Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Sunday, April 8, 2018

In the bud

This weekend, I did a couple of runs on land-patches close to my childhood home, tracts that were mostly unsullied by the presence of hominid life forms until fairly recently. By "fairly recently," I mean "until about 15 to 20 years ago." That may not qualify as "recent" by most standards, given that only about 1.14% of dogs alive at this moment were alive on April 8, 2003. But I haven't been a permanent resident of Concord since 2002, meaning that I've missed a lot of goings-on here. Furthermore, my useful life ended somewhere between roughly 1996 and 2001, and as a result, my mind is often stuck a couple of decades in the past, when I sometimes envisioned a future that didn't include being a seething, cynical misanthrope with a strangely persistent pro-social streak.

Yesterday, close to a snowmobile trail that threads its way along a power-line corridor that passes within a hundred yards of my old house in northernmost Concord, I saw a sign that did exactly what it was supposed to do: It succeeded in getting me to investigate an issue of public interest.

As it happens, plans are underway to thread a new set of power lines along the corridor that has held existing high-tension wires for at least 50 years. Some people are not happy, and this blog explains why.

I'm not going to take a position on this, other than to say that if the wires that are there now weren't there, the snowmobile trail that runs at least as far north as Northfield also wouldn't be there, and the running I did as a teenager would have taken a significantly different form. Once the springtime mud is gone for good, that trail is a great deal of fun to run on, or at least was, back when running wasn't something I did between bouts of pondering which part of me to dunk into a massive wood-chipper first.

Relatedly (to use a word I don't even like and have suddenly started using too much), I discovered that a portion of woods close to this snowmobile trail, about a mile south of my old house, has been turned not into a mere side street but into the East Concord version of a gated community.


This summons to mind a couple of paired realities about the construction of things in previously unsettled or thinly settled areas -- mostly new public roads and private homes and housing projects -- that will never change. These realities are:

1) People invariably believe that it's acceptable for them to buy available land and homes if they have the money to do so and the setting appeals to them. The environment or the supposed quality of the neighborhood doesn't enter such people's minds, because, like the grunting, upright swine they are, people want what they want when they want it.

2) People (almost) invariably believe that it is acceptable to uniformly discourage development within, near, or through areas in which they already live. That's because they, being swine, don't think anyone else should get to behave as they have.

Taken together, these premises imply that, most people consider the right level of development and settlement of land that has not been developed to 100 percent of its theoretical capacity to be exactly the level that exists the moment they themselves are moved in. If the one-square-mile "neighborhood" into which they have just relocated now has three houses instead of two, three houses is the most that area can tolerate before a traffic and crime Armageddon ensues. If there are eighteen cul-de-sacs crammed with McMansions in a given suburb and some developer wants to add a nineteeth, thereby boosting the population of this neighborhood by three percent while changing its general character not one whit, most of the residents will fight it, forgetting that just a year or so earlier, they as prospective home-buyers were perceived as invaders.

This reflects the fact that most people are simultaneously logical (within a limited context) and mindless, self-interested shitbags (which is most people's natural state, no matter their proclamations about bonhomie and cooperation). Almost all of us hold the rest of the world to different social and moral standards than the ones to which we believe we ourselves should be held. I frequently pick on Evangelicals because they're too dimwitted and uncouth to mask this, but they're far from alone in exhibiting the sort grisly hypocrisy that makes any reasonable person wish for Homo sapiens to be granted an evolutionary mulligan. Some of us delude ourselves into thinking we don't do this, because we recognize it at some level as a noisome trait, while others make no pretense at harboring anything besides an "I got mine, so fuck off" mentality -- a brand of honesty that is rarely rewarded.

I understand why people don't want roads and houses built close to their dwellings. But they're not living in reality if they think this isn't a natural progression. If they really don't want more neighbors or conduits near them, they should stop agitating for new zoning laws and start calling for people to stop breeding. That is, nip the problem in the bud rather than continually trying to prune an out-of-control bush to a million different likings.

It's a simple concept, and one that virtually no one will ever agree to for a bevy of biological and sociological reasons. There are plenty of living people already, and the world really doesn't need a single additional one. Most people are an animated array of pitiable mistakes, including me, but that's not really the point, which is that everyone believes -- in  most cases in the face of colossal counter-evidence -- that their own kids, extant and proposed, deserve to be here more than anyone else's do. This is an evolutionary imperative, but has no place in a modern world in which it is painfully clear that most of us are bound to live in ways that assure we leave things in considerably worse shape than we found them. And I don't just mean "the environment" -- I, along with most people, don't really give a shit about that as long as I don't have to step over heaps of garbage and have access to clean water. I mean human civilization as a whole. Right now, the most powerful country on the planet has as its duly elected president a squint-eyed pile of shit whose rightful station in life would be mopping the jizz of the backs of the seats in the most lowbrow porn theater on Earth. Or sucking off the guys who patronize such places. That should serve notice of how well we're collectively doing.

Perhaps the best evidence of the futility of this call for systemic anti-natalism is the fact that strongly religious people, who in every culture are the least educated citizens and embrace the dumbest behaviors available to them, love to reproduce. They in effect weaponize their genitals, aiming to overwhelm every other religious tribe by sheer dint of self-replication. Mormons, Muslims, Evangelicals, and (less so in the U.S. but certainly elsewhere) Catholics are in a grotesque race to outbreed one another.

Notice that this is not a eugenics project (although deep down virtually all of us would love for such a thing to unfold organically). It's a polite request for people to just stop littering the Earth with more human trash. That way, we wouldn't have to bitch at each other to quit building more roads and houses where our oh-so-precious dwellings are situated, because we wouldn't need any more of them.



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