Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The City as Extravagance

Was a time, “City” represented all that was good: culture, commerce, high society and quality of life. Not anymore. Now we’re not only back to the filth of the early Industrial Revolution, but the costs of city life aren’t borne only by city residents, but by the whole planet. Elevators and traffic jams just don’t make sense now. Neither does the increased price of doing business, resultant from retaining the outmoded form of overcrowding, once conducive to better entertainment, facilitation business, education and much of government, and expediting progress. With our modern, cheap and efficient forms of communication, we just don’t need the high-rise anymore. Nor should we continue to afford all the trucking, air-conditioning, health-risk and overburdened social services, that have become part-and-parcel of major metropolitan areas. With the Internet, even research can be done at home. Centers of science and industry can be productive in quieter, healthier and less costly places, and decentralization and local self-reliance return stability to our economies.
Was a time, it seems, when Khazars and some Balkan peoples were mostly shepherds who lived in yurts or tents in the summer, following, or leading, their herds, to good pasture, but were also stone masons who built cities which they inhabited in the winter, then abandoned – to roam – when the weather was right.
The emergence of much disease has been attributed to population congestion – as is true of much thuggery, confused thinking and class division.
Maybe it’s now come a time for more of the thinking which will influence our future to be accomplished in clean air, accompanied by hands at least sometimes dirtied by soil.
Urbanisation in the Asia-Pacific region has driven up poverty, says the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (the Bangkok Post reported Friday, March 21, 2008). The agency's latest yearbook showed that with an increase in urbanisation and growth, urban poverty had also worsened. In Asia and the Pacific, two in five urban dwellers live in slums, compared with three out of five in Africa, the Post article says, and also that two-and three-wheelers made up more than two-thirds of all motorised vehicles in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam – failing to mention how polluting these are…

Technology hasn’t provided more leisure time (as anticipated), or fostered creativity, or even helped the cause of justice. It has, instead, made people more complacent, and maybe less capable of real thought and meaningful decision-making. It may well have made our lives more fragile, vulnerable and pathetic. Modern medicine allows us to live longer, but science and technology have NOT made us stronger. To think a palm pilot or global positioning device enriches life is simply mistaken.
Even in the 1960s many understood that technological society is shallow, conformist and spiritually weak. That new inventions were becoming passé. That society in the USA had become a rootless cultural void. And especially, that materialism has little, if any, viability, meaning or ability to provide real satisfaction or more than fleetingly temporary gratification. It isn’t true that people have forgotten this – though most corporate media seems to have!
Maybe we can’t smash all the machines, or the state, but we can accept that the decline in consumerism we’re suddenly facing is a good thing. We can try to buy local products, limit corporate power and to not denigrate, degrade or disparage the poor. Then, and only then, might we become more truly enriched.


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