「エッセー」カテゴリーアーカイブ

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

submitted as the Email Journal assignment for USP480 class at PSU

Bowling Alone

Bowling Alone: Chapter 1: Thinking about Social Change in America

To the United States, rebuilding social capital is an urgent task. Social capital is a community’s valuable asset that is generated by connecting people in the community. Today, many more people in America disconnect with one another. They tend to prioritize an individual over a community. Many of them don’t involve in both social and political activities with certain degree of commitment to their communities. On the other hand, Americans who were in active during or just after the World War II were well-connected with their friends and neighbors and engaged various civic activities with a sense of obligation or responsibility. That is, in the last several decades of the twentieth century, considerable changes in their society happened. This means that social capital has been considerably eroded during the decades.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 2: Political Participation

Over the past three decades, political participation among American citizens has been changed drastically. For example, over the last thirty-six years, participation in presidential elections has declined by about a quarter. These trends can be found in decline of citizen participation in campaign activities, civic engagement in partisan activities and so on. More youth don’t care of these political activities now. They tend to be a passive stance against politics even though it can be a critical element by which they are greatly influenced.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 3: Civic Participation

Declines in club meeting attendance and organizational activity are also serious. Even though the number of nonprofit organizations has been increased dramatically over this quarter century, the number of membership has not been very increased. Most of all of the organizations are too small to make change. Thus, this trend would not be called as a boom of grassroots participation. Many more members in these organizations might not attend the meetings and even they might not know one another. These trends mean decline of active involvement their communities. Revitalizing an organized community life among people is urgent requirement for Americans to rebuild social capital as well as revitalizing a political life.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 8: Reciprocity, Honesty, and Trust

Social trust is a valuable community asset. That encourages people to more engage in community life with others who trust them. However, today, in many more situations, Americans don’t trust one another anymore. This environment likely generates transaction costs mainly generated in case that people distrust others, for example, costs for security enhancement by increase in crime. Actually, the number of employment in policing and the law soared grew rapidly after 1970. These trends did not necessarily need to be caused because society with social trust would not need much policy or law related forces that force people to pay money as a tax.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 10: Introduction

Americans are less connected one another. Communities they belong to do not work effectively anymore because only a part of the members try to control them personally while the rest of the members don’t care of them. Certainly, informal social connectedness within a community has dramatically declined in almost all cases that include club meeting, visits with friends, committee service, church attendance and so on. These trends can be seen in civil engagement. What is the cause of these trends? That is explained in following some chapters.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 13: Technology and Mass Media

Today, many more Americans spend much time in front of a TV screen passively alone. Especially, younger generations tend to watch a TV programs that were specifically associated with civic disengagement. They don’t read a newspaper far more than people who are in the generation of their grandfather. People who read a newspaper have more civil engagements than people who don’t. Also, people who tend to spend more time to watch TV have less civic engagements than those who don’t. The national decline in social connectedness was caused also by such these technologic advances.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 14: From Generation to Generation

When they were young is one of the important key indicators to know about trends of decline in civic engagement and social capital. Each generation that has reached adulthood since the 1950s has been less responsible for engaging community issues than its immediate predecessor. Actually, the former generations have less real senses of belonging to communities such as neighbors, church, and local communities or groups than the latter ones. Thus, the former generations have not been embedded in community life well. The fact has also been a cause of decline of civic engagement and social capital.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 15: What Killed Civic Engagement? Summing Up

In the section, following four factors were introduced as causes of erosion of civic engagement and social capital over the last several decades. First, the working poor have been increasing. Second, suburbanization, commuting, and sprawl have undermined relationship between people, especially, with neighbors and local communities. Third, the advance of electronic entertainment such as TV and internet has significantly transformed people’s lifestyle. Forth, generational change has been contributing steady decline in civic engagement and social capital.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 16: Introduction

What are the features of social capital generally? First, if people are well-connected one another, they can unite and view as a common problem when they encounter a big problem to be addressed in the community. Second, building consensus would be easier to be made so that the community can advance smoothly. Third, social capital encourages people to be aware that our fates are linked. Fourth, it enables people to share beneficial information because people in community with highly social capital have a lot of personal connections. Finally, social capital improves individuals’ lives through psychological and biological processes.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 24: Toward an Agenda for Social Capitalists

There are many proposals with the due of the year of 2010 from the author to ensure Americans reconnect one another and rebuild social capital. These proposals deal with; increasing civic engagement and social capital substantially; transforming current workplace to more family-friendly and community congenial; changing the lifestyle from typical suburban life to one that encourages people not to daily long-distance trip and to have more interactions with neighbors; attending faith-based communities more deeply; stopping to addict TV or internet and to spend much time for them alone and, rather, use these technology to encourage people to more engage for the community; being involved in more cultural festival not with a stance of consumers; and being more involved in public life of our communities.

How Sharing and Openness Can Reduce Environmental Impacts

Today, many more people feel overwhelmed and become paralyzed by the scale of the problems facing humanity. Especially, humanity is thrown in to environmental crisis. Natural resources and spaces decrease worldwide dramatically and climate change caused by global warming becomes a reality to endanger the survival of humanity. These environmental issues are mainly caused by human’s extensive activities such as mass-production, mass-consumption, and mass-disposal, and comfortable livings in suburbs with automobile-dependency etc. These activities put a significant strain on the Earth’s environment more than ever before.

One of the biggest problems in terms of the issues would be low operation rates in resources and spaces in this globe. First of all, an example in terms of the resources’ low operation rate is that each family owns furniture like a couch, electronics like a laundry machine and vehicles like personal as a typical modern lifestyle. In case of having a single life, these goods are all utilized only by individuals. Since they are used by only a very few people, they often do not fill the primary function for long hours. These low operation rates are really a problem because wasting resources and spaces is greatly harmful on the Earth’s ecosystem.

