On Paradise Drive
How we live now (and always have) in the future tense
By: David Brooks
British philosopher, important critical and legal thinker Jeremy Bentham, the father of English innovation had ambivalent feelings about the United States of America. Although he disagreed with some of the main principles of the American democracy (its profess ideology of natural rights for example or the slave trading practices of the pilgrims in the New World) he never denied his amazement and respect for this new, quickly rising nation. His main moral principle, utilitarianism can be shortly interpreted as the main task of every governance is to provide the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers. (Lecture slide, 2013). Despite the theological differences Bentham regarded the U.S as the nation that has been built on the notions of enlightenment and liberty from its beginnings which might become the most successful embodiment of the principles of utility amongst nations (Heart, 1976). American political, cultural commentator, columnist of The New York Times, David Brooks in his acclaimed book invites the reader on an imaginary drive around the middle-, upper- middle class suburbs of modern America. During this drive while going against the usual stereotypes of the suburbs, according to which these are boring, artificial places with dirty secrets and live mostly by married couples with children – in fact according to a 2000 survey such families only make up 27 per cent of suburban househoulds (page 5) - Brooks dives deep into the heart and soul of the American people. He is trying the explore what motivates them and whether their energy emerges only from money-hungriness and arrogance that threatens the rest of the world, or there are deeper notions underlying the American culture such as a strong belief in a better future that unites these very different people from different backgrounds and shape their personalities. In any given year 16 per cent of Americans move compared to about 6 per cent of Dutch and Germans, and 8 per cent of the British (p. 6). What is really interesting nowadays is the tendency of moving out of the cities and into the suburbs, creating a new way of living. These areas are neither rural, nor urban and present in every state of country. 90 per cent of all office space in the U.S in the 1990s was built in the suburban areas. (p. 2). Since thanks to the technological revolution of the 20th century jobs are no longer concentrated in downtown office buildings or urban manufacturing zones but near where the human capital is settled, which has been emerging in its number in suburbia. By 1992 only a third of the American computer- industry employment was in cities (Kotkin, 2000), which is not a surprising data if we think about all those inventions coming out only of Silicon Valley, California. These new places are almost tripling in size in every decade or so and wandering around one can see incredible diversity. From lesbian dentists to a Hasidic Jewish family walking past strip malls on a Sunday morning we can encounter people with diverse values and religions. Based on personal observations and materials from the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson to the movie “American Beauty” Brooks familiarises us with unique places like the hip, bohemian urban-suburb with “low sexuality, and high social concern”, where you can see local architects and audio engineers dress up as if they were bike messengers. Or the cool zone’s nightclubs where the so-called coolness of the E-popping, club happy Ameritrash is usually defined by those poor, minority kids from nearby ghettos who rarely get to cash on it. Driving out further we get into the “Crunchy Suburbs” which, in contrast with the cool zone is built on inclusion and open-mindedness. Here all the status codes are reserved and the residents who usually don’t have a lot of money compete who has the worst lawn in the residents. In an age where...
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