how tree frogs are just about invisible until you stop moving.


To be fair, you can do all this in Manhattan.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:17 AM on November 25, 2008


Okay, wow. Sorry for the derail. I get too emotional when talking about the electoral college and the supposed overrepresentation of rural people. I'm probably too close to the situation, and it'll frankly be better for everyone if I just butt out of this conversation now.

I see lots of people -- especially in San Francisco, where I live now -- decrying the electoral college as the reason for all of the ills our country has suffered over the past ten years. And although I don't entirely disagree, I think that Democrats disenfranchised a lot of what used to be their base by inching away from strong fiscally liberal policies.

There is extreme poverty in many rural areas, moreso than in most cities, because the same services are not available. I've seen these things firsthand and, working for nonprofits and barely making minimum wage, tried to do my small part to help people out. When the silent majority in rural areas see Democrats ignoring their extreme need, they voice their opinion by not voting. That's not how I wish they'd voice their opinion, but they do.

But like I said, these are issues I get too emotional about, and I'll probably do everyone a favor by watching quietly. MeMail me if you'd like to talk more about this.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:20 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life."

What a pathetically constricted view of life. This strikes me every bit as pathological as the person who needs to go out and buy something to make themselves feel good.
posted by straight at 10:22 AM on November 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


I can see how you might thank that from just the quote, straight, but that's really not what he was saying. Read the quote in context and it might seem different to you. O'Hara was a guy who didn't really draw a line between natural and man-made things. That's one thing that makes his writing so special.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:31 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


This leads to the rather grounded cliche of the oblivious or rude urban dweller.

Total myth. I was amazed how nice people can be to you in NYC when we lived there. At least face to face. Bad behavior seems to show up mostly in people who drive or who are just plain crazy.

Or if you want their subway seat...then you're on your own.

My brother lives out in W. Texas, the closest town is 200 people and 3 miles of gravel roads away from him. I love the beautiful night skies and his lovely house, but being that far out in a desolate (if pretty) wilderness is stressful to people like me who love bookstores and overheard conversation. And the internet doesn't make up for that either.

I'm kind of a suburbs convert these days. We're in walking distance to our kid's school and have a nice small yard. We talk to our neighbors, even if we still lock our doors. I would like for there to be more "stuff" closer to us; drugstores, groceries, etc. within walking/biking distance would be handy. I miss all the not-driving I could do in NY, but then I don't particularly miss shivering on the elevated subway platforms at 7 am on a freezing morning, so there you go.
posted by emjaybee at 10:32 AM on November 25, 2008


Oh cities are so scary oh what about the crime oh they have no sense of shame or what's right oh I hear everyone is rude and lonely and hostile and spending money all the time and aren't you afraid?

Oh the country oh the hypocrites with their Bibles to hide their hatreds oh they're just so bigoted and crazy fundamentalist and all about guns and how can you stand it?

Oh the internet oh the snarkiness oh they're just so mean and lonely and oh aren't they all weird and creepy and living in basements and what do you mean you like it there?

Oh the people that I notice and know are so much better than the ones I don't notice or don't know and maybe I pass them everyday and maybe I've never been within 200 miles of them but here's the thing that bugs me most.
posted by Tehanu at 10:36 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Romans had a difficult time conquering Germany or Germania in part because the Germans of that era largely did not live in cities or even have houses close together. Cities to the ancient German were like tombs. In some ways this kept Germania largely free from Roman control, because the people were not close together and easy to control by force or cohersion.

So... because I love being able to use my feet and public transit to get around, because i value having a lot of art around, because I like being able to be at my friends' houses inside of a ten minute bike ride, because I appreciate having huge diversity in people and food and culture, I'm going to get invaded by the Romans?

I can deal with that.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:45 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


I can't speak for all small towns, of course, but I think the idea that somehow they enforce civility is utter and complete nonsense. Let's examine the lovely little burg called Tulia TX. You may have heard of Tulia, it made national news a few years ago when its friendly and civil police force arrested close to 1/3 of the adult black men living there on blatantly and obviously fake drug charges. Out of 46 arrests 40 were black and 6 were race traitors married to black people or involved in the black community.

Their friendly and civil white neighbors thought this was entirely appropriate and not at all wrong in any way whatsoever. Many of them sat on the all white juries that, in a friendly and civil manner handed out long and harsh sentences on charges they knew to be false.

After investigations proved that the cases were fraudulent, and the wrongly convicted were released (some having spent nearly 5 years in the notoriously evil Texas maximum security prison system), and the city ordered to pay over six million in restitution, the friendly and civil people of Tulia took care to re-elect every single one of the friendly and civil people responsible for the campaign of judicial terror and legalistic aggression against Tulia's black residents.

