Eric S. Morris: Way of the village
As I ponder the proposed URA and new police station from afar, I am also reading the classic by Lewis Mumford “The City in History.” A few passages from that — on pages 89, 99 and 108, respectively — struck me as particularly apt.
Mumford compares the choices in development of human culture between the way of the village (symbiotic) or the way of the citadel (predatory). “The first path was the path of voluntary co-operation, mutual understanding, wider communication and understanding: Its outcome would be an organic association of a more complex nature, on a higher level than that offered by the village community and its nearby lands. The other was that of predatory domination leading to heartless exploitation and eventually to parasitic enfeeblement: the way of expansion, with its violence, its conflicts, its anxieties, turning the city into an instrument, as Childe properly observes, for the ‘extraction and concentration of the surplus.’ This second form has largely dominated urban history till our own age, and it accounts in no small degree for the enclosure and collapse of one civilization after another.”
As Steamboat Springs faces no external threats, it should follow the former path rather than falling for the traps of the unnecessary latter. As Mumford asks: “Let our subjects be burdened with daily toil that the king and the priesthood may freely breathe?”
Who in Steamboat are the king and priesthood? Are they the proponents of a predatory citadel, with its figuratively walled-off URAs and armed protectors wearing badges?
Mumford later suggests so: “[F]or the guardians of the granary, with the support of an armed soldiery, held powers of life and death over the whole community. It was not for nothing that this great storehouse was within the heavy walls of the citadel, protected against the inhabitants of the city.”
Do we need to burden ourselves with the blunt instrument of yet another URA while building a heavy-walled citadel for the armed soldiery? I believe the answers are clear.
Eric S. Morris
Home place, Indiana, and proud (for now) property owner in Steamboat Springs
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