Similarly, nowadays, by sprawling, only a few people tend to settle in a big space, building personal structures so the big space is also utilized by only the limited residents. While residents go out of his or her house, the spece itself does not produce any outputs any longer even though it is capable to be utilized in many ways.  People invade hinterlands and develop the lands to raise the operation rate for themselves. However, the hinterlands themselves work to support the ecological system. Timothy Beatley (2000) states in his article, Preserving Biodiversity Challenges for Planners, that “While there are many types of threats to biodiversity in this country, destruction of habitat has become the most significant.” (p. 6). He clearly pointed out the relationship that people undermine habitats for numbers of species that support its biodiversity. That is, it is human themselves that undermine the operation rates of the lands aggressively.

Moreover, bedroom suburbs can be at low operation rates in a scale of town. People go out of their suburbs to go to work on weekday afternoons all together and to go back there only to go to bed all together. This means that the town functions only as a bed for people. While residents go out their habitats, the suburbs themselves do not work even though they have unlimited potential to produce values environmentally, economically, and socially. These facts indicate that people undermine the values that resources and spaces originally have.

These low operation rates are derived from the fact that these resources and spaces are just personalized individually, not opened and shared. Today, many more people attempt to personalize anything to generate their own profits. Tridib Banerjee (2001) states in his article, The Future of Public Space Beyond Invented Streets and Reinvented Places, that “[T]he decline of the public realm is paralleled by a corresponding decline in the public spirit, which resides in the very core of our collective intuitions of civil society (p. 12 ).” This means that the more people loose their public spirit, the more public realm is threaten by personal interests. Similarly, natural resources and spaces can be threaten by the personal interests.

However, imagine what it would be like if these personal goods and spaces are opened and shared with others. Then, how big it has effects on the environment? Not only these operation rates are raised, but also resources and spaces are required less. Moreover, the much more people share them, the more these operation rates are improved and the less resources or spaces are required.

To make this stream become reality, Robin Chase, founder and former CEO of Zipcar, introduces car sharing, bed sharing, and bike sharing at her seminar. She establishes GoLoco to seek for a further new way to share something. GoLoco is a social networking service online that helps people and communities create their own personal public transportation network. The service aims at enabling people to do these practices at pier to pier, not utilizing professional services by public or private organization. These are all good practices that improve operation rates of each material and that keep the resources to a minimum.

Chase also indicates that a dynamics of these practices is not only in collaborative consumption but also in collaborative play, collaborative work, collaborative financing. By gathering people, its human diversity and consensus base decision making makes them possible and more fun. Philip R. Berke (2002) mentions in his journal, Journal of Planning Literature 2002, that “[T]he defining question in the planning field: How can the quality of human life be improved in local communities in the context of global environmental, social, and economic systems? The procedural approach emphasizes diversity, openness, and consensus building but is not equipped to plan for, and implement, a shared civic vision in local planning arenas dominated by fragmentation and conflict (p. 22).” He implies that an openness with human diversity as a community is the key to improve the quality of human life.

To illustrate the mechanism of how sharing and openness based on collective decision makings as a community play a critical role in overcoming the environmental crisis, “collective housing” should be raised as an example. The collective housing is a house in which residents share a part of their lifestyles as a community based on participatory decision making.  Usually, each of residents has a private room as well as the common spaces designed based on the common needs from the residents.  There are usually some people in the common spaces such as a common living and dining room, and residents can join social life at the spaces with other residents anytime.  At the same time, they can be in their own room anytime they want.  This type of lifestyle was invented in North Europe, and expands to the world. Today, it is known as “co-Housing” in the Unites States.

This way of life makes a scale of community that people live in go one stage wider. Currently, living in a house at a scale of family is a norm. However, in case of the collective house, families belong to the community and live with other families and other individuals in the same building or spaces as a community. This means that a lifestyle based on a scale of family is shifted to that of a scale of a bigger community. What is the benefit of the way to live?

First, this way of life encourages resources and spaces to be minimized to use and to be improved their operation rates. A kitchen, a living room, a garden, a terrace, a workshop and so on are not necessarily owned by each family or individual. By sharing these spaces with other families or individuals as a community, people can save spaces. Not only that, they can improve the operation rates of these spaces because many more people possibly access to these spaces by sharing them. Similarly, if electronics in the shared kitchen, furniture in the shared living room, industrial tools in the workshop, automobiles in the parking and so on are all shared in the community, each family or individual do not need to own them any longer. As a result, significant amounts of resources would be able to be saved and each material in the shared spaces can be improved in the operation rates.

Secondly, possibility or power as a community can be raised. The collective housing become a community in which diverse generations, diverse occupations exist. By sharing skills and knowledge among the residents, they often come up with fresh ideas that they have never imagined ever before. Interactions among them accelerate the cycle. This might enable the community to become a zero-emission community by eliminating the waste of resources and spaces and by co-financing for facilities to generate renewal energy sources such as solar and wind. Also, they might be able to establish a self-sufficient life by shared farms in the community would be possible. These examples clearly demonstrate the possibility or power of a community because things, which never be done by a single family or an individual, are possibly done by a community.

Moreover, in a community, some needs among the members could be concerted in a favorable manner. For example, one of core characteristics of the collective housing is an opportunity of “common meal”. The residents prepare their meal on the rotation basis. This opportunity helps the residents to save time because if they participate to prepare a meal for the community members only several times a month, they can decrease the number of meal to prepare several times a week. Also, for instance, if there are both a two-income young couple with their children and an elderly couple, who already did their duty of parental care and wishes to nurture children again, the needs between the two couples are possibly met.

