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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - March 26, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta Reorientation of urban life needed TuMday, March 26, W4-THE LETHBRIDQE HERALD-5 One need be neither pessimist nor prophet to 'predict a gloomy future for almost any city in an' industrial economy. The experience of the past, present trends, arid understanding of the forces at work in capitalist economies are quite sufficient. Moreover, we see in the incredible, ugliness or disintegration of cities like Los Angeles, New York or Detroit models for the growth of anti-cities from existing cities. The whole process of. urbanization and the associated drift from the land, with the dying-out of towns and villages is a continuation of those changes which uprooted whole nations from the soil centuries ago. Monopoly of ownership, 'commercialization of farming, centralism in business and government, obsession with the so-called "efficiencies" of bigness are BWS WORLD part and parcel of the great historical changes in goals and values which prepared the way for Coketown in the last century. The myth of progress led to a shallow faith in mere modernity; and the advertising, mass- consumerism, waste economy instilled the cult of fashion and constant innovation into the psyches of millions. With Mammon as the goal, and the good life unexamined but equated mindlessly with consumption and a vague cloud of confidence in progress, a vast consensus keeps the destructive forces at work. Meanwhile, the real decision-makers, the "developers" and speculators, the corporations and technocrats (who, as Galbraith shows, fuse business interests with politics) shape the cities in quite predictable ways. Because the same forces are at work in all cities (and even towns) in industrial economies, it is true to say 1974 by NEA, Inc By Peter Hunt, local writer that almost any city can be seen to suffer from different stages of the same disease, though the rate of dissolution and decay may vary for reasons of history and some countervailing influences within them. Ottawa, being a political centre and a national capital with historic significance offers a nobler human habitation than, say, Toronto. Montreal, though quite Americanized, has restored some of its finer streets and buildings, though cathedrals continue to fall to make way for banks and service stations. Calgary, as seen from the Calgary Tower, spreads across the lovely prairie landscape like some cancerous stain, a conglomeration unworthy, as Edward McCourt pointed out some years ago, of its splendid setting near the foothills of the Rockies. Halifax, formerly a city with a strongly European atmosphere, with streets full of character, has succumbed to the box-like, functional uniformity of steel and glass. Saint John in New Brunswick, St. John's, Newfoundland, Moncton, and even Charlottetown are attracting the really big "developers" who have plans to remake them in the image of the ail- American model. Some cities, such as Edmonton and Victoria possess an atmosphere, a beauty of setting and architecture which offers a contrast to the inroads of modernity, but only a time-lag and a mild conservatism protects them from utter ruin at the moment. If a city like Dublin can tolerate the pulling down of old buildings of character and interest, and devastate neighborhoods to make way for development, what hope is there for- Canadian cities so close to the centre and exemplar of this kind of urban madness? Even the historic city of Cork is now entering the second phase of this disease. And lovely Kinsdale, of poignant memory, is threatened by oil- drilling. There are four main stages in urban devastation, though any one city may experience' all of them in part at the same time. First, there is the stage of congestion, like that of the, 19th century, though with' modern variations, seen quite vividly in African cities. Second, there is architectural devastation and inflation of land costs, making living and reasonably inexpensive housing impossible. Then comes the stage of abandonment of the city centre by residents, the stage of suburban sprawl and fringe- dwelling rural settlement. Finally, the city becomes a place of mechanistic routine work, feverish entertainment, but increasingly a place of terror by night, full of crime, and fear. The statistics for crime, suicide, drug- addiction, sexual permissiveness and broken homes for big cities portray the anti-human nature of cities which are well- advanced into these stages of decay. The progressmst and the typical sociologist who advises governments will emphasize adaptation. For him the solution to these problems will lie in adjustment to a new environment, in somehow remaking man while avoiding radical change in the system. Certainly, he will favor some changes in environment, too, but not so as to interfere with the machine-like and uniform "evolution" of cities. For most social scientists, rejecting "value-judgments" and any stable idea of human nature, naturally advocate adaptation. And they are backed by humanists like Julian Huxley and Jacob Bronowski, who, whatever their tributes to the arts of man, still raise the cry "adapt or perish" as they did in their book, Technology, Man Remakes His World, thereby agreeing with Clark Kerr, the prophet of the "multiversity" who sees universities as "cities of intellect" made in the image of megalopolis, and integrated with the industrial system. Reformers of many kinds, You don't lose touch with service when your private mobile telephone system comes from ACT Look what you have going for you when you depend on ACT for private mobile telephone service: You maintain constant contact with your staff, using a system professionally engineered to your needs. We maintain your system at no extra cost. Fast, efficient service at mobile centres throughout Alberta. We're not restricted to any one equipment supplier. So you're assured of the system that's right for you no matter who makes the "hardware." And it's all yours at low rental cost Short-term rental agreements can be arranged. No large capital expenditure. Talk with a Communications Consultant Keeps you in touch anywhere Edmonton: 425-2110 Calgary: 261-3111 Other: Dial '0' (Zero) amf ask for Zenith 33000 Free from poets and historians to local residents hanging on to neighborhoods, do much to resist the developers. But, although something is saved, and individual human beings' rights are often championed, the victory is going to the devastators. Much more radical re-thinking and action is