Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hoedown at the fetish fair

As an enhancement to what I like to think of as my writerly career, I subscribe to MediaBistro, a service that offers publishing-industry job listings, tips on pitching magazines and book publishers, and general support for writers editors and other folks in media. All the various forms of publishing tend to be New York-centric, so one of the fringe benefits of my membership is a subscription to New York magazine. Yep, it's a little odd to sit on my patio with a view of Mingus Mountain, listening to the howls of the coyotes, while paging through articles about dining and nightlife in the most urban setting in the United States.

It shouldn't be a completely alien experience, of course. I'm a former New Yorker myself--in fact, I used to attend the floating cocktail parties thrown by Laurel Touby that eventually evolved into MediaBistro. But that was a lifetime ago (at least, it seems like a lifetime after I've been changing diapers). I once lived in a fifth-floor walk-up and made 9pm dinner reservations with plans to catch a band afterward; I now live at the end of a dirt road and the local restaurants close their kitchens at 9pm--which is fine because I'm generally in bed by 9:30.

In fact, despite my New York roots, reading New York is a lot like reading a travel brochure for Papua New Guinea--except that I recognize more of the names. Life in rural northern Arizona is dramatically different from that in New York City, and I've pretty much gone native (but I still have my old punk rock record collection--and a functioning turntable).

I'm tempted to drop a copy of New York off with my neighbors, who raise horses and pigs and have never been east of the Mississippi River. I think it would be a bit like randomly pasting together words and handing them the results--they'd recognize the language, but wouldn't extract much meaning. "What's rent control?" "Where's Loisada?" "What's a 'pro-leather bias' and why would it lead something called a 'community board' to approve a ... whoah ... does that say 'fetish fair?'"

I'm not trying to suggest that life in New York City is inherently better or worse than life in rural Arizona--both places have their pluses and minuses, and you pick the one that works for you. But I am saying that life in this country is incredibly diverse--to the point of mutual incomprehensibility in many cases. I think we sometimes paper over the differences in lifestyle, preferences and culture for the sake of portraying some kind of unified "America" that doesn't really exist.

There's a danger in ignoring such diversity as we move ever closer to top-down, one-size-fits-all governance. The fact is, there's little likelihood that policies cooked up in Washington, D.C. will work equally well (or poorly) across a huge country with areas as different as the West Village and Ash Fork, Arizona. These places are just too different to have programs, laws and taxes imposed from above. Even if you come up with a scheme that works perfectly in one of these places (I doubt you can do that, but for the sake of argument ...), it's probably going to be completely inappropriate when applied to the other.

So the more the federal government involves itself in the lives of all Americans, the more it's bound to create conflicts that don't need to exist. You see, rural Arizona and New York City don't have to care about their differences unless they're being forced to swallow each other's policies. When that happens, benign tolerance inevitably turns into sniping and mutual opposition.

By trying to force us together, the rule-from-the-center types drive us apart.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 18, 2009 11:33 PM  

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