A buzzing swarm of “I’s,” or: any Friday night on Third Avenue in the Thirties
What we call morality began in the mores, the life-conserving customs, of the village. When these primary bonds dissolve, when the intimate visible community ceases to be a watchful, identifiable, deeply concerned group [emphasis added], then the “We” becomes a buzzing swarm of “I’s,” and secondary ties and allegiances become too feeble to halt the disintegration of the urban community.
Lewis Mumford, from 1961’s The City in History. A profoundly conservative viewpoint, to be sure, but for all that one that identifiably bears some resemblance to what I can see around me.
Not that I’m at all exempting myself from this: I’m as bad, surely as high-maintenance and self-important as anyone else in this crypto- or crapto-Darwinian scrum we dignify with the tag of “neighborhood.” Hard to see a way out, either: the valuations inscribed in our market economy, the local architectonic microstructure, and especially the ways these things dock with our own homegrown psychopathologies all seem to conspire against it.
I’m not happy about it, but I don’t have the foggiest idea what to do about any of it. Except “leave,” maybe – but that’s a cop-out, and not any kind of an answer.