Jim Kunstler over at Clusterfuck Nation discusses the difference between America and European public life and use of public space:
“Amsterdam, Holland, was pretty much the same story as Paris, though it is physically quite different from Paris — the scale is smaller, the intimate streets are deployed along a network of beautiful canals, and the car is barely tolerated (or even much in evidence). There, we would duck into a ‘brown bar’ (so-called because of the dark wooden wainscotting) at five p.m. and it would be full of well-dressed, gainfully employed adults in animated conversation. Public life in Europe is only minimally about shopping and maximally about spending time with your fellow human beings.
American public life by comparison is pathetic-to-nonexistent. Americans venture out only to roam the warehouse depots, and only by car.
The process of making America an alienated land of solitary, obese driver-shoppers has been very profitable for predatory corporations. They have systematically disassembled the public social infrastructure and repackaged pieces of it for sale — starting with the single-family house isolated on its lot from all the normal amenities of culture and society. Everybody now has their ‘home theater’ so the cinema is only a place to park children for two hours so you can drive elsewhere to buy the cheez doodles, frozen pizza, Pepsi, and other staples of the American diet. You equip your kitchen with an espresso machine and there is no reason to “waste your time” in a cafe. Everybody has to have their own pool, so the kids can go swimming by themselves. Family values. The rest of the human race is unimportant.
It’s an excellent post, check it out.