The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

The Unorthodox Traditionalist

On my GOOP trip, Ross Preston told me that I should have a talk radio show where I could tell people my weird ideas and have people call in to argue with me. Then I realized that not enough people listen to the radio to make a talk show viable. I just sort of gave up until this semester Eliza Mutino told me that I should have a column in the S&B to get my crazy ideas out there.

So, here I am. I encourage people to e-mail me responses and I will respond to them. It sounds hokey, but I am really trying to find the logical conclusions to make the world a better place. I often overlook things that would lead to different conclusions. Some of the things I say may offend you, but I hope that we as a community can deal with disagreements in a positive, constructive rather than personal manner.

I will begin by laying out some of my basic assumptions about the world, which may or may not be true.
1. Efficiency is generally good, since it increases human’s material wellbeing. Although I like roughing it sometimes, I am generally glad that there is a greatly reduced probability that my child dies from some disease.

2. Exceptions to assumption 1 can occur when the quest for efficiency goes so much against inherent human needs as to actually reduce their happiness even though their material well-being increases. For example, it would be more efficient for everyone to eat out every night than to ever cook for themselves because of economies of scale (there is less of an effort differential between making zero and one pizza than there is in making 9 and 10 pizzas because of better equipment, training, etc). However, I believe that there is something innately human about cooking and eating a meal with family and friends.

3. Exceptions to assumption 1 can also occur when diversity is threatened. I believe that diversity—both cultural and biological—can create stability and beauty in the world. Diverse ecosystems are less prone to failure than crops because if one species is decimated by weather or pests, there are others to take its place. Similarly, if one culture does something maladaptive like eating brains which gives them Kuru, it is not the end of the world, since there are other societies that don’t eat brains.

It may be that the American fast food diet leads to obesity and its associated health problems. This would be less of a problem if many people in the world weren’t trying to emulate Americans blindly because it’s “cool.” Also, diversity makes life beautiful and interesting. A world where you could never stumble upon a kind of flower you’d never seen because all of nature had been destroyed would be a sad one. Likewise a world where everyone dresses, thinks and acts the same is also boring.

These themes will permeate all of my columns but I would like to briefly give one example of what I mean. I have a vision for communities in the United States that would, I believe, make people happier, increase diversity and potentially increase efficiency. I lament the destruction of the community in the United States. It has been associated with greater mobility and efficiency but much has been lost in the process. Since we are no longer as dependent on family and neighbors for our very lives, we often neglect these bonds.

I envision a restructuring of our communities to where people cooperate. As families have shrunk and women have entered the workforce, home cooking has declined as well. These two developments are good and are to be expected given how technology has developed in our society. However, I think in the process we have lost much of our culture and have lost a piece of our lives that can make us happy.

I propose an idea that I have experimented with over the past couple years—cooking co-ops. Let’s imagine that there are three families of four people each, who live in the same neighborhood. They would rotate cooking duties, so that you had to cook for 12 people every three days rather than for four people every day. This is much more efficient and allows people to feasibly cook good meals rather than eating out. It also strengthens peoples’ bonds with their neighbors and rejects which could eventually lead to formation of actual culture in America as opposed to our consumer culture which is prone to fads and crass materialism.

This is about the limit of what I can say this time, but I will finish describing my ideal community in the next installment. This was just a taste of what sort of things I plan to talk about. Ultimately, this column will be about being conscious about the social, ecological and cultural decisions that we make as a society.

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