Suburbs are Secular Necropolises

Many years ago, I noticed something odd about the homes of people in western countries in general and north America in particular. While most people lived in medium to large houses full of things, they were remarkably deficient as far as people were concerned. Let me explain the concept in a bit more detail..

The homes of people in poorer countries are overcrowded and deficient in things. Therefore as living standards rise you would expect people to live in bigger homes with more things. However there will be a point when the amount of house space per person would be large enough to effectively isolate them in their own bubble- even without ubiquitous internet access. Given that humans are social animals, there should be a point where the extra house space per person would have negative utility. But we don’t see that in western countries.

There is a strong cultural preference 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. However unlike the mansions of rich people from previous eras, these houses often have 1-2 residents. It is not uncommon for a well off 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 much 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? 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 trash morons often support ‘free market’ economic policies that pauperize them simply because the ideology offers a false promise of prosperity for that person. It appears that a strong wish to believe a dream can override any rational considerations. Nor is such behavior new as even ancient Egyptians of average means used to spend 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. 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 devoid of external human presence?

As an external observer, the housing preferences of people in western countries are suggestive of an autistic personality who is too 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 enough to be considered an aberration, rather than the norm it was for most of human history. So why spend more effort on isolating yourself from other human beings?

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

While people in previous eras were as greedy and money crazy as those who live today, most of them did so to enjoy the high 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 that was meant 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. I have to say that Egyptians were much more honest about the nature of their beliefs than modern people in western countries.

What do you think? Comments?

This entry was posted in Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism, Thoughts on Economics. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Suburbs are Secular Necropolises

  1. You have great insights ‘outside the box’… When I get rich I’ll hire you!! But considering how things are going don’t hold your breath on that one…

    “Tombs” are an apt and meaningful metaphor for the whole suburb dream! I loved the 500 square foot ‘home’ I’d built myself over the garage and rented out the rest of the house! It was all ll I needed. Wells Fargo and the Establishment ‘needed’ it more.

    Response to OCC: TBTF and the Housing Collapse
    http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2012/04/response-to-occ-tbtf-and-housing.html

    Living in an insane culture is interesting… but I’d rather be viewing it from a distance.

  2. DieHard says:

    That’s an interesting point made in this post that most people who buy expensive houses and vehicles are rarely there to even enjoy them. Then there is the stress and added costs of insurance and repairs and even security systems that turn their home into a fancy prison. Then maybe they will be in their house 12 hours a day with 8 of those hours being asleep and a few hours watching tv before they have to commute to a job they hate so much it’s as if they are already dead while they “work” for their boss until they finally retire and are free so for those few years it’s finally like an after-death (because they were basically dead since they were in prison schools and then prison “work that they hated”). That’s a good way to make modern wage slaves is by giving the slave some incentive/reward to them such as a higher salary so they can then buy more expensive things to subdue themselves where they have the illusion of ownership that’s really renting until estate taxes or the State takes the property back after the slave/worker is gone. I would rather do “work” that I at least like to do because I have an interest in the topic and make less money and have less status. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a house and vehicles I would rather spend the time and money on “experiences” that I want to do.

  3. You know something? The thing that most impressed me from the USA (I am a Mexican who has been sent on business trips to the USA) is the horrendous lack of human contact in the suburbs. Really scaring.

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  5. webe says:

    The most telling concept is that of the external world.

    The cities are full of sprawling commercial, industrial and transportation infrastructure which doesn’t do anyone any good, except that it forms the means of production. People want cars and houses outside the city to get away from the ugliness, crime and desparation. The very rich make traditional villages beyond the city into expensive exurbia where they can pretend to partake in some semblance of the goold old traditional way of life. We suffer from the complete inversion of means and ends, a kind of ultra-fetishism.

    For the native Indians and even for medieval serfs there was no such thing as the external world. There was only one world, the world they were in, full of enchantment, magic, stories, horror, demons, and other people. There was not yet a world of “dead” matter.