Finally, in the collective housing, residents straddle both private spaces and common ones at a very finely sense of distance. This often provides favorable opportunities among residents to collaborate not only in consumption but also in play, work, and financing together. Tridib Banerjee (2001) shows how privatized public places such as the arcades of Paris and Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica generate new possibilities in addition to just consumption. He states that “In all of these cases, the attempt is to create a public life of flânerie [, the activity of strolling and looking (Tester, 1994, p.1)] and consumerism; whether it actually takes place in a private or public space does not seem to matter. The line between public and private spaces blurs very easily, as was the case in the Prisian arcades (p. 15).” If it is difficult for people to utilize public open spaces, they need to create such a privatized public place to cover the lack of public spaces positively.

These points are all key practices of sharing and openness to diminish environmental impacts on the Earth. By improving operation rates of resources and spaces and cutting down the demands of them, people can have direct effects on environment because of its energy-efficiency, resource-saving, carbon-emission reduction, and nature protection. Also, a community in which diverse human exists creates a new center of culture to help people to generate wisdom to invent a new way of life that is more suited for both them and nature. Moreover, if more human resources are utilized by concerted needs among people forming a small or micro scale community, people can prevent to utilize environmentally-unfriendly commercial services. Finally, personalized open spaces enable people to straddle both private and open spaces freely and to revitalize their various collaborative activities without invading hinterlands further.

The collective housing is the world’s epitome. All practices used in the community can be put to practical use in wide range of communities. A neighborhood, a city, a state, a nation, and even the Earth can be all considered as a community. Actually, some of the practices are used in these communities traditionally. For example, a city plans to save spaces and build up roads, parks, and public structures such as the library and a stadium funded by taxes from citizens. Another example is that people have public services in case that some needs among citizens are met sharing resources and spaces. Therefore, practices utilized in the collective house are possible to be also utilized by such a bigger scale of the communities. Of course, at a micro scale such as among families, friends, neighbors, even among unrelated people, unexpected significant positive effects on environment can be expected by practicing them.

The key to activization of these practices is that people overcome tendencies of personalizing resources and spaces and willingly open and share them. Today, many more people become obsessed by “money” so that they attempt to personalize anything to monopolize their own profits. Even any services are all commercialized and people buy them passively. As a result, resources, spaces, and even human themselves operate or work at a crucially low rate. However, imagine if what it would be like if people can actively try to create opportunities comparable commercial services in their own ways, sharing their resources and spaces. Then, how dramatically does it improve our Earth’s environmental condition? Now is the time to stand up and take action for making the vision into a reality.

 

References

Banerjee, T. (2001). “The Future of Public Space Beyond Invented Streets and Reinvented Places.” Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 67, No.1, Winter 2001.

Beatley, T. (2000). “Preserving Biodiversity Challenges for Planners.” Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 66, No.1, Winter 2000.

Berke, P. R. (2002). “Does Sustainable Development Offer a New Direction for Planning? Challenges for the Twenty-First Century.” Journal of Planning Literature 2002; 17; 21.

Koyabe, I. (2004). コレクティブハウジングで暮らそう 成熟社会のライフスタイルと住まいの選択.

Tester, K. (1994). The Flâneur.

Does Technology Threaten Politics?

In 2008, the global financial crisis occurred which has its roots in the subprime mortgage crisis and bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Eventually, financial capitalism failed as a consequence of excessive globalization. Unexceptionally, Japan, where I was born, has been greatly influenced by the crisis. Even though you might not believe it, Toyota, which represents a company in Japan, fell into the red. Thus, undoubtedly, Japan is also in a major depression. In addition to global collective concerns such as climate change, and world poverty, Japan has the numbers of deep-rooted problems such as a growing gap nationwide, more than 30,000 suicide victims annually, an increasing number of violent crimes, and so on.

Why do such unexpected and undesired situations happen? That is because human experience and knowledge are limited to understand relativities between all phenomena happening in this universe. This uncertainty is a reality and people never been inescapable from it no matter how much we endure. However, people want the certainty for the future and started inventing “technology”. Today, it edges into our livelihood naturally and has huge impacts on it. We might be able to say that politics is also affected by technology in the same manner.

Does technology threaten politics? I can say that it can be. It depends on how people deal with it. That is, since technology itself is neutral without humanity, it can become both opportunity and thread with us. Technology was invented for the human prosperity and, actually, it has made our livelihood convenient, effective, and flexibly. For example, information technology enables us to communicate quickly with a terminal connected with network such as computer and cell phone no matter when and where we are. However, as history shows, technology has changed or destructed physical objects such as landscape, buildings and even human with development, wars and so on. Also industrialization as a technology made it possible to produce a huge amount of goods at a time with less people. It has actually produced many jobs for people but managers who seek just for profit tend employ more technologies than workers for efficiency to produce more. Therefore, as long as people utilize technology, which means it could threaten us, we need to ensure that politics is defended against it.

Crick describes, in the book “In Defense of Politics”, “technology” in politics as “Science”, “Technology”, and “Administration”. Each of them has a visible and fixed object that is some kind of “system”, “tool” or “form”. In general, “technology” is a “tool” invented by people with existing scientific principles to the production of tools and goods. “Science” is a kind of “form” which people have discovered in this universe with existing knowledge. “Administration” is an existing system of how to manage any form of community effectively. We tend to believe that these technologies promise certainty by being testable by experiments and work also at realms in our livelihood in the same manner. Crick says, “’Technology’ holds that all the important problems facing human civilization are technical, and that therefore they are all soluble on the basis of existing knowledge or readily attainable knowledge” (p. 93). However, in fact, technology can apply only to the environments or circumstances in the certain scope that is within human’s existing experience, knowledge or imagination. Thus, technology is not universal something. There is no assurance that technology works correctly at new environments or circumstances because there are a lot of facts that have not been proven in science especially of universe, environment and even human.

