Thursday 4/17/14

    1. Written (sigh) from suburbia
    2. Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
    3. Russian Orthodoxy’s biggest threat

1

I have neglected the topic of urbanism for a while. My bad. I didn’t have anything new to say, have been distracted by other concerns, and am convinced that I’m apt to die in suburbia unless the wife relents. Yet:

Lynda Stratford walks 10,000 steps a day — she knows this from the electronic Jawbone device that she wears on her wrist that counts her steps.

She walks her son a mile to kindergarten every day, pushing her 2-year-old in a stroller. In fact, Stratford’s family doesn’t own a car, so any time she goes anywhere — like, say, Trader Joe’s where she likes to get groceries — it’s a combination of walking, stairs and sometimes the stairs that lead to and from the subway.

Stratford and her family live in Manhattan, and like many urban dwellers, they are used to life on foot. Eighty-two percent of Manhattanites travel to work by public transit, bike or by walking, which is 10 times the national average. All of these steps add up, according to new research, which links urban living to lower levels of obesity and longer life spans.

And if this isn’t enough, the article goes on to emphasize the advantages of urbia, not sub-urbia, for upward economic mobility, that most American of brass rings. Whatever.

In addition to the physical health benefits, I’m enamored of the social health benefits. Ironically, there’s apt to be less alienation and isolation in urbia because people don’t really live in, say, New York City, They live, in ascending order of intimacy, in Manhattan, SoHo, and so forth. They live, in short, in neighborhoods. People in neighborhoods walk to the store, seeing neighbors en route and at the destination, able to talk instead of just waving from a 30 mph projectile.

From this can arise a good life, of which economic upward mobility may or may not be a part. But I think I can say that a good life is not the same as The Good Life, and isn’t even an epiphenomenon of the latter.

I also note that rural living can make as much sense as city living. It’s suburbia that make no damned sense except as a ploy to sell automobiles (I exaggerate slightly).

The article, by the way, is from the national edition of the Desert News, which apparently is pitching itself as the online paper for people who equally hate the New York Times and Sean Hannity. (H/T Rod Dreher) I plan to visit regularly but to be on guard for tacit Mormon proselytizing. In this article, I found none, but I flagged the valorizing of economic prosperity as a possible marker of why Mormonism has been America’s quintessential religion, false though it be, root and branch.

2

What kind of cad would oppose the mellifluously-named “Safe and Supportive Schools Act”?

The “Safe Schools” strategy relied, first and foremost, on reframing school bullying in the group-based language of civil rights. Instead of treating all children equally, the legislation inspired by the task force singled out eighteen “protected classes” of students—based on criteria including race, sexual orientation, and “gender identity and expression”—for special attention and protection.

At the same time, the task force called for vastly expanding the scope of prohibited student speech and conduct. Instead of targeting bullying defined as a pattern of verbal or physical abuse, it recommended that students be punished for even one word that another student (especially those in protected groups) could claim to find “humiliating” or “offensive,” or that “interferes” with another student’s ability to “participate in a safe and supportive learning environment.” In addition, the regulations proposed by the task force would require schools to police “cyberbullying,” including comments a student writes on his Facebook page.

This momentous shift in the conception of bullying entails deeply troubling consequences. It means, for example, that a youngster who believes that children need a mom and a dad can be labeled a bully, because his views “offend” gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender students. A student who announces in social studies class that she opposes illegal immigration can be hauled up before school authorities if a His­panic student charges that this statement creates an “imbalance of power” or interferes with a safe and supportive learning environment—both barred as bullying.

In essence, the task force endorsed imposing an unprecedented new obligation on Minnesota schools. Instead of merely prohibiting bad behavior, schools would have an affirmative, legally enforceable duty to assure a “safe and supportive environment,” or “positive school climate,” for state-approved demographic groups.

(First Things) And who might be behind such Orwellian machinations? Can I get sued for hyperlinking to their web page? Do they find “Orwellian” to be humiliating or offensive?

The price of liberty was and remains eternal vigilance, and one need to be a Teabagger vigilante to be alarmed by some things. This sort of thing makes me all the more resistant to stifling comments like “the ideal family has both a biological mother and a biological father” (well, The Ideal Family had no earthly biological Father) lest I stigmatize less-than-ideal families.

(H/T Mike Bennett on Facebook)

3

Some critics assert that the evidence is already in. They believe that the Russian Orthodox Church has made a pact with the devil, who goes by the name of Vladimir Putin. I have no power of prophecy. I have learned, however, that the Russian Church has many gifts, many strengths. Today the peril in Russia to genuine Christian faith comes not from tsarism or communism but instead from an emerging global culture that reduces human life to material acquisition and consumption. In such a time, appeals to the spiritual greatness of the Russian nation may be an essential witness to the Gospel rather than a capitulation to the powers that be.

(John P. Burgess, In-Churching Russia)

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.