Friendly and civil....

roll truck roll wrote "the silent majority in rural areas"

You appear to have fully bought into the one cow one vote mindset. There is no majority, silent or otherwise, in the rural areas. Per the US census less than 5% of America's human population lives in rural areas.

The idea that somehow the vicious, evil, mustache twirling city folk will fuck over the good, noble, hardworking, realAmerican country folk if we implemented actual equal representation is nonsense. Moreover its anti-democratic nonsense. A voter in Wyoming should have the same representation in the government I do, no more, no less. Why you think they are somehow such special and magically important people they should be overrepresented, and thus can fuck the country blind with their rural "values" is incomprehensible to me. Do you hate people who live in cities? Did a city molest you as a child?

More to the point, let me observe that in nations where there is actual equal representation in government, somehow (almost like magic) the evil city folk haven't fucked over the good and noble rural dwellers. Gee, its almost like every democracy in existence proves that your paranoid fantasies about evil city folk are total nonsense. Shocking, I know.

I'm sorry if I'm coming across aggressively here, but it really pisses me off when I'm told that I'm not worthy of equal representation with the saintly people of Wyoming. That because I'm not virtuous enough to come from rural America I should be punished with reduced government representation.
posted by sotonohito at 10:49 AM on November 25, 2008 [9 favorites]


Suburbs are ghettos for the likeminded.

Cities, high density living exposes you to other people, cultures, idealogies. You live in close proximity with more people with more opinions. You recognize that there are other viewpoints and most importantly, other people.

You can't go from your isolated house to isolated car to isolated work, and guarantee that every singular moment of human contact you experience is controlled, tempered and aligned with everything you believe in.

Living in a modern suburb isn't living. It's a slow drifting away from everything that makes us truly human, dynamic, emotional and balanced.

You don't live with anyone else in the suburbs.. just near them.. It's for those that value consistency more than anything else in the world...

Caveat - 30 years in suburbs, Pittsburgh, Austin, Dallas. City Living in West London, Cambridge, and now Helsinki.
posted by Lord_Pall at 10:52 AM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Total myth. I was amazed how nice people can be to you in NYC when we lived there.

Hey, I'm with you. I love Toronto for the same reason. But most people stay out of each other's way, so as desjardins notes, when there's contact, it's sincere. (for an example of the other kind of contact, and how well it is received, see the "chuggers" thread)

That's why I said oblivious as well as rude. We ignore each other or interact in small, non-intrusive ways (a smile, a nod) unless it is warranted (asking for directions, etc). Rude because to a country dweller, where saying hi to someone one day means saying hi to them every day, a refusal to make that kind of commitment can seem unusually gruff.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:55 AM on November 25, 2008


Oh, just to be clear (I can see how it was misunderstood), by "the silent majority in rural areas" I did not mean that the silent majority of the country live in rural areas. I meant that the silent majority of the people who live in rural areas are fiscally liberal and socially moderate.

I really don't think that I said anything that justified your aggressiveness at me.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:55 AM on November 25, 2008


I've personally found that I was least isolated while living in Paris, and I've had friends say the same about NYC, but culture and activities have a major impact too. France & Germany were far less isolating than England. Students are always less isolated. etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:55 AM on November 25, 2008


roll truck roll you wrote, while disagreeing with a call for equal representation, "Yes, because politicians should only have to campaign in big cities. It makes it much easier to ignore the fact that some of the poorest places on the Western hemisphere are in this country."

Which is one of the standard lies from those who oppose equal representation.

In presidential elections all the action happens not merely in big cities, but exclusively in big cities in swing states. Here in Texas you almost didn't know there was a presidential election, why? Because thanks to the Electoral College there's really no point in voting in presidential elections here: the EC votes (that is, the votes that count) will go to the Republican no matter what. Rather than empowering the rural areas all the EC has done is ensure that the presidential races are limited to swing states. Good job Electoral College! We really needed the presidential candidates pandering to Ohio and ignoring California completely, and the EC has helped achieve that quite nicely.

The Senate I object to on principle, but I accept that it won't be changing anytime soon. But the House of Representatives is supposed to, you know, *represent* America, not represent a vision of America skewed strongly to the rural vote. You want to know why we can't have nice things? Its because voters in California are being systematically denied an equal voice with voters in Wyoming. The vastly more socially conservative minority has a much greater voice than they would have if everyone were treated equally.

The Senate with its "nevermind population, each legal fiction gets two votes" nonsense is the absolute worst, but the composition of the House is a particular slap in the face because its theoretically about representing the people instead of the "states". But it doesn't represent the people.

Wyoming gets one Representative per 522,830 people. Texas gets one per 747,021. Why is it right that Texans only count as .69 of a person? The sheer insanity of the Senate might be semi-tolerable if the House were truly representative, since it isn't the crime against democracy that the Senate represents is compounded.

