Popular fiction, at its best, is like walking down the street holding a mirror facing outward. It starts as nothing more than a reflection of who we are as a society, but the spectacle of it forces us to want to improve ourselves. Our image is never as attractive as we’d like, so the temptation to at least straighten our hair is instinctive.
While dropping the kids off at school, I saw a bus picking up kids for a different school. We waited patiently as they clamored aboard and took their seats. Eventually, the flashing red arm folded up and the bus was on its way. Something occurred to me during this brief moment:
My Dad has a theory to sum up all the changes he’s seen in his life, which started in the Great Depression. It is “The General Inflation of Everything”. His basic premise is that everything has gotten bigger, more expensive, and more involved than it was when he was young.
Tuesday is my mail day. It’s time to be even more self-indulgent than usual to answer a burning question.
One common response I have can be put several ways. The nice version is:
You write about so many different things. What is your blog about?
The not so nice way is this:
What makes you such a know-it-all?
There was a time in big cities when access appeared to be everything. Maintaining a dense urban core was about developing jobs or attractions that drew large crowds. The key problem was moving large crowds of people in and out of the urban core.
The term “housewife” is antique, a relic of a bygone era. It isn’t used in polite conversation anymore because it is considered an insult. It appears a sneer, as the “Desperate Housewives” whose life is an unreflective farce where the comedy writes itself. Yet this role was once the foundation of family and community, a bedrock that shifted tectonically never to be the same.
In time, a people and their culture come to resemble the land they live on and the climate around them more than anything else. I state that as a truism that seems to hold very well through history. Athens was a stable democracy as long as the wheat production went well, but descended into anarchy when the crops went badly. Sparta was comparatively rocky and always had poor yields, so the culture became one that stole from outsiders but valued order internally. Athens and Sparta were close together, but had very different pieces of land they inhabited.