- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Scourge of Nationalism

Why do people talk of the rise of "Nationalism"? It intrigues me. I suspect that sometimes nationalist sentiments grow when people in one country instinctively are a bit disgusted by things being done in another country, but don't want to name the beast because similar problems are happening in their own back yard.

I sincerely hope that either Western civilization can provide a better example for developing countries to emulate (i.e. the hospitals and schools without the over-consumption, wastefulness, automobile culture and obesity), or that developing countries and the BRICs can be a bit more discerning about what segments of Western economies they choose import.

Thwarting bad elements in a society, whether it is organized crime, drugs, police corruption or "just" commercial interests wishing to exploit an economic externality at the cost of society as a whole, is I suspect a lot like fighting dental plaque: you can brush, and floss and gargle mouthwash, but as sure as the sun will rise, you will have a whole ecosystem of bacteria right back there on your teeth by next morning, all doing their bit to bring down your teeth all over again. I suspect you thwart it in the same way also - by keeping up the fight. And just like you can't get nice teeth back after plaque has had its way, once the culture of the automobile has wreaked its havoc on a country, you will never get your rolling countryside and farmland back from the sprawl either.

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