Would the implementation of this vision necessarily bring about increased governmental control of our lives? It could.
Restructuring cities in the way that I have described could mean governmental control over the operation of businesses. It could mean extensive environmental legislation. It could mean tight regulations over construction and transportation. It could mean strict wage controls and governmental management of consumer behavior.
If this is a frightening idea to you, well, then you have reason to be scared. American government, at all levels, already is using these kinds of controls. The question isn't whether there would be governmental control over the behavior of citizens, but what form that control would take and for what purposes the control would be used.
Why is governmental control thought of by so many people as such a bad thing? At some level, I think that governmental control is resented by many people because they see it as interfering with their individuality. We all like to think that we have better ideas than most other people, that if everyone else would just listen to us, the world would be a better place.
Living in a democracy, what are the limits of our ability to have everyone else listen to us? There are practical limits, such as access to media and the resources of competing points of view. These are real limits, and the unequal control over means of communication is one of the most troubling problems of our society today.
But really now, does lack of access to media really account for most the lack of citizen input into the democratic process? I doubt it. Much of the lack of input has to do with the fact that many of us don't really know what we want to say. After all, we haven't had much practice. Most of us don't speak up because it has never occured to us that we could.
What does this have to do with the transformation of our cities from industrial and commercial wastelands into green, community-rich centers? Everything, if we want the change to last.
Sustainable change has to be voluntary, popular change. A significant transformation of our cities could never be mandated from a national level because it requires a radical alteration in the lives of ordinary citizens. The only way that change will happen is if people want it to happen.
If we want to rebuild our cities, then we have to convince others that the project will be worthwhile. This doesn't mean just calling our representative in Congress and telling him or her how to vote on the next bill that comes through. It means spreading the word ourselves, talking with neighbors and friends. It means writing our ideas down and getting them published by whatever means possible, from the city newspaper to our own small handbills. It means trying to live as if the city were already what we wanted it to be. It means making the change ourselves.
When there is a need, we have the right, the ability, and the responsibility to communicate with others and build a base of support so that the government will have the power to enact the policies that we desire. Is that communism? Is that socialism? What does it matter? I call it democracy, government by those people who have enough guts to stand up and be heard.
Don't let us do all the talking. Talk back!
We're eager for your contribution. Get your thoughts down, organize them coherently into an irregular essay, then submit it to us for publication!