This uncertainty is a reality. Our society and environment are formed by various calculations by various experts in economics, science, and politician in their own way. However, we face a lot of uncertain and undesired situations as illustrated in the first paragraph of this paper. Interestingly, also there is something that falls short of expectations from those experts positively. For example, Curitiba, Brazil had been facing considerable problems derived from depending on society based on automobile, which was established by a certain norm called “American Dream” invented by a handful of experts and politicians as a kind of technology.  The problems include a massive traffic jam that requires extra hours to get the destination comparing to the case of public transportation and ineffective development pattern based on automobiles that makes people live a place away from any destinations as well as danger of traffic accident, air pollution and noise etc. From this point, the city effected sweeping reform of transportation from the automobile-oriented way to public-transit-oriented one. Experts in the city expected that it would be long way to go but, as a result, people in the city adjusted the new environment only for a week. This strongly demonstrates that the uncertainty is a reality even with collective knowledge and experience of experts or scientists.

However, people still depend on such experts for gaining certainty. As long as we do it, experts would try to influence on politics with the scientific principles with a semblance of reality to control such passive folks. Today, technology has been spread all over the world as a doctrine that power and production are the same thing. Crick states that “The modern state is simply the governing committee of the bourgeoisie; all power is economics and economics is production”  (p. 94).  Many of the bourgeoisies would try to gain more economic power with technology such as industrialization. Some might seek for power more aggressively with considerable ways that include backstabbing other people.

In this condition, people still overestimate experts but experts become more arrogant with their underestimation of citizen. Crick mentions that, “The complete concept of ‘Technology’ is that of all society itself as one factory of which the state is manager” (p. 94). In this case, the workers who gain benefits from the factory that produces the needs and happiness of them don’t have a right to produce anything without the manager’s skills, direction, and permission. The workers who cannot create any form of certainty by themselves still depend on the manager who could show a certain form whose certainty could prove at the limited environments and circumstances.

What are the disadvantages in such a situation? Crick introduces the position of Saint-Simon in 1821 that is, “In the new political order … the decisions must be the result of scientific demonstrations totally independent of human will … Under such an order we shall see the disappearance of the three main disadvantages of the present political system, that is, arbitrariness, incapacity, and intrigue.”  (p. 96). This means that since technology is utilized as “safety of democracy” not as something necessities for society, the potential of politics is limited. Saint-Simon viewed “arbitrariness” as “no more than product of diversity”, “incapacity” simply as “some sense of limitations”, and “intrigue” as “no more than the conflict of differing interests in any even moderately free state” (p. 96). These disadvantages create the safety of democracy but it just means people are kept away from politics without freedom by experts’ attempts to control politics even in a democratic state.

In states with totalitarian ideologies, these tendencies are obvious. Crick says, “Totalitarian ideologies make claims to be the basis of a world order, to offer a comprehensive explanation of everything” (p. 99). Under fascism, that market-like structure in politics already mentioned above can be seen in a way that personal rule dominates the state. In this condition, the personal authority of the ruler is more critical element than the institutions of the state to decide what to do. Hague and Harrop argue in the book “Political Science: A comparative introduction” that, “Once Hitler and Mussolini achieved power, state and party merged as personal vehicles of the supreme ruler” (p. 349). This is the most obvious way of “top-down” decision-making. In this case, the ruler might refuse any advices not only from ordinary citizen but also even from experts because he can make decision on his own way without any limitation or restraint. This means that the state is controlled only by the ruler who is originally an ordinary man. Since any ordinary man is limited to have skills, knowledge, view points, imaginations, and experiences, the fascist state is the most obvious case of Saint-Simon argued arbitrariness, incapacity, and intrigue.

In a communist state as one of the totalitarian forms, there is an institutional structure unlike the fascist states.  There are the executive, legislature and the judiciary but they are less well-developed than in democracies. One of the most critical differences comparing with free states is that there is a ruling communist party that dominates the formal institutions of the state. In this situation, the power is deconcentrated into more than one person unlike the fascist states. Also, skills, knowledge, view points, imaginations, and experiences from other people could be more shared to quickly adjust to new environments and circumstances than that of the fascist states. However, as long as the power is concentrated and elements for decision-making are dominated only among a certain group or individuals, the nature of arbitrariness, incapacity, and intrigue remain in the state.

There can be the danger of technology against politics in free societies. Rollins states in his article “Yes, Play Politics in the White House” that, “Believe it or not, most people in a White House are not from the world of politics. They are lawyers and experts on the budget and foreign policy”. In this point, it can be understood that those experts have unignorable influences on politics. The most obvious form of technology to be able to be seen in free states is “the respectable disguise of academic social science. Crick states that, “Politcs is, to so many social scientists, a kind of disease: society is a patient ridden with tensions and political events are the unreal, neurotic fixations by which it tries to rationalize these contradictions” (p. 100). Such social scientists know how to convince people with the rational, effective, and flexible ideas in their doctrine even though these ideas are not applicable to all environments and circumstances. So they attempt to prioritize on their scientific principle rather than citizen participation to make decision in politics by making people believe that the principle is certain.

There are two options in free states when experts utilize such their own scientific principles in the realm of politics. The first one is to cheat on people with the notions to have more power. This is the way of making improper use of technology I discussed so far. The second one is to try to use it to change society in a favorable manner also for people. Al Gore, ex-vice-president of the United States, tries to organize a bunch of scientists in the environmental field to gain as many scientific evidences on global warming as possible. At this point, what he does is the same as what modern politicians, good or bad, try to do. However, Gore utilized these scientific evidences to make people wake up to take action, hosting thousands of lectures to introduce the evidences to the “people” in the world. As a result, he earned Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. This indicates that, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, whether technology works effectively or not depends on how people deal with it. Therefore, the critical difference is that how significant such politicians and experts view for participation of citizens.