  6. imnobody says:

    I am an European and I agree with the Mexican guy. American people are very individualistic and they love to be alone. I wonder whether this is a legacy of the Far West, where farms were few and far between. A family could spend much of the year without interacting with any stranger. Or maybe it is that America is based on the Enlightenment religion which is individualistic (this follows the individualistic Calvinist religion of the founders).

    (By the way, I see that you have bought the Enlightenment religion: confusing reason with scientific rationality and making this the only way of knowing truth, as if reason were not fallible, as if reason were not the product of the limited brain of a naked monkey in an isolated planet, as if reason were not more than scientific rationality. Thinking that reason is the only way for truth is not rational. The Goddess Reason.)

    Whatever the cause, American people is not very social. I remember walking through the halls of my workplace, crossing a co-worker and he didn’t say “Hello” to me and didn’t acknowledge my presence. In my culture, this is unthinkably rude. Only sworn enemies don’t greet themselves.

    I lived in Houston (in the city, not the suburbs) and I felt lonely, in a city with millions of inhabitants. I wrote in an Internet forum. “America is a lonely place” and lots of Americans agreed.

    People seem proud to be individualistic. I saw Texans bragging about Texan individualism. In my country, individualism is considered a way of selfishness, not something to be celebrated. Individualism in America is visible in many expressions: “Leave me alone”, “Don’t mess with my things!”, “Not in my backyard!” The American epic involves a lone American hero, fighting the evil by his own (High Noon), becoming a self-made man by his own (read The Wall Street Journal when it writes about successful entrepreneurs). But nobody makes it on his own.

    So I guess when suburbs were built American people couldn’t wait to get away from the city so they could be left alone and don’t talk to any person in a circle of 10 miles. So yes, it’s about the afterlife, but not because of tombs, but because being alone and not having any kind of social interaction is the American version of heaven.

  7. MeMyselfI says:

    Reason #1: distortions from the tax code.

    Reason #2: it is the sociopaths that usually make the most money in our present system. Most of them would rather NOT be around people. So, they build what you describe with thier wealth.

  8. jk-phd says:

    You overlooked how diversity leads to people withdrawing from community and social contact. Here’s the scientific evidence I summarized in 2008:
    Breakdown of Social Networks and Trust
    Harvard Professor Putnam surveyed 41 selected communities in the United States to determine what factors influence social capital (Putnam, 2007). Social capital is defined as “social networks and the associated norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness.” His basic finding is that trust, altruism, and community cooperation is lower in ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Where social capital is higher, children grow up healthier, safer and better educated; people live longer, healthier lives; and democracy and the economy work better. Diversity, on the other hand, can lead to more creativity (for example, more Nobel laureates, National Academy of Science memberships, and academy awards). In support of his findings, Putnam cited a study performed at the county level that found counties with greater ethnic diversity were less socially connected (Rupasingha, 2006).
    Putnam’s “Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey,” conducted in 2000, surveyed nearly 30,000 respondents representative of the 41 communities and contained a sample of 3,000 representatives of the nation as a whole (Putnam, 2007). Los Angeles and San Francisco were among the most ethnically diverse “human habitations in history,” but had interracial trust measures that were relatively low, only half those found in New Hampshire and Montana. People in areas of greater diversity have lower confidence in local government and the news media, vote less often, are less likely to work on community projects, give to charity and volunteer less often, have fewer friends, have less perceived happiness and quality of life, and spend more time watching television. In short, members of diverse communities tend to withdraw more. The educated, well-off homeowners tended to be more trusting and young people, Blacks, and Hispanics, less so. Fundamental to this review, a high level of “immigration seems to have a somewhat more consistent and powerful effect” in terms of the negative influence on social capital than does ethnic diversity even after correcting for confounders.
    Putnam found that social capital did not improve in communities that had diverse populations in 1980 and 1990 compared with communities that became diverse more recently in 2000 (Putnam, 2007). He speculated that social capital would increase over long time periods based partly on the immigration experience in the early 1900s. Putnam recommends that communities with high rates of immigration should reconstruct social identities (both immigrants and native-born) by assimilation and hyphenated identities that help ethnic groups see themselves as “members of a shared group with a shared identity.”
    In 2007, New America Media conducted a telephone poll of 1,105 African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic adults. The poll supported Putnam’s findings. The sample was designed to be representative of the adult population of the three major racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. The poll was conducted in areas of the country that have significant (10 percent or more) African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic populations. The three groups seem more trusting of whites than of each other. The poll found that 61 percent of Hispanics, 54 percent of Asians and 47 percent of African-Americans would rather do business with whites than with members of the other two groups.
    In addition, 44 percent of Hispanics and 47 percent of Asians are “generally afraid of African-Americans because they are responsible for most of the crime.” Meanwhile, 46 percent of Hispanics and 52 percent of African-Americans believe “most Asian business owners do not treat them with respect.” And half of African Americans feel threatened by Latin American immigrants because “they are taking jobs, housing and political power away from the Black community.” The margin of error for the Asian-American sample (400 interviews), the Hispanic sample (355 interviews) and the African-American sample (350 interviews) is approximately 5 percentage points.