One major reason why America, despite being a mostly center-left country keeps enacting extreme right policies is that the mostly conservative voters in low population areas are systemically over represented. Why can't America have nice things? Basically because Wyoming keeps vetoing all the bills for nice things.
posted by sotonohito at 11:36 AM on November 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


I live a good deal of the time in this awesome cyber town, The Blue. It's got the kind of people I've wanted to spend time with all my life and I feel incredibly fortunate to have moved here.
posted by nickyskye at 11:41 AM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


You can't go from your isolated house to isolated car to isolated work, and guarantee that every singular moment of human contact you experience is controlled, tempered and aligned with everything you believe in.

Naturally you're free to enjoy smelling other people's cooking, getting stuck in endless traffic, and hearing sex noises and domestic disputes through apartment walls. I don't see how a desire for privacy and quiet equates a desire for a freakish levels of control.

I live in a smallish, nonrural and non-suburban part of a city and most of the people who would identify as cosmopolitian urbanites, go to their walking distance shops with their ipods/sunglasses on and stare straight ahead or look at the ground. In a few years most of them will be living in the suburbs.

I admit I've never lived in a city smaller than 50 thousand people, but given the option of a nice cabin somewhere - I'd probably take it.
posted by Deep Dish at 11:45 AM on November 25, 2008


Oh this is silly.
posted by MarshallPoe at 11:47 AM on November 25, 2008


Suburbia: when raising children is the only adventure left.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 11:48 AM on November 25, 2008


This is a bunch of stupid culture war bullshit.
posted by Snyder at 11:48 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


I live in a small town and don't really care to live in a city. What mountains would I go wander around in?
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:56 AM on November 25, 2008


I live in a small town and don't really care to live in a city. What mountains would I go wander around in?

Depending on the city, you could have plenty of mountains to wander around in.
posted by dersins at 12:02 PM on November 25, 2008


city vs. country slapfight!
posted by jason's_planet at 12:21 PM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


My family hails from some of the most remote places in North America. South Western Idaho and western Wyoming and Utah. These are places I spend a great deal of time.

I spent most of my life living in or around very idyllic and rural places of the world. The English countryside. The jungles of Central America. But I have also spent a great deal of time in the world's biggest cities. London. Paris. New York. I currently live in the heart of Seattle.

And I just want clarify one myth: Rural doesn't mean what people think it does anymore.
The idea of a "town" is mostly a fond idea and a conceit.

Every year I go on fishing trips to remote places in Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. We also go for a week or two in upstate Wisconsin to visit relatives. And for the most part the small town as people envision them don't frigg'n exist anymore. You can drive in Alaska, Montana, The Dakotas through a whole lot of beautiful nothing. Most of the time, though, there is the unmistakable presence of civilization. But there are not that many real functioning towns - not as communities. It's amzing how many towns are barely hanging on. You get a few here and there (like Lewiston, ID). Especially around tourism centers or state universities. But over all the town is dying. What you mostly have is rural houses spread out barely connected to anything but satellite dishes and maybe a WalMart here and there. The automobile and cheap gas (and the farm bill and globalization) over time basically KILLED the American Town. There doesn't need to be a center. So they dissolved.

The town where my family is from, Soda Springs (Actually closer to Grace - my family helped settle the area for Brigham Young) Idaho, was a very vibrant center at one point. A couple of movie theaters live theaters, a couple of good restaurants and cafes. But oddly as the surrounding farmers consolidated their wealth the town died. One by one most of the businesses died. Only recently has businesses rebounded due to tourism and rising gas prices. And the rebound is almost resented by many people that live there. They got used to the decay.

And this is what I see is common through out the American town. Pride. They SAY they have it. But most don't anymore. I see it every time I go to places that used to be thriving actual communities 20 years ago.

Pride? Right. They sell out at the first opportunities to the most egregious and damaging commercial interests (like Monstanto) that rape the surrounding nature and litter the place making it all look like a fucking junk heap. They let historical landmarks run down, allow their water and air to become polluted. The influx of quick cash and low density (and low opinion) of government draws casinos and crime and meth. But hey. At least their not a big city, right?

Now a lot of what American thinks of as "towns" are really Suburbs. Which are an even worse conceit. Largely built on racism rather than any agrarian or economic need. Which, if not served by mass transit, are certainly going to die in their present incarnation.

What a shame. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for what was my families home town.

And BYW the idea that city people have contempt for nature is utterly backwards. You want to see contempt for nature? Go to Alaska.
posted by tkchrist at 12:40 PM on November 25, 2008 [8 favorites]


I live in a smallish, nonrural and non-suburban part of a city and most of the people who would identify as cosmopolitian urbanites, go to their walking distance shops with their ipods/sunglasses on and stare straight ahead or look at the ground. In a few years most of them will be living in the suburbs.