Currently, those who live in the today’s world cannot forecast how cup of sorrows will be brought into them next by such artificial macro forces and there is no end to the concerns unless they can handle such a problematic governance situation. To make the future more certain, we need as many view points from citizens as possible. That is why citizen participation is required. The need of it would be obvious with “participatory governance” as one of the most desirable example. The significance of participatory governance can be showed also by contrast with design-centered approaches based on top-down approach such as the New Urbanism. For example, these top-down approaches encourage many people to benefit at one time. However, these approaches cannot cover all concerns and problems residents have at each area unless these are conducted as a people-based strategy in bottom-up way. Also, for instance, the New Urbanism cannot sustain desirable outcomes over a lengthy period but just produce immediate outcomes in a short period of time. On the other hand, participatory governance can create a path that leads more desirable outcomes in the end even though quick effects are hardly produced.

Participatory governance draws many players in different interests into one meeting place and encourages conflicts to be arisen among them, which strengthen the decision-making. For example, at the Transportation Policy Alternatives Committee (TPAC), a committee for transportation planning in technical aspects in the Portland Metropolitan region, considerable conflicts are inevitable to be arisen because of the nature of the meeting. The committee is made up of representatives from local jurisdictions such as counties and cities, implementing agencies such as Oregon Department of Transportation, and citizens. Actually, some members made an objection against numerous claims made by speakers at some points, saying “It is not true at all!” in a straightforward manner. It is always accompanied by pain. However, such conflicts are essential in a process to advance projects step by step. Portland has advanced its planning steadily based on the participatory governance. Especially, as for the transportation system, MAX, the extensive light rail transit in Portland metropolitan region, extends its service coverage every couple of years in this decade. It is really a surprising fact to those who do not have good governance in their city like me. The success in transportation system in Portland metropolitan region is largely originated in efforts of the participatory governance. What it does is to bring all players in one place and identify and share essential problems and concerns each member has by encouraging conflicts to occur.

Politics is uncertainty of future. To make the future more certain, at least, citizen participation is required. Technology is consistently only a supplementary element for decision-makings. Crick discusses, “science and politics are different ways of looking at a common reality for different purposes” (p. 103). Technology or science must not be more prioritized than citizen participation. Rather, people have to decide whether each technology should be used or not through the process of collecting as many view points as possible from citizens and delivering what should be more prioritized politically among citizens. The danger of technology against politics is derived from the pride or arrogance of experts. Crick mentioned in the book as a part of his conclusion of the chapter 5, “What they are in fact doing, faced with all sorts of complicated choices and alternatives as to how to allocate scarce resources, is to make political decisions without the institutions and procedures which register actual social demands honestly – a place for people to speak without fear for themselves or the interests of their group” (p. 110). Therefore, as long as we utilize technology, which means it could threaten us, we need to ensure that politics is defended against it.

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セレンディピティ(serendipity)という概念に限りない希望を感じる理由

今まで「セレンディピティ(serendipity)」という言葉を聞いたことがなかったけど、今日になって突然複数回目にして驚いた。

今日の名字の言でも出てきた。
www.seikyoonline.jp/news/myoji/2014/06/1213266_4490.html

Wikipediaによると

セレンディピティ(英: serendipity)は、何かを探しているときに、探しているものとは別の価値あるものを見つける能力・才能を指す言葉である。何かを発見したという「現象」ではなく、何かを発見する「能力」を指す。平たく言えば、ふとした偶然をきっかけにひらめきを得、幸運をつかみ取る能力のことである。

とある。

個人的にこの概念はすぐに興味が湧いた。以前、茂木健一郎さんが行っていた「偶有性」に通じるような気がしたのもあって。

偶有性とは、僕の解釈では、想定外のことが起こる「余地」があることで、それが「脅威」にもなりえるけど、逆に「理想以上」の結果になることもあるというようなこと。多様性を認めない排他的なグループや思想はこの偶有性の余地がなく、良くて予定調和の結果しか導けない。

また、目的を達成するためだけに行動することは、例え目的が達成されたとしてもそれ以上の結果は望めない。だけど、その過程で寄り道をしながら新たな気づきを得て方向性を柔軟に変えていける人は、目的達成以上の結果を導きだせる可能性があるということ。

参考
「偶有性」の余地をポジティブに捉える

「偶有性」はあくまで「現象」や「性質」のことを指すのだと思うけど、「セレンディピティ」はその偶有性をコントロールしてポジティブな効果を得る人間の「能力」なんだと思う。とても素晴らしい能力だと思うし、この能力があれば無駄なことなんてなくなっていくのかもしれない。

そして、この概念を「社会」と「その構成員としての人間」という関係に応用してみると、セレンティビリティは「ソーシャルキャピタル」というような概念に置き換え可能かもしれない。どちらにしても、「予定調和」とは対局にある考え方であることは間違いない。

僕がこの「セレンディピティ」という概念に希望を感じるのは、どこまで可能性が拡がるのか全く見当がつかないから。思い描けるあらゆる理想よりもベターな結果がもしかしたらあり得るかもしれない。「理想」は必ずしもベストではないということ。

「偶有性」というものを脅威としか捉えない風潮はあるけど、これを打ち破り人々がセレンディピティを身につけて行動するようになったときに何が起こるのかを僕は見てみたい。

善いことをするのに、ものすごくハードルの高い日本

オレゴンにいた時は、どうしてあんなに生き生きとしてられるんだろうってずっと不思議に思ってたけど、何となくその訳が分かってきた。

日本に限らずだとは思うけど、日本って、善いことをするのに、ものすごくハードルの高い国なんだ。
自分にはどうしようも出来ない空気が充満していて、僕はそういった空気にモチベーションを奪われてしまう。
もちろん、そんなに弱い自分なのがまずは問題なんだけど、それを自己責任で済ませることはとてもできないと思う。

