Friday, March 13, 2009

The measure of man

Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, received the Philadelphia Liberty Medal at Independence Hall on July 4, 1994. Here's an excerpt of his remarks.

"We may know immeasurably more about the universe than our ancestors did, and yet it increasingly seems they knew something more essential about it than we do, something that escapes us.The same thing is true of the nature of ourselves. The more thoroughly all of our organs and their functions, their internal structure and the biochemical reactions that take place within them, are described, the more we seem to fail to grasp the spirit, the purpose, and meaning of the system that they create together and that we experience as our unique self."

Drawing by Benjamin Eiband.

The importance of good places

When you degrade the public realm, you automatically degrade the human being.

We don't need places that tell us, "YOU ARE NOT LOVED".

We need places that are meaninful, that have quality and character, that help us remember who we are.

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It's an emotional experience listening to James Howard Kunstler's view about public spaces and the need to transform them in a physical manifestation of common good.
I highly recommend it:

Summer Altstadtfest, Freising, 2008

Pinheiros riverbanks with its multi-lane highway, São Paulo, 2007

Here are some quotes from Kunstler's speech. (The world's financial crisis was not that bad, as he gave this speech. But it is getting worse each day. His comments apply not just for americans, but obviously for all of us.)

"We gotta a lot of work to do."

"We are sleep-walking into the future. We are not ready for what's coming at us."

"So I urge you all, to do what you can."

"Be prepared to be good neighbours."

"Be prepared to find vocations."

"Please, stop referring to yourselves as consumers."

"Consumers are different than citizens."

"And as long as you are using that word 'consumer' in the public discussion, you will be degrading the quality of the discussion we are having and we're gonna continue being clueless going into this very difficult future, that we face."