[EAS]Building Democracy

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Jul 16 21:14:05 EDT 2003

Subject:   Building Democracy

   ... Out of What?


That is the title of an article by David Brooks in the Atlantic
Monthly that particularly resonated with me, partly because of my
origins in WWII Europe. Yes, I know this mailing isn't about
technology. Neither are a lot of the most deeply vexing problems of
the day. The article is short, and worth reading. It begins

> In the early 1990s, while covering the decline and fall of the
> Soviet Union, I observed a curious phenomenon. The inside of every
> apartment I visited was tidy and clean. But every building's
> vestibule, hallways, and stairs were filthy and rancid. The floors
> looked as if they'd never been mopped; lights were burned out; the
> air reeked of urine. I started asking people why they didn't get
> together to clean up the hallways. After all, I'd say, there are
> four or five families living on your floor. A half hour's shared
> work and it would be done.
> They'd give various reasons: The neighbor on this side is an
> alcoholic. The neighbor on that side we never see. But the real
> reason was that after seven decades of living under totalitarianism,
> they didn't know whom they could trust; they didn't know if their
> neighbors belonged to the secret police. By that time citizens were
> no longer being sent off in large numbers to the gulags for minor or
> manufactured crimes, but the bonds of normal society had been
> destroyed. People's souls had been damaged by decades of terror and
> mass murder.

Oh Prophet, speak to us of the freedom that arises when tyranny is destroyed.  --PJK

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