まだまだ不十分だとは思うけど、その空気がどういうものなのかをまとめてみた。

Confederate Monument - E frieze and Minerva - Arlington National Cemetery - 2011

■善いことをするのに、犠牲的精神を求められる

僕はこの空気がたまらなく嫌だし、僕を含めた多くの日本人の無気力感や無関心を助長していると思う。
元々善いことをするんだから、自分たちの利益も追求したっていいじゃないか。

NPOでさえ、未だに、従業員が給料をもらうことに疑問を持つ人がいる。
お金や名誉など、何も見返りを求めずにNPOのような事業を興せと言ったって、明らかに無理があるでしょ。
仮にあなたが出来ても、他の大部分の人には出来ない。

善いことをしていても、けっこうな確立で偽善のレッテルを貼られる。
どんなに善いことをしていても、個人的な利益が見え隠れしただけで、人は離れて行く。
何で、善いことをするのに、そんなにハードルを上げるのか、僕には理解出来ない。

そもそも、犠牲的精神は、美しく見えるだけで、ベストでは全くない。
まず、自分が犠牲になる時点でマイナスになる。
自分も他者も十分に利益が得られてこそ、ベストの結果になる。

その為には、「個人的な利益」も外しちゃいけない。
それをも持たせないように圧力をかける「空気」は、社会にものすごく有害になる。

■どんなに善いことをしている人でも、気に入らなければ潰される

日本は、多くの人が認める通り、「出る杭は打たれる」社会。
どんなに善いことをしていても、「出る杭」である限り、打たれるリスクがある。

驚くのは、同じ日本人が世界的に活躍してても、日本国内で気に入らなければ、タブーにしてでも潰そうとするところ。
自爆もいいところだけど、自爆してでも自分の気分を晴らそうとするパワーはものすごい。
それは、物理的な暴力ではなくて、それ以上に恐ろしい「空気」という暴力で起こされる。

フロイトはかつてこう言ったらしい。

「無知は、知の怠慢ではなく、知ることを拒絶する膨大なエネルギーの結果」

僕も例外無く、その空気の一部になっているときは、この場合の膨大なエネルギーの一部かもしれない。
ただ、そういう空気を放置していると、生きたまま心が窒息死してしまうかもしれないという危機感は感じてる。

■一度上り詰めたとしても、一瞬で地に落ちる

「建設は死闘、破壊は一瞬」
まさにその通りだと思う。

ただ、自業自得の部分があったとしても、外的な圧力であっという間に壊滅させられる例は少なくない。
そういう時は、決まって、ポジティブな側面は封印され、徹底的に全否定される。

いろんなことに尽力して、尊敬され、有名になった人でも、空気が風となって吹けば、裏を返したように批判を浴び、叩きのめされて名声は地に落ちることがある。
最近のみのもんたさんの騒動がいい例だと思う。

BLOGOSで掲載されたこの記事を読んだ時、僕も鳥肌が立った。

みのもんた問題にみる日本の特殊性
blogos.com/article/72546/

そして、とどめは、こういう空気で抑圧されている人がいても、日本ではリスクを冒してまで声を上げる人が少ないこと。
大部分の人が、事態が好転するまで様子見をする。

僕も、正直、こんな状況じゃ怖くて怖くて、善いことをする気にも声を上げる気にもなれない。
だから、僕も例外無くその破壊的な空気に迎合してしまっている一人と言える。
そもそも、善いことをするのにリスクが付きまとうのってどうなのか…

はっきり言って、オレゴンに住んでいた時は、こんな空気を感じたことは無かった。

みんなそれぞれ勝手なことをやっていて、いちいち人のやってることを気にしない。
キリスト教の国とはいえ、日本のように善いことをするのに犠牲的精神を求められることもなかった。
アメリカの大統領でさえ、市民の身勝手な空気の圧力によって潰されることなく、任期を全うしているでしょ。

アメリカは見習うべき国とはとても言えないけど、そういう空気のあるなしでこうも違うのかと痛感した。
これから日本に住み続けるなら、避けては通れない障害なのは間違いない。

この空気に逆らうのは自殺行為かもしれない。
だけど、自分はこの空気に飲まれず、この魔物のような空気で苦しんでいる人たちのために行動していきたい。

 

How do you imagine a life without automobile?

P1020970

How do you imagine a life without automobile? There may be another possibilities for day-to-day drivers to have much better quality of life when they get off their cars. Timothy Beatley illustrated such possibilities in his book “Native to Nowhere: Sustaining Home And Community In A Global Age” with the example of the snowstorm in East Coast in February 2003. Basically, natural disasters are just harmful for us but the snowstorm made people realize another possibilities of life without automobile. To live in a place where vehicles do not exist and people walk in open spaces, there are some benefits for those who drive daily basis. First, it is no danger from any car accidents. Not only that, a place in which many people walk and do something itself provides security so-called “eyes on the street”, in Jane Jacobs’s word. Expanding these safety and secure realms would be crucial for people who cannot drive such as children, elderly people, and people in disabilities. Moreover, such an environment makes people easy to interact and socialize one another. It would be very difficult for drivers to have any interactions with others while driving because of being isolated. By contrast, sitting down and watching beauty of its landscape for a while, people can enjoy socializing with others naturally in such an open space. Therefore, people can bring vitality to the common realm.

