article-single

Be Sociable, Not Socialist

Recently I had the pleasure of hosting an old student of mine and his family. He was an excellent engineering student but went on to a career in medicine. The conversation came around to the state of the US healthcare system. I made the point that I recognize a social responsibility for general healthcare but I oppose the state fulfilling it. That is, I am fully committed to being sociable, to be part of a real community. But I am totally opposed to socialism. The clear and present danger today are the globalists, the citizens of the world, who are not members of any community.

Now I am retired and take a good walk of more than an hour around town almost everyday. Listed below is a small sample of what I see to illustrate what I believe is “being sociable.”

For well over a hundred years underground tunnels were mined for a mix of limestone and clay that made the white pigment, Blanc de Meudon. The mine closed in 1925, although the galleries had been used for other purposes since then such as mushroom farming. The excavated spoil for the construction of a new metro line around the periphery of Paris in preparation of the 2024 Olympics has been placed in the old Blanc de Meudon mine. There is local opposition that believes this will destroy a part of the Meudonais patrimony. In Meudon, I believe the local government is part of the community. The city says that the ground is being made more stable and that none of the visitable galleries will be filled. I don’t know who is in the right in this case. But I am glad there is a local and vocal opposition to question even the worthwhile projects

The old mine of Blanc de Meudon is at the heart of a controversy. The city and the opponents make their cases to the public.

One of the most important modes of sustaining sociability over time is through architecture. Jonathan Pageau in conversation with Katherine at Choose Agape (the first 10 minutes) states the fundamental importance of participation in art and that the most important is the art of architecture; because we all must participate in it, live within it, all of the time. It is the owners and architects, acting in their own interest, that give each structure an individuality that is also harmonious to the surrounding buildings. This is acting sociable like the rich capitalists of Barcelona who commissioned Gaudi to create the masterpieces that are gifts to the world.

Entrance to a hidden park that was the garden of the estate of Gabriel Thomas (Gilbert Gauer was a mayor of Meudon), a rich banker who was involved in many public projects. This street was part of the gardens of the chateau of Madame de Pompadour in the 18th century.

A simple apartment house topped with a colorful cornice. The inviting door to another apartment house.

This is an apartment complex (see the building hidden in the trees to the right) built on the grounds of this grand house. To the right is a classic example of the architecture of the 2nd Empire in the middle of the 19th century. A developer wants to build new houses on the estate. A local historian is trying to save the building. The trees on this property are also magnificent.

Meudon’s latitude is 48.8N, farther north than Quebec City (46.8N) yet this house has a southern feel with a palm tree by the door. A magnificent house on the Avenue de Chateau. Note the lovely windows on the Mansard roof, the glass awning over the door, and the colorful stone work on the right.

It is not only the rich and old houses that have the individual touch. These more modest houses (but they are all expensive in Meudon) also have colorful distinctions. And the modern house has rich colored wood and the flowering bush to welcome visitors up to the door.

The relatively simple art deco train station at Meudon. Its curves are mirrored in the adjacent building. The private and public displays of flowers are ubiquitous throughout the town.

What I have described is not just a French or European thing. This kind of sociability is possible in the US. In my experience the best example is in Easton, PA. This old town (founded by William Penn’s son in 1752 had a lively history but by the end of the 20th century was in a post-industrial malaise. Somehow, due to the efforts of people like my friends (see below) much of the downtown was saved and restored. The College Hill neighborhood is an extraordinary early suburban experiment that still works today.

My old friends in Easton epitomize what I am trying to explain. For their own enjoyment and to make money they have restored and brought life to old buildings. In doing so they have given so much (Porters Pub and Two Rivers Brewing Company) to all the inhabitants and visitors to the town.

Perhaps what I am trying to explain will make more sense if I give an example of what I think is being anti-sociable. Theodore Darymple recently commented on the current attraction to the ugly and the evil, “But is it obvious that women are not the only ones with an antinomian attraction to the ugly, the bad, and the evil [in relation to Johnny Depp]. In fact, one could almost say that it is the prevailing propensity of our time. It clearly exists, for example, in architecture. I strongly recommend that you look at the photograph of the city of Arles, in the South of France, posted on David Brussat’s architectural blog, if you doubt it.”

Gehry’s Luma Tower in the context of historic Arles, France. (whitewall.com)

I thank Mr Rockwell who has shown unending patience to keep publishing my expositions on my little corner of the world. Furthermore, LRC readers have my gratitude for having read thus far. I recognize the relative unimportance of my own conditions. I am not even an expert on architecture. I hope my descriptions are not pretentious, but that they reflect only the simple pleasures that come with the simple appreciation of what is beautiful in the world. I want to support those who invest and care for my town. That is the message I hope to pass on, to appreciate and support making your own towns beautiful places to live by being sociable, not socialist. Afterall, as The Bionic Mosquito stated, “We don’t move toward liberty without first addressing this culture.”