So why don't you say hi?

I live in an urban cosmopolitan neighborhood. I KNOW my nieghbors. I'm freinds with my neighbors. (Hi Y2Karl and MWhybark). I know the kooks. The street people. The bar and restaurant owners. I say hi to them by name. Some even wish me happy anniversary and happy birthday.

During the summer there were weekly neighborhood BBQ's and picnics put on by one of the wealthiest neighbors.

Look. It takes effort. If you live in a cabin how much "interaction" you think your gonna get without effort? WE build communities. One interaction at a time.

The hardest place I ever lived was being an adult without kids in a suburb. That was isolation. It took a long time to break down barriers becuase people didn't WANT to interact - there was no infrastructure for it outside of the mall, the PTA, or church. They wanted to cocoon.
posted by tkchrist at 12:51 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've got nothing to add really, except this poem, which I think needs to be here:


Degrees Of Gray In Philipsburg
Richard Hugo

You might come here Sunday on a whim.
Say your life broke down. The last good kiss
you had was years ago. You walk these streets
laid out by the insane, past hotels
that didn't last, bars that did, the tortured try
of local drivers to accelerate their lives.
Only churches are kept up. The jail
turned 70 this year. The only prisoner
is always in, not knowing what he's done.

The principal supporting business now
is rage. Hatred of the various grays
the mountain sends, hatred of the mill,
The Silver Bill repeal, the best liked girls
who leave each year for Butte. One good
restaurant and bars can't wipe the boredom out.
The 1907 boom, eight going silver mines,
a dance floor built on springs--
all memory resolves itself in gaze,
in panoramic green you know the cattle eat
or two stacks high above the town,
two dead kilns, the huge mill in collapse
for fifty years that won't fall finally down.

Isn't this your life? That ancient kiss
still burning out your eyes? Isn't this defeat
so accurate, the church bell simply seems
a pure announcement: ring and no one comes?
Don't empty houses ring? Are magnesium
and scorn sufficient to support a town,
not just Philipsburg, but towns
of towering blondes, good jazz and booze
the world will never let you have
until the town you came from dies inside?

Say no to yourself. The old man, twenty
when the jail was built, still laughs
although his lips collapse. Someday soon,
he says, I'll go to sleep and not wake up.
You tell him no. You're talking to yourself.
The car that brought you here still runs.
The money you buy lunch with,
no matter where it's mined, is silver
and the girl who serves your food
is slender and her red hair lights the wall.
posted by FunGus at 12:54 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


the silent majority in rural areas

The Real America crowd sure does like to act like it, but no.
posted by enn at 12:58 PM on November 25, 2008


Uh, see my other comments.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:01 PM on November 25, 2008


Sorry, roll truck roll, I missed your last clarification. I'm a little too sensitive perhaps about the fiction that we here in ersatz America are some kind of minority elite special-interest lobby.
posted by enn at 1:21 PM on November 25, 2008


I live in Santiago, Chile, surrounded by about 6M people. I can buy about 70% of what I might need without crossing the street, and about 90% within 3 or 4 blocks.
I know most of the people who live in my small apartment building.
When I walk down the street many shopkeepers greet me, including my hair dresser and the guy who fixes my computers.
Many more know my son, some by name, and comment on how big and beautiful he is (they're right). The lady at one of the bakeries give him pieces of bread, which they know he loves.
We go to one of the cafés on our block, chat with the owner and waitresses, etc. Or to one of the local restaurants where the waiter kids me because my wife is always there at night while I stay home taking care of our son. I think there's a politician or TV actor sitting next to us, but I'm not sure as I don't watch a lot of TV.
On Thursdays I walk along a riverside park to the university where I teach computer stuff to architecture students in a 150 year old colonial building.
I don't really know how much gas costs, as we use the car so little that it's not a significant part of our budget.
This is not a 'special' or gentrified part of the city. They don't bring tourists here, though English-speaking expats seem to like it. It's just a fairly central, middle-middle-class area. This is not a hip or cosmopolitan city, but it's still a City, thank Jebus.
Small towns and suburbs? Not for me, thanks.
posted by signal at 1:22 PM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I read this article this morning and, I gotta say, this thread is WAY more interesting than the article. Mefites, your discourse rocks my socks.

To the folks who are pissed about the distribution of representatives in Congress: I'm sorry you're so upset, but try to remember that the bicameral legislature is a pretty sweet hack, and this isn't a direct democracy anyway. Once they get to Congress the Texan representatives still get a full vote. The electoral college sure is a fucking piece of shit, though.