Cities in which there are plenty of place where people walk without vehicles have unique cultures.  For example, Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, proudly has many unique cultures such as cultures of food and comedy. People in Osaka prefer to eat at many restaurants, walking around the town. They are also all skilled comedians. In fact, some Japanese consider Osaka as a “foreign city” in Japan because of its otherness. It is said that one of the sources of the uniqueness, I think, is the number of “arcaded streets”. There are 173 of arcaded streets in city of Osaka while there are only 32 in 23 wards of Tokyo. The longest arcaded street in Osaka called “Shinsaibashi-suji” has some 2.6km (about 1.6 mile) in length. Many people in various generation and diverse income always do something and walk unbelievable long distances daily basis on the arcaded streets. Actually, many of local shopping avenues in Osaka can keep vitality with unique cultures generated by people there while many of such streets in other city are suffering to revitalize the streets. People in Osaka might instinctually know “walkable realms without a car” can generate good cultures that fit with and are favorable to them. You don’t need to wait another natural disasters for a trial of life without automobile. Just get off your car, walk around your neighborhood, greet your neighbors and rediscover the possibilities of your place.

Using Urban Vacant Lands More Effectively

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Using urban vacant lands more effectively is a significant key to being sustainable city. For example, a practice of urban food production in Chicago by the small farm started by Ken Dunn shows possibilities to enable every opportunity and every place to be utilized for all the three Es to be sustainable. This farm consists of five small parcels with a small number of employees. Even though the most visible site has only 3/4 of an acre-wide, it generates some $20,000 worth of income to sell its products to local restaurants. By utilizing organic wastes from several restaurants into composts as fertilizer and using the small parcels of land wisely, a large amount of high-quality products can be produced. The income from the products enables the farm enough to have employees, and the products produced by the farm encourage the local economy because of the farm’s community focal points. Moreover, the farm provides more opportunities to connect local people with environment through farming activities as an employee. Ken Dunn estimates there are 9,000 acres of vacant lands in City of Chicago. Why not utilize that land to make the city more sustainable?

I think degree of capacity utilization of each land greatly determines sustainability of a city. For example, in Japan, there are many “Bed-towns”, in which residents of the towns mostly utilize their town as a bed for sleep. Each entire town having huge space is not utilized effectively in daytime almost at all even though each space can be utilized for sustainable practices as I mentioned in the first paragraph of this essay through the urban food production in Chicago. These spaces in such a bed-town can be said that they are used as residential uses, but the degree of capacity utilization of them is considerably low. There is unbridgeable gap in the degree between the small farm lands in Chicago and the lands in such a bed-town. This gap is caused by how to view the space by people in each city. Probably, residents in the bed-town view their lands only as a private living space. In contrast, Ken Donn views even the small parcels of land as valuable resources that can produce values for all of three sustainable elements. Therefore, it is safe to say that the degree of capacity utilization caused by people who live there determines sustainability of their city,

 

 

【衆院選2012連載】 バックナンバー

2012年12月の総選挙が決まった日の翌日から衆院選の連載を続けています。ブログは2003年から続けており、アメリカ留学中にエッセー執筆力はかなり鍛えられた(専門科目だけならGPAは3.75でした)ので、今回の連載にも自分なりに自信を持っています。執筆しながらも様々なことを勉強しました。

筆者自身、明確な支持政党があるだけに偏った見方が出てくることは否めませんが、出来る限りフェアな視点で、有権者のみなさまそれぞれがベストな選択をして、日本をみんなが望む方向へ変えていけるように、という願いを込めて連載を進めています。

投票日まで残り1週間を切っていますが、この連載が、みなさんのベストな投票へ近づけるための助けになることを願っています。

 

衆院選2012連載 バックナンバー(随時更新)

(37)来年の参院選に向け、政治へのフォローの質を高めよう!

(36)新政権はもう動き始めている

(35)政治家も国民も「リセット癖」から抜け出せてない

(34)一部で騒がれている「不正選挙疑惑」についてモノ申す

(33)争点が違った?「反対」だけでは受け入れられなかった?

(32)選挙後でも参加する手段は沢山ある!

(31)これからが本当のスタート!

(30)「投票に行ってきました」投票行動をSNSにアップしよう!

(29)「投票に行こう!」有名人や識者たちの声

(28)「参加して育てる育政」が機能している数少ないケース:公明党

(27)【地方分権】隠れた争点「地域主権型道州制」について

(26)【憲法改正】積極的な非武装平和主義:コスタリカの例

(25)【憲法改正】日本の憲法が国民を縛るものに変わる!?

(24)「単独政権or連立政権」という視点

(23)【消費税】賛成-反対と言っても、中身はそれぞれ違う

(22)春香クリスティーンさんの政治に対する姿勢と行動から学ぼう!

(21)「ネット選挙」に関する橋下徹さんの体を張った問題提起について

(20)全国紙からツイッターまで、総選挙お役立ちページ

(19)各政党の公式情報へのリンクまとめ

(18)公示日を迎え、公職選挙法が適用されています

(17)各党で温度差のある原発政策、実現度をどう見極める?

(16) 身の回りの身近な政治から始めよう

(15)都合の悪いことも伝える

(14)腐敗した政治から自分を切り離すということ

(13)「期待する」だけでは機能しない

(12)地方から国会へつながる「ネットワーク性」という財産

(11)【TPP】自由貿易が国を崩壊させた例(ハイチの例から)

(10)【TPP】参加・不参加それぞれの場合の成功シナリオ

(9)投票にあたり重視するポイントは?

(8)【エネルギー】原発を巡る議論の打開策は「人力エネルギー」にあり!?

(7)【エネルギー】原発推進派の方へ伝えたいこと

(6)【エネルギー】脱原発派の方へ伝えたいこと

(5)総選挙がオリンピックみたいだったら…

(4)選挙結果を潔く受け入れ、新政権を建設的にサポートしよう

(3)「政治的」と「政治」の違い

(2)どれくらい重要な選挙なの?

(1)どのような姿勢で投票にのぞむ?