essential. For many years, disciples of Henry George, the great author of Progress and Poverty, who drew his social philosophy from a Christian source and from the medieval schoolmen and classical economists (using the genuine insights of the French physiocrats and of Adam have tried to persuade governments to adopt the principle of the single-tax on land, abolishing the profit accruing from the "unearned increment." They have failed. The principle is sound, but people too apathetic, and the opposition too strong. The Christian churches have for long proclaimed a social doctrine alien to that of capitalism, but it rarely reaches the pulpits of churches people attend, and critique of obvious exploitation of family folk, by supermarkets, banks and real- estate by churchmen is either non-existent or timorous. And even more rarely do Christian leaders. publicly admit the destructively anti-human character of the big cities. Some of them go along with Harvey Cox, with his secular city theism and Teilhardism soothes the anxiety, for, in the Teilhardian view, the technological juggernaut, so penetratingly exposed by Jacques Ellul, Marcuse and Mumford, is almost beneficient; a stage towards that "omega-point" which evolution is surely leading us all. In conclusion, it seems that two great changes will have to occur if both nature and the good city are once again to be the wholesome environment of men. Both are so vast as to require voluminous exposition. But both are also so fundamentally simple in principle. They are: the reorientation of whole communities to the spiritual goals, instead of an obsession with what Chaucer saw long ago as the seeds of death, the gold of his Pardoner's Tale; and the restoration of human initiative. The first, is, of course, the only true revolution, and too deep for analysis here. The other must manifest itself in many different ways; in education attuned to dynamic traditions and parental rights, in the growth of keen, intelligent and humane consumer societies and co- operatives, in radical opting- out from the way of life which destroys both country and city. This latter means that, instead of trying to cure the corporations, people must become their rivals, or better, simply emancipate themselves from dependence upon them. This can be done through forming new settlements on the land, through providing a food supply housing co- operatively, through dispensing with many of the things mass-sellers tell us are essential, and developing, perhaps, the soil in which new cities can grow. All of this may sound Utopian, but each suggestion can be traced out in practical detail. But there are two factors which should never be forgotten. Humanity has the habit of re-asserting itself, and renaissance is always possible, especially within a rich and viable tradition. To hope for a better habitation than the modern city and to know that in the good city the arts of civilization and the joys of nature Mend together is a normal and perennial instinct of the human heart There is no reason why the sound belief in man's, primeval fall should persuade us to accept the tyranny of megalopolis and those who fashion it. There is every reason why virile people should refuse to allow infernal greed to dominate their lives. Apathy and indifference By Eva Brewster, free-lance writer COUTTS Villages, like the old mill-pond, are generally regarded as the nuclei of the universe and life teeming in both, representative of the world around them. If that is so, Heaven help Canada and the rest of western society for nowhere have I seen such apathy and indifference. Not until some of us wake up usually too late do we realize that life has passed us by. While we have been peacefully hibernating, all sorts of nasty things have been happening but not until the gophers start playing around us, do we find out just what has been going on. Now, no doubt, there will be a lofof wailing and gnashing of teeth in many a small, shrinking community A village that only last September asked visiting ministers for government assistance to get a shopping mall, a banking institution, other amenities and recreational facilities, might find five months later, at the first sign of spring, that it has lost important revenue earners while it wasn't looking. Sometime through the winter, the chicken industry had left Coutts, for instance. While I met its huge broiler houses off and on somewhere along Highway 4, no thought crossed my mind other than admiration for the fantastic technical know-how of loading buildings that size and moving them to some other location. Since then, other vital business has moved, or is scheduled to go to pastures new. If it wasn't for the efforts of an active, vigilant Chamber of Commerce, there might soon be precious little left. Such adverse developments, a trend in the majority of small villages, are saddening but, unfortunately, hardly surprising since few people seem to care much what happens as long as there is a civic administration that can, rightly or wrongly, be blamed for anything that may play havoc with village economy. During one of my more lucid moments early in January, I enquired at the civic centre for the date of the next taxpayers' meeting because I had harbored a few "beefs'4 of my own that warranted discussion. "We are no longer required by law to hold such public was the administrative response, "and we therefore, gave up the practice two years ago. Nobody ever turned up anyway." Well, fancy that, I hadn't noticed and apparently nobody else did either. You can't entirely condemn the mayor and his councillors. There are many complaints that the administration provides little incentive for individual rate-payers or industry to stay in a small village while the next little town, only a few miles away, is so much more progressive, friendly and attractive Yet if somebody makes a feeble attempt to call meetings on concerns of public interest few, if any of us attend. Those that do often come only to kill a worthwhile project before it gets off the ground. Such is human nature. All the people who were 100 per cent in favor of constructive ideas and innovations, usually also have 100 and one excuses for not putting in an appearance: "We "the roads were too "there was such a good show on "I didn't think the absence of one person would make any etc. What is more, none of those complaining the loudest, it is said, want to run for office to hopefully make a better job of governing when election time comes round. Who then is to blame for rural communities dying' An over-confident, self-satisfied administration or an