I'm a native New Yorker and, for now, a Brooklynite. Back in late June I took a long road trip from NYC to Chicago, to Columbus, then back up to Washington DC. I gotta be honest, small towns in the areas I drove through are pretty depressing. The common theme among them is desperation that seems to stem from a lack of local growth of any kind. People are pissed off and sad and their kids are moving away to cities.

tkchrist makes an excellent point there; try littering in Central Park and you'll see get an earful about how precious nature is to a New Yorker.

I missed the last Brooklyn MeFi meetup, which is too bad because the pics made it look like everyone had an awesome time. Do rural Mefites have meetups?
posted by ben242 at 1:26 PM on November 25, 2008


Given all the BS continually spouted about "small town values" and such, I think articles like this have a purpose (although I'm sure they would be more effective if they were read by good small town folk).

Think about how many different people you see in a day. I live in NYC, so I see hundreds of people every day by the time I get to work. I don't necessarily interact with them much, but there is a lot of sharing going on: sidewalks, subway platforms, subway cars, staircases, they're all chock full of folks (for the most part) deliberately trying to get along with each other so everyone can get where they're going and do what they need to. We (mostly) don't have backyards so in the summer our public parks are full of people sharing a big communal backyard. At home I can hear my upstairs and downstairs neighbors and they can hear me.

It's pretty intuitive that city folk would have more of a sense of community than folks who largely go from their fenced in property to their car to their destination. In the city you actually have to interact with others almost all the time. I would also imagine that folks who weren't into that would (hopefully) go somewhere else, so it's probably somewhat self-selecting as well.
posted by snofoam at 1:46 PM on November 25, 2008


*slaps jason's_planet with accesible public transit*
posted by Tehanu at 2:06 PM on November 25, 2008


First off, an apology to roll truck roll, the bit about him being molested by a city was out of line and childish.

ben242 wrote "Once they get to Congress the Texan representatives still get a full vote."

Yes, but that isn't the problem. The problem is that the representatives from bigger states represent more people than the representatives from smaller states, thus giving the people from smaller states more political power than they should have. The only fix is to change the number of representatives so that they all represent (roughly) the same number of voters.

Since we can't increase the population of Wyoming, we have to increase the number of legislators. Wyoming (currently the state with the lowest population) gets one Representative. Therefore each Representative should represent as many voters as are in Wyoming. Divide the US population by the Wyoming population and you get 538 [1] Representatives. That's 104 more than we currently have, most going to the high population, liberal, areas. Because as it stands currently the game is rigged in favor of conservatives.

But as it stands the over representation of the low population states is an insult to the very concept of representative democracy. My vote is not worth the same as a vote in a low population state and that's just plain wrong.

[1] Yes, the same as the number of Electoral College votes, its just a freak coincidence.
posted by sotonohito at 2:57 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


And BTW the idea that city people have contempt for nature is utterly backwards. You want to see contempt for nature? Go to Alaska.
posted by tkchrist at 2:40 PM


i've never been to Alaska, but i concede that my terminology was wrong: i shouldn't have said "urbanites"; i should have said "people." small-town people can be just as contemptuous of nature as anyone else. some kind of psychological need to " beat back the big bad wilderness" i think. and i've never seen such vast displays of roadside littering as on a few Indian reservations i've driven through. (yes, littering is about the least problematic crime against nature, and yes, there are sometimes economic reasons for a lack of roadside cleanup.)

and, of course, urbanites can "worship" pristine nature from afar and as tourists in a way that is completely ineffectual and encouraging to culture war rather than positive movement.

the primary point being: a place with people and neighborhoods and "hi, how are ya?" is not the opposite of "nothing." i live on the edge of the North Woods, and i'd live deep in them if i didn't find it to be cost/environmentally prohibitive. there is plenty of there there.

(hermits unite!)
posted by RedEmma at 3:02 PM on November 25, 2008


Oh this is silly.

Of course it is. Having lived in both situations they are, like everything else, simply different. Advantages and disadvantages. Good small towns and bad ones. Wonderful large cities and cities that make me want to run to the country. But remember, this is a nyc magazine writing the article, and most metafilter members are living in big urban populations.

And BYW the idea that city people have contempt for nature is utterly backwards. You want to see contempt for nature? Go to Alaska.
posted by tkchrist


Nature is smelly, itchy and boring. Damn right I don't value it.
posted by dame


You keep telling yourself that tk.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 4:46 PM on November 25, 2008


sotonohito, I remember reading in Harper's years ago that if the ratio of Representatives to population were kept at the level mandated when the Constitution was ratified, the House would have over 9000 members. In 1911, I think it was, congress set the limit at 435. So your feelings of under-representation are pretty much spot on.
posted by theroadahead at 5:58 PM on November 25, 2008


US population: 301,139,947 (July 2007 est.)

