Archive for June 2, 2012

Suburbs are Secular Necropolises

June 2, 2012 12 comments

Many years ago, I noticed something odd about the homes of people in western countries in general and USA in particular. While most people lived in medium to large houses full of things, they were remarkably deficient as far as people were concerned. But what do I mean by people deficient and how is that different from, say, uncrowded? Well.. let me explain.

As many of you know, the homes of people in poorer countries are often overcrowded and deficient in things. Therefore as living standards rise, people in those countries often move into in bigger homes with more things. However there is a point when the amount of space per person reaches a point where it effectively isolates them in their own bubble. In other words, there should be a point where the extra space per person should have negative utility. But we don’t see that in western countries, especially in USA.

There is a strong cultural preference in the west to isolate yourself from other people and the rest of the world. Furthermore, this preference is not limited to certain social classes and is indeed the default behavior of people in those countries. It is as if no house is big enough or luxurious enough for them. However unlike the mansions of rich people from previous eras, these houses often have no more than 1-2 residents. For example- it is not uncommon for a well off older couple to live in a large house with lots of things outside city limits even if they have no kids and jobs that keep them away from their big-ass house.

It simply does not make sense for people to commute long distances and work their ass off to afford a large and luxurious house that they hardly live in. So why do people do that anyway? What makes them prefer and strive for such an irrational choice?

In my opinion, most obviously bizarre human behavior can be explained by belief in some form of religion or ideology. As many of you might have noticed- poor white idiots often support ‘free market’ economic policies that pauperize them because the ideology offers a false promise of unlimited prosperity for that person. It appears that a strong wish to believe a dream or delusion can often override any rational considerations. Nor is such behavior new, since even ancient Egyptians of average means spent a lot of resources and effort on mummification and other preparations for the afterlife. Heck, they even built necropolises (cities of the dead aka giant and ornate graveyards) to house their dead.

The whole idea that life after death is possible might seem absurd to a rational person in any era, but the religious beliefs of many ancient civilizations were based around such ideas. While we can understand the desire to live forever, it alone cannot explain the ridiculous amount of resources spent on preparing and housing the dead in their afterlife. Only a complex and sophistic religious-type ideology can make the majority of people go along with something as ridiculous as mummifying and housing the dead on an industrial scale. In the case of ancient Egypt- a complex web of religious, mythological, social and economic beliefs and institutions perpetuated this absurdity.

So how can that help us understand why most people in western countries prefer to live in large houses with many things but almost devoid of human presence?

As an external observer, the housing preferences of people in western countries would suggest an autistic personality afraid of the external world or interactions which might disrupt their carefully arranged world. But what are they afraid of? The world has become progressively safer over the last 100 years. Injury or death due to violence and strangers is infrequent in the west enough to be considered an aberration, rather than the norm it was for most of human history. So why spend so much effort on isolating yourself from other human beings?

I believe that the answer lies in the predominant religion of our era- namely, accumulating money for its own sake.

While people in previous eras were as greedy and obsessed with money as those alive today, most did so in order to enjoy the good life. There is a reason that the castles, mansions and palaces of previous eras were full of people beyond those who owned the place. Money was something to be spent on things and services to make life more fun and you cannot party by yourself. Therefore the abodes of the rich of previous eras were full of people and life. Today the homes of the rich and middle class are full of inanimate things and emptiness because the secular religion of our era dictates that making money for its own sake is the highest purpose in life.

It seems that contemporary western culture frowns on people spending money to have fun- debauched or not. The overwhelming message is that people should keep on working and acting busy to justify their income rather than spend it and have fun. There is also a secular version of heaven whereby old people can supposedly enjoy their “golden years” after retiring from their jobs.

Large suburban, and exurban, houses should therefore be seen as the functional equivalent of the elaborate Egyptian burial complexes. Both modern suburban houses and Egyptian tombs were built at great expense to house people in their afterlife. For ancient Egyptians, afterlife started after you were dead. Today, afterlife starts after your retirement. At least, ancient Egyptians were far more upfront about the nature of their beliefs than contemporary people living in western countries.

What do you think? Comments?