procedures became more important than visions
October 24, 2011, 10:30 pm
Filed under: betaCITY, Cities, density, Suburbs | Tags: ,

The writer Geuze puts the blame for our disastrous and bland suburban environments squarely on bored, shopping addicted baby boomers who threw over real planning for compromise in endless meetings, and who substituted intellectual freedom for freedom to consume.  It’s past time to lay blame.

Geuze describes their resultant, dystopian world:  a perfect division of classes across the Dutch landscape: the rich in the cities’ canal houses, the middle class in the lowlands and the poor in the leftovers.

If their decadence and ennui created the problem then surely there is a solution of sorts in finding and removing the source of the boredom and laziness.  There are a lot of people thinking about this topic.  For instance, several countries are reassessing the emphasis of GDP for measuring quality of life for their citizens.  France, among other countries, is rewriting its policy to reflect a broader range of indicators, which should have a real impact on French life in the years to come.

Think about how the idea that GDP – a money and banking based measure – has come to dominate our politics and how that could lead to boredom.  GDP has no mention of – or a very real diminishment of – other essential and cherished human qualities like education, leisure, social fulfillment, opportunity, challenge, belonging, and the one everyone’s talking about – happiness.  With all these removed and replaced by money, it’s no wonder that everyone’s bored and depressed, to say nothing of isolated and cruel.

So, in a blame averse world, maybe it’s time to lay some blame.  Maybe not so much on the boomers themselves as on their philosophies of self enrichment and actualization and accumulation:  the unchallenged idea of GDP; the work yourself to the bone ethic; and analytic and bureaucratic processes that grind on with no discernible social and political vision.

Here is the excerpt from Roemer van Toorn’s article:

In his article “The betrayal of the babyboomers” Geuze explained how the ideal of freedom and solidarity of the generation born after the Second World War shifted under the influence of globalization of intellectual freedom into a freedom of choice as consumer. Geuze showed that “The spirit of the babyboom generation got lost in a boring consumption addicted society full of decadent behaviour.” With the babyboomers, procedures became more important than visions. Society has simply become too complex according to the babyboomers to define a coherent vision. The famous visionary planning and infrastructural projects of the past in the Netherlands often converging with the fight against water, as developed by professionals in the name of the public, are overruled today by endless meetings generating a landscape consensus full of compromises where nobody takes the responsibility for the end result. What you see from your window when you drive through the Netherlands is the result of endless meetings. The consequences for the Netherlands are devastating says Geuze. “Blind for reality and deaf for critique, the babyboomers let suburbanization happen, without even first empowering the city. (…) The urban middleclass was sucked into the lowlands of the polders, while the elite stayed on the high grounds and in the canal houses, and the immigrants and subsidy dependent people where abandoned to the most problematic neighbourhoods.” This generation without pride or shame, Geuze remarked, will never answer why it failed to create a new promised land.

Contesting Neoliberal Urbanization, Roemer van Toorn


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