    New American Media.
    2007 “Deep Divisions, Shared Destiny – A Poll of African Americans, Hispanic, and Asian Americans on Race Relations.” December 12, 2007.
    http://media.newamericamedia.org/images/polls/race/exec_summary.pdf

    Putnam, R. D.
    2007 “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the twenty-first century: The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture.” Scandinavian Political Studies 30(2):137-174.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9477.2007.00176.x/full

    Rupasingha, A., Goetz, S. J., and D. Freshwater.
    2006 “The production of social capital in US counties.” Journal of Socio-Economics 35:83- 101. http://www.nercrd.psu.edu/Social_Capital/ProductionOfSocialCapital.pdf

  9. Comment_Whatever says:

    “Individualism” is the false answer to why people want to be alone. The obvious answers no one wants to say.

    1.Because Americans fucking suck.

    2.Because America told them to kneel or fuck off and they fucked off. Yeah America.

    American are among the least individualistic people on the face of this earth.

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  11. Brad says:

    The isolationism that many Americans strive towards is really nothing more than a modern extension of Dark Ages repression from the King & the Church.

    Every government since Rome has played a coy game of Divide & Conquer by spreading Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt. It starts with govt. propaganda paid for with your tax dollars. A constant stream of govt. media announcements about AIDS, crime & drugs…replete with 1-800-TIP phone numbers that YOU can use to become part of the Gestapo & BUST on your neighbors!

    It’s an ugly system designed ONLY to pit every man AGAINST the next!

    Along the way, the govt. is more than happy to promote & sponsor private efforts that help & reinforce their own cause. Organisations like MADD have become legalised terrorism by FORCING local governments to adopt so-called “Zero Tolerance” policies. This allows the police to bully & railroad people who were NEVER intoxicated (breathalyzer reading 0.01) into EXPENSIVE & time consuming court proceedings and ‘education programs’. Costs for a first time offender can now easily reach $20,000.00

    The MADD propaganda machine alone has driven liquor establishment liability insurance premiums to skyrocket, doubling the price of a drink. It has also caused many to AVOID the nightclubs & taverns completely. Better to STAY HOME and stay SAFE, than risk the angry mob on the street who will devour you!

    Where the govt. leaves off, the Church and home-spun rhetoric are glad to pick-up. “Trust No One”, “You never know WHO you’re talking to!”, and “You can ONLY trust FAMILY!” THESE are the words that many modern folks LIVE BY. And it isn’t bringing any of them closer together.

    New technology has escalated the Gestapo wars. You’ll never know when the police, the FBI, or maybe your employer attaches a GPS tracking device to your car. And YOU thought you had a “right” to go wherever you wanted to…THINK AGAIN!

    You wonder WHY people are retreating into their homes? GET REAL!

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