"The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand." -Article 1 Section 2 US Constitution.

So we're only off by about 9,565 Representatives, if you go by what the Founders thought was needed.
posted by theroadahead at 6:04 PM on November 25, 2008


So your feelings of under-representation are pretty much spot on.

Yeah, but statistically insignificant. The clatter about "insults to democracy" is about so much statistical noise.
posted by Snyder at 7:02 PM on November 25, 2008


Ok, as someone who lived for two years in a small town of the east edge of Ohio, (pop < 5000) and now live in Brooklyn (pop > 2 million, pop NYC>8 million), I can say that while there are benefits and drawbacks to each system, I'd go with the city any day of the week over "Real America."

Real America is desperate and poor. The centers of these small towns do still exist, but they are a shell of their former selves. Once reaching college age, kids generally move out of the small towns. The population of people in my age range (mid 20's-early 30's) was very small, at least from what I observed. I took ballroom dance lessons- with the exception of me and the friend who had convinced me to sign up, everyone in that room was over the age of 50. Take ballroom dance classes in New York, look at the age distribution. The non-VFW, non-American Legion (yes, there was both) was pretty small, generally empty on the weekdays. I was a teacher there, ended up dating a coworker. After the breakup, well, it was awkward (although we kept it from our students).

I miss the stars. I miss being able to go outside at midnight and see the milky way. I miss being able to grab a sled and go up to the nearest hill in the winter and set off. I miss knowing the pharmacist (who worked for a big chain). I don't miss the isolation I felt there. I don't miss the loneliness. I don't miss calling friends in cities on a Friday night because I had nothing to do.

I know everyone in my building in Brooklyn (small building, but still). I know the guy who owns the cart where I buy my lunch most days. I know the bartenders at the bar where my friends are regulars. I know my roommate's friends, a great number of whom are drag queens. Even when I work to isolate myself here (depression still hits, no matter the location), people show up and try to help. If I don't go out on a particular evening, that's a choice I make, not one that was made for me.

People were friendly in the small town, but they're equally friendly here. I have yet to hear a New Yorker be an asshole when asked for directions. People mind their own business more than maybe they should here, but that's a consequence of a big city. I'd even argue that the poor are more visible here. And the tolerance, is, of course, greater (although the county I lived in was a democratic one, but in the coal mining version).

Small towns will continue to exists, but they'll continue in their reduced form. The driving force behind many of them is gone. We're not about to see a surge of ghost towns, but that doesn't mean that the towns are healthy. (The town I was in was the second largest in the county- it had the hospital.)

There's a reason most Americans now live in cities or suburbs- the desire that we talk about for going back to the land doesn't exist for most people. Humans by nature are social creatures. Cities are easier for that social nature.
posted by Hactar at 8:27 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


> I'm sorry if I'm coming across aggressively here, but it really pisses me off when I'm told that I'm not worthy of equal representation with the saintly people voters of Wyoming.

You're not, and given your (probable) political leaning, it's ironic that you can't see why not.
posted by jock@law at 8:58 AM on November 26, 2008


> Why can't America have nice things? Basically because Wyoming keeps vetoing all the bills for nice things.

Our President is from Connecticut by way of Texas; our President-elect is from Hawaii by way of Illinois. Care to point out which Wyomingite exists with the power to veto bills?
posted by jock@law at 9:05 AM on November 26, 2008


> "The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand." [so] we're only off by about 9,565 Representatives, if you go by what the Founders thought was needed.

No no no. It says that the number of representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand people. It DOES NOT say that the number of people shall not exceed thirty thousand per one representative.

It says that the ratio of reps cannot be higher than 1:30000. 1:800000 is not higher than 1:30000, it's lower. (800000:1 is higher than 30000:1, but as noted above, the rule is written in terms of reps for # of people, not in terms of people for # of reps).

It means that if your state has 89,999 people, you cannot have three representatives. It DOES NOT mean that if your state has 90,000 then you absolutely must get at least 3 representatives.
posted by jock@law at 9:17 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


My personal experience:

I lived in a town of 4500 when I was going to college...it drove me crazy. There was no bookstore for ten miles, there was no library, there were no restaurants except on grease pit that advertised "Real Food". The closest thing to entertainment was the local biker bar. Unless one wanted farming supplies, the nearest store like Target was 12 miles away. Don’t even ask about specialty stores.

Sure there were hills and fields and empty spaces nearby-- all carefully kept fenced in by ranchers who hated people walking on their land. The two local regional parks I must have visited a dozen times each, even after I got bored of them and knew every inch of them by heart. There was almost nobody who shared my interests, and I was desperately lonely and bored. .