実は驚くほど自分に近い?「仏」の姿

Buddha

「一代の肝心は法華経・法華経の修行の肝心は不軽品にて候なり、不軽菩薩の人を敬いしは・いかなる事ぞ 教主釈尊の出世の本懐は人の振る舞いにて候けるぞ」日蓮

これは今月の座談会で扱った御書の一節なんだけど、僕はこの御書が好きだ。仏法を学び始めてから最も衝撃を受けた御書。何しろ、「仏」とか、そういう人間を超越してそうな存在に対するイメージが劇的に変わった。

みなさんは、「仏」と聞いてどんなイメージを抱くだろうか?僕は、昔、「仏」って人間を超越していて、「苦しみ」とか「悩み」とかとは無縁な別世界に住む存在だと思っていた。だけど、仏法の世界の「仏」像は全く違う。嫌悪感を感じるほど違うと思う。

成仏した(仏に成った)とされる不軽菩薩(釈尊の過去世の姿)は、僕らと同じこの地球に生まれ、人々を導いたとされる。「仏」といえば、自分を棚上げして安全なところで人々に説教をしたイメージもあったけど、実際は、人々から暴言を浴びせられ、杖で打たれ、瓦や石を投げられて迫害されていた。

不軽菩薩のすごいところは、それだけ迫害されても人と関わることをやめなかったこと。どんなに意地悪されて暴力をふるわれても、人々に備わる「仏の生命」を礼拝してまわり続けた。その実践の中で、やがて六根清浄(生命の浄化)の功徳を得て成仏したとされる。

不軽菩薩は、釈尊(お釈迦様・ブッダ)の過去世の姿。ということは、釈尊は果てしなく昔から実は成仏していたということ。それなのに、この地球にまた生まれ変わり、人間として泥臭く活動をした。「仏」とは、自ら願ってそうするものなんだと。

釈尊がこの世に出現した根本の目的は、「人の振る舞い」を示すことにあったとされる。人々は、「あなたには仏の生命がある」と言われても簡単には信じない。「おれにそんな可能性があるわけないだろ!」とキレて暴力を振るうくらいだから…

釈尊は、最初から、説教しただけで人々が悟りの境地に至れるとは考えていなかったのだと思う。だから、自分を安全で別次元の存在に棚上げせず、わざわざ乱れた世相の世界に人間として願って生まれ、「人としての模範を示す」ことによって人々を導こうとした。

意地悪されたり暴力を振るわれ迫害の連続でも人間臭く、泥臭く人と関わっていき、次の世でも同じように泥臭く人々を導いていくことを願う…これが「仏」像だとしたら、みなさんはどう思いますか?僕には、考え方が180度変わるほど衝撃的なものでした。

「仏」の世界に、自分以外の「環境」は関係ない。苦悩に満ちた地獄のような環境においても、変わらず仏の境涯で人々を導いていけるのがむしろ仏だということ。「そんなことはしたくない」と思えるくらい、実は、僕たちにも現実的に出来そうなことではないかな?

「仏」っていうのは、僕らの想像よりずっとずっと自分に近い存在なんだと思う。自分自身が実は…っていうくらい。そう思えるだけで、人生が大きく変わってくるのかもしれない。

日本のママチャリ文化を活かすために必要なこと

ママチャリ日本のママチャリ文化っていうものを議論してみたい。日本の自転車利用者が多いのは、間違いなくママチャリのおかげだと思う。高齢者の移動手段や健康維持という意味でも、大活躍だ。だけど、そのママチャリの文化がネックとなって、サイクリストのための環境が一行に良くならないのでは?と思う。

日本では、自転車利用者数の割には、道路でのサイクリストの存在感は弱い。それは、ママチャリ文化というのが原因の一つだと思う。ママチャリだと、自転車への愛着が弱く、車道を走るような設計にはなっていない。

ママチャリは1万円ほどで買える経済的な移動手段だけど、それがネックになって、日本では、自転車を移動のための消耗品としてしか見なしていない。その為、自転車への愛着が弱く、サイクリストとしてのプライドも育たない。結果的に、道路における存在感が弱く、市民権がいつまでたっても得られない。

アメリカのポートランドでは、日本ほど自転車利用者はいないけど、サイクリストの道路における存在感は極めて高い。環境整備も進み、ドライバーが認知したことによる事故の軽減などが起こっている。

それは、自転車に対する愛着の問題でもあると思った。当然、ポートランドではママチャリは売っておらず、自転車屋に行っても3万円以下のものを見つけるのは難しかった。それだけで、彼らにとっては、自転車は消耗品にはならない理由となっている。

ポートランドのサイクリストは、日本人ほど自転車に実用性を求めないけど、実用性の他に、スポーツとカジュアル性をバランスよく求め、自転車を利用している。その為、自分の自転車への愛着や、サイクリストとしてのプライドが高い。

ママチャリのもう一つの問題点は、今の日本の道路事情では、とても車道を走れないということ。ママチャリは、恐らく、歩道を走ることを前提に設計されている。そのため、どんなにママチャリ利用者がいても、車道での存在感は発揮されない。

僕が思うに、ママチャリ文化が本当に活きてくるのは、サイクリストの環境が整備されてからだと思う。歩道と分離して、ママチャリくらいのスピードで安全に走れる環境が出来ていることが前提。

そういった環境が整備されるまでは、ママチャリ文化を続けるのはマイナス影響でしかないと思う。全員とは言わないけど、ママチャリから脱却して、スポーツ自転車に乗って車道を堂々と走行する人を増やす必要がある。道路上で市民権を得るには、車道で存在感を示すしかない。

一度、道路上でサイクリストの存在感が認められれば、時間はかかるかもしれないけど、ドライバーの認識することにより、事故は減っていく。それに、車道のスペースを再配分する議論に発展せずにはいられなくなる。そうしてサイクリストの権利と道路環境がされたときに、はじめて、ママチャリの文化が活きてくるのだと思う。