Normalizing Ugliness and Subversion

New fountain in Vienna expresses contempt for the city and its inhabitants.

I’ve often wondered what someone who grew up in Vienna would think if he were suddenly transported to once beautiful San Francisco and confronted with the spectacle of thousands of homeless people living on sidewalks and using them as latrines.

I believe he would be so shocked by the squalor, ruin, and indignity of it that he would scarcely believe it possible in a country that considers itself civilized. He would literally say to himself, “This can’t be real.”

For a while in the 1990s, the City of Vienna tolerated drug addicts loitering around the Karlsplatz subway station, but eventually changed the policy because the city’s inhabitants objected to it. By longstanding tradition going back to the Vienna’s rapid growth in the 19th century—guided by very talented and civic-minded urban planners—the inhabitants of Vienna have come to regard their city a beautiful, clean, and orderly place, celebrated in the popular folksong “Wien, Wien, nur du allein” (Vienna, Vienna, only you alone).

Those who now run the City of Vienna seem to understand that the spectacle of dehumanization, expressed by actual humans living in abject squalor on the streets, would not be tolerated. Another approach to normalizing ugliness and the subversion of dignity is to express it in a public monument.

This morning I saw the news that the City of Vienna recently unveiled a new fountain in the Favoriten district near the West Train Station on which it spent 1.8 million Euros of taxpayer money.

Note the revolting distortion of what appears to be a vaguely female figure wearing a mask. This is an expression of pure hatred and contempt for humanity. The poor people of Favoriten who walk past it every day will eventually grow accustomed to the dread and unease they will feel when they see it.

The fountain is being billed by incredibly stupid district administrators as “a place for children to cool off on hot summer days.” Those responsible for it know that kids will, during those magical summers of childhood, be imprinted with this monstrosity. They will ask their mothers to take them to play in the fountain, and the women will also resign themselves to the ugliness of it.

Some readers of this Substack have suggested that my frequent forays into subjects outside of Dr. McCullough’s focus on medicine and public health are a distraction. I disagree. State public health policies are an expression of the exact same spirit that animated the decision to erect this monument in a public square in Vienna. With such gestures, the state is telling the citizenry: “Your belief in the dignity and inalienable rights of man is no longer tenable. Individual men and women are nothing.

This originally appeared on Courageous Discourse.