I lived in Santa Barbara for a while, a town of 95,000 people. It had a halfway decent bookstore and a good library, but the major activity for people my age was going down to the bars on State Street and getting tanked. There were also no jobs to be had outside of low-paying service jobs. It was also almost impossible too get people together to do anything out of a general ennui and malaise I called "the Santa Barbara Disease.

Currently I live in San Jose. I know of three excellent used bookstores nearby, and the local library annex is a block away from my house. There are game and hobby and music stores and all manner of interesting ethnic restaurants within driving distance. I also have about five times as many friends as I did in Santa Barbara, many of whom have different, if overlapping interests, and every week there's something going on with one group or another. I'm happier then I've been at any time in my life.

As far as I'm concerned, the country while pretty and a nice place to visit, is a death sentence to live in. The cities are where life is.
posted by happyroach at 9:33 AM on November 26, 2008


at the edge of town is not some sort of vacuum--it's where you can gather wild plants to eat, witness animals that are displaced by human domination, and hunker down on your heels to be quiet...

I grew up in the country hunting and fishing in the wilds of Alabama and Tennessee. I now live in the middle of DC in the center of the concrete Megalopolis stretching from Portland, Maine to Key West.

Last night I saw the most magnificent trophy buck I have litterally ever seen in the wild, grazing in front of the school across the street from my house, oblivious to the cars zipping by and people pointing.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:45 AM on November 26, 2008


Care to point out which Wyomingite exists with the power to veto bills?

Is this a trick question?
posted by dersins at 10:13 AM on November 26, 2008


dersins, Cheney doesn't have the power to veto bills

Even if Bush dies and Cheney becomes President and gains the power to veto bills, it still won't have anything to do with Wyoming's (supposed) overrepresentation in Congress.
posted by jock@law at 11:03 AM on November 26, 2008


It's not like you can't see wilderness in the city. I regularily see red-tailed hawks in San Jose and the surrounding cities, and I've seen packs of raccoons in the heart of downtown Oakland. It's maybe a 20 minute trip into the foothills, where I often see deer grazing.

I can get to nature whenever I want to from the city; I just don't have to deal with the country people.
posted by happyroach at 11:17 AM on November 26, 2008


jock@law, you do not appear to understand that it is possible to use the word "veto" and not mean literally that the sitting United States president has formally and in writing rejected an act or law passed by both houses of the United States Congress.

And, anyway, if you don't think that Cheney had the ability to stop a piece of legislation from being enacted over the past eight years, you haven't been paying attention.
posted by dersins at 11:39 AM on November 26, 2008


I understand what you're saying jock@law, but you're missing my point. The drafters of the Constitution seemed to think that 1 rep for every thirty thousand people was a fairly good ratio. Which would put the House at about ten thousand members if followed. Of course, US population then was about 2 1/2 million, if I remember correctly.

It means that if your state has 89,999 people, you cannot have three representatives. It DOES NOT mean that if your state has 90,000 then you absolutely must get at least 3 representatives. Moot point, as the number is now fixed at 435, regardless of population. It is this fixed number that gives lower population states an unfair advantage, which is what I think sotonohito getting at.
For instance, Pennsylvania in 1800 had a population of approx. 600,000 and had 13 reps. Current population is over 12 million, and the number of reps has barely doubled, to 27. The abitrary cutoff at 435 total leaves a hell of a lot of under-represented people.
posted by theroadahead at 11:50 AM on November 26, 2008


dersins, you do not appear to understand that just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean they lack comprehension. You would do well to drop the ad hominem attacks.

You also do not appear to understand that there are no circumstances in which 1 vote out of 435 votes, all weighted equally, could possibly fall under any definition of "veto" remotely envisioned by any native English speaker who uses the word.
posted by jock@law at 11:50 AM on November 26, 2008


The drafters of the Constitution seemed to think that 1 rep for every thirty thousand people was a fairly good ratio

theroadahead, no they didn't. Reread the passage.

The rest of your post is drivel. The number is NOT fixed at 435; statute says it is but if there were a precipitous fall in population, the Constitution would win out. The number does NOT give lower population states an unfair advantage; if anything, the mandatory 1 representative does.
posted by jock@law at 11:53 AM on November 26, 2008


. . . if there were a precipitous fall in population, the Constitution would win out.
There's been a precipitous rise in population since the drafting of the Constitution, and Congress' efforts seem to have won out over the Constitution so far.
posted by theroadahead at 12:00 PM on November 26, 2008


theroadahead, really, I'm trying to make sense of what you're talking about.

When has Congress's efforts ever "won out over the Constitution"? Ever?

How does a rise in population contradict anything the Constitution has to say?
posted by jock@law at 12:08 PM on November 26, 2008


Instead of "the Constitution", I should have more clearly said "the intent of the drafters."