apathetic, indifferent population? Both, in my opinion. Unless we the ratepayers take an interest in public affairs, unless we vote for a more progressive administration, nothing and nobody will save the small village from extinction And if villages are representative of their country as a whole and society in general, the same applies to the rest of the western world Participatory democracy cannot work under conditions of apathy and indifference on the one side and weak, bureaucratic government on the other. The cop-out of the educators By Norman Cousins, editor of Saturday In the small Connecticut community where I live, the high school authorities have reserved a large room in which students are free to smoke. There are no restrictions as to age. The theory is that youngsters are going to smoke anyway, no matter what teachers or parents do, and that it is far better to permit the children to smoke in-the open than in washroom stalls or behind stairways The trouble with this theory is that it assumes the school authorities have no choice but to come to terms with the inevitable. Educators do have a choice. They can use all the means at their disposal for helping to give their students a respect for life. For nothing the school can do is as important as educating in the fragility of human beings. It makes little difference what else a school does. If it doesn't create respect for the preciousness of life and for the need to nurture it and safeguard it, then nothing else the school teaches will have full value. The educators who favor school smoking facilities contend there is something hyprocritical about trying to prohibit smoking when so many teachers and parents find it impossible to break the habit themselves. Here, too, the flaw in the reasoning is that the weaknesses or inadequacies of adults must not become the standard. It is precisely because such inadequacies exist that there must be a place in the- society where youngsters can be exposed to standards on which there is no compromise. As for the argument that children are bound to imitate grown-ups, it is important to remember that society has a responsibility to keep children from being harmed, no matter what adults do and no matter what examples adults may set. Once a person attains his legal age, he has a right to jeopardize his health if he wishes. Until that time society has the responsibility for protecting that individual. With specific reference to the health hazards of smoking, it is quite possible that no amount of education will convince some youngsters that cigarettes are a serious hazard to their more than any amount of education can convince some grown-ups of those this does not mean that the school -should put its seal of approval on smoking for teen-agers, which is the very clear sign a school gives when it officially sets aside a room for smoking. In our own Connecticut community, 13- and 14-year-old children have equal access to the smoking room along with 18- and 19-year- olds. The authorized smoking room thus becomes a habit-forming centre for heavy cigarette smokers. One of the unfortunate aspects of the situation is that it undercuts those students who understand the dangers of cigarettes. It is difficult enough for these nonsmoking students to exercise influence over the others without having to contend with the misguided permissiveness of school authorities I don't know how many high schools in the country are providing smoking facilities for young people. Not many, I hope. These schools perform no service to the youth of America or to themselves in their shortsighted effort to deal with furtive smoking. All they succeed in doing is to intensify rather than to mitigate an important national problem. There are few more serious issues before the nation than the condition of .our youth. One of the most serious aspects of the problem is that various forms of addiction are searching out younger and younger victims. Caspar Weinberger, secretary of health, education and welfare, has asserted that thousands of 12- and 13-year-old children are now becoming alcohol addicts. Does this mean that we will now have some elementary school officials tell us they will have to be "realistic" and provide facilities so that children won't be forced to drink secretly? This is an extreme example, of course, but it may serve to indicate the absurdity of surrendering to a problem rather than focusing on new ways of trying to solve it. What do we have to look forward to as a nation if we scuttle all standards of our young people? This year, the United States will spend almost billion for defence puposes. What is it we are trying to defend? Real Estate? Property? If our main purpose is to protect human beings, what about the harm being done to millions of young Americans through all forms of addiction? It is difficult to think of any worse damage that could be inflicted on this country than the damage we inflict on ourselves through irresponsible policies based on surrender rather than effective leadership. Book reviews Interpreting Goya "The Doable Lives of FVncisco 4e Goya" by Samiel Edwards (George J. McLeod Limited, 248 pages, Europe enjoyed the age of enlightenment when Goya born in a Spam 100 years behind the times. The rich still savored the glory of the past while the rest survived in misery and both suffered under the all- powerful inquisition. Ji MATERNITY WARD The barren land, the hot temper of its people and the imbecility of its monarchs combined to form a kaleidoscope oftonfusion that paradoxically produced a workable state of affairs Goya, born to poor parents and almost giving up painting in his twenties for of success. thrived on paradoxes and developed during a long life to one of the acknowledged great artists of all times. Devoted to Satan and God at the same time, be never discriminated between the two as long as they promised success in his career and glutton-like appetite for consuming unselectively the ladies of his surroundings. flirted with syphilis, he defied death several times to live into his eighties, spending half of his life deaf and tortured by demons, which found expression in manv of his works Widely regarded as the father of impressionistic painting, he left for posterity a wealth of paintings, lithographs and sketches The book, one of many dealing with Goya, reveals great admiration for the master by the author. But it is as limited as its forebears when it comes to actuality, due to the fact that Goya was a poor communicator and left his biographers with the difficult, sometimes inspiring, task of interpretation. HANS SCHAUFL ;