“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”
- Albert Einstein
I lifted this quote from the blog of Eolake Stobblehouse.
The quote struck me because I currently live under a government that has decided to spend ever more money and resources to convince me to believe that all of us live in a totally hostile universe. We don’t talk to strangers, we don’t negotiate with “terrorists” (which is defined as pretty much anyone who isn’t “us.”
What has always struck me about traveling in Europe was the concept of the bar. The first time I went to Paris, I was amazed that expensive cars could be left on city streets late at night with their convertable tops down (this was the 70s, a gentler, kinder time). The reason, of course, was that there were bars everywhere, and people sitting out on the sidewalk, enjoying a drink, a coffee, an ice cream. The concept (which should be a basic point in public space planning) was that if you flooded a street with good people then bad people contemplating an easy mark would give up or shy away. And they do.
In the US, a bar is generally believed to be a crime magnet. Want to start one? Well, you’ll have to put up with the fact that people will flood city hall with tales of drunken rampages that threaten private and public property—not to mention general property values. You will have to fight tooth and nail to get a bar of your own.
And you know what? Those are real claims. A bar in the US encourages the drinking of alcohol in an isolated environment. Mirrors behind the bar provide drinkers with the illusion of a friend that looks just like them. You’re not drinking alone! Drink up!
I am one of those people who believes that the world is composed mainly of good people. I know that encouraging people to be good is an easier way to fight crime than trying to discourage evil. Name one USian “war on…” that has ever worked as advertised.
By ghettoizing bars, and making them off limits to families, we create an anti-social space by design. By encouraging good people to to go for coffee or ice cream to bars, Europeans flood the public space with family-value goodness that threatens evil by its very numbers—and values.
Your perception of the world is based on beliefs. Beliefs by definition can’t be proven, but they can be the basic building blocks of a just society.
I just wish I could go down to the bar and have a gelato right now.