My whole point here is that the Constitution allowed Congress to adjust the number of Representatives as the population of the US changed, and the 435 number fixed into law almost 100 years ago is far too low considering the current population. And that Congress' inaction when it comes to revising these numbers is negligent, to say the least.

Hope this helps.
posted by theroadahead at 12:14 PM on November 26, 2008


Why can't America have nice things? Basically because Wyoming keeps vetoing all the bills for nice things.

God, I totally forgot that. That's fucking retarded, and among the stupidest things I've ever seen on Metafilter. I defy you to find any vote that depended on Wyoming's one vote, that whopping .2% of the House.
posted by Snyder at 12:30 PM on November 26, 2008


You people have a hard time with metaphors, don't you?
posted by dersins at 12:32 PM on November 26, 2008


Guess that'll teach me not to use metaphor in a political debate.

I assumed it was self evident that a) I didn't mean Wyoming specifically, but rather was using Wyoming as a stand in for all similar low population conservative states, and b) I didn't mean literal vetos. I meant that the overrepresented conservative states collectively exert an influence that both thwarts efforts at beneficial liberal legislation and pushes an aggressive ultra right wing agenda.

If there were equal representation, California would get 69 Reps, 16 more than it currently has. In general the more populous, liberal, areas would see their representation increase by around 20%-30%. Equal representation would place the Republican party in permanent minority status in the House, and come close to giving the Democrats a 2/3 majority. You tell me that wouldn't make a difference.

The blatant unfair advantage to conservatives is, of course, much more obvious in the Senate. Wyoming gets two votes, California gets two votes. The US population is liberal by a smallish majority, but the states are conservative by a largish minority. Since the Senate is explicitly based on one acre one vote, conservatives get an even more obscene advantage there.

If we're going to keep the Senate in its current incarnation we should merge several of the low population states. Merge North & South Dakota with Montana, then combine Wyoming, Colorado, and Kansas. The new combined states would have a population approaching that of other states which would make their two Senators each more justifiable.

If you don't like that, how about splitting some of the larger states. New York City could be 5 states (one for each of the Burroughs) giving them a total of 10 Senators.

But leaving the system as it stands, with each "state" having an equal say in the government, and some "states" having tiny little populations while others have huge populations, is a terrible idea. Yes, I know my history, I'm aware that at the time of its founding the US was seen as a sort of super-UN, an umbrella group covering independent and semi-sovereign bodies. But times have changed, and states simply don't matter anymore except for postal codes and whatnot.

jock@law wrote "You're not, and given your (probable) political leaning, it's ironic that you can't see why not."

I guess I'm stupid today, can you elaborate on that, because I'm completely missing what you're trying to say.

My political leaning, for the record, is radical liberal and strongly partisan Democratic. I don't see anything about either position that makes it ironic that I object to being unequally represented.
posted by sotonohito at 1:46 PM on November 26, 2008


"Veto" is not a metaphor, you [redacted]. It's a technical law- and rule-making term of art. If one wanted to use it metaphorically (assuming without granting the nonsensical proposition that it can be used metaphorically), then using it in a context where the actual meaning is appropriate asymptotically approaches being the dumbest idea ever.

Give it up, dersins. It's an absolutely ridiculous proposition to think you can talk realistically about "Wyoming ... vetoing ... things" in our current small-r republican form of government. The original comment and your braindead defense of it significantly decrease the quality of discussion on Metafilter.
posted by jock@law at 1:50 PM on November 26, 2008


Why would 'equal representation' substantially change the party makeup of the House? You're making the idiotic assumption that states are monolithic. In fact, equal representation would mean the party makeup of the House would roughly approximate the party makeup of the presidential electorate--which it more or less already does.

One of the most ridiculous debates I've ever seen on MeFi. Grind your axes somewhere else.
posted by nasreddin at 2:05 PM on November 26, 2008


(And people wonder why both jocks and lawyers tend to be stereotyped as aggressive, fighty douchebags...)
posted by dersins at 2:05 PM on November 26, 2008


sotonohito, there are too many [citation needed]s needed in your post. You can't just go around merging states, for one. WTF. You're obviously ignorant of the entire purpose of the Senate. If you think "states simply don't matter anymore" then you're woefully ignorant of the function states play in the modern political order. Frankly, I'm unimpressed with the off-the-cuff spurts of word vomit you try to pass off as some sort of revolutionary political ideology.

Furthermore, if you support Affirmative Action (as you probably do) because it introduces a "diversity of viewpoints into the classroom" (the only justiciably cognizable defense of the practice), but think that minority viewpoints should be limited to strictly proportionate representation in law-making, then you're a huge hypocrite. Would you support limiting black enrollment to 15% at U Michigan and 6% at Berkeley and UCLA?
posted by jock@law at 2:08 PM on November 26, 2008


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