Escaping Chicago’s Obsolescence

February 16, 2023

Chicago needs to move forward

For a place, anyplace, to escape the fog of obsolete constraints is a bottom-up process of people that requires the top-down collaboration of organizations. Not all regulations are bad. After strip mining away the politics, the essence of the green movement is precisely the visibility that some of the old “rules” have become huge obstacles. Obstacles to progress? No, obstacles to a more natural lifestyle in the present, where communities interact carefully and generously.   

Leading by deleting came from Murray Gell-Mann, the inventor of Quarks, the sub-atomic flavored particles eventually found years later. Well, he didn’t say leading by deleting, but he impressed upon listeners that to do something new, one must negate an obsolete part, thinking, or object of the existing situation. While talking about particle physics, he could have been speaking about the evolution of language. Or architecture at the beginning of construction: A trauma occurs while tearing up the ground to build a foundation. It can be a bit terrifying: It negates the existing condition. And yet it is the only way to build.

Ideologies are dangerous because they prevent us from clear-eyed assessments of the existing condition, embedded with history, that confront us. Ideologues in the past have harmed people and our collective Chicago. It hurts to mention the severe baddies like a devil in the white city, followed by more: Al Capone, Jeff Fort, and John Wayne Gacy. Lacking a broad-minded assessment, our actions might not be better. The Left–Right divisiveness looms large regardless of the source: In current U.S. politics, in centrally controlled media, and worse, in our consciousness. This binary, not the male-female adaptive advantages which dominate multicellular life forms, is problematic. Divisive politics, media, and thinking lack humanity and, if we follow, we will become binary automatons.

Instead of ideologically haranguing the Italians for Chicago sculptures we could acknowledge that Tony Esposito made many saves. Quick actions, the ones we take based on fairness in our communities and wide-eyed observations, emerge. Another Italian, Italo Calvino, illuminates that even for writers of fiction everything begins with an image. In fact, he says, “images rain down from above.” They come to us while we consider a predicament. After mastering patience, confidence, and courage, we initiate action after the images arrive.

Ultimately, clear thinking about what to negate in order to move forward comes from inside us. This was the surprise that Murray Gell-Mann communicated about his colleague Paul Dirac, who had the experimental data, in today’s parlance he had “the science.” And yet looking at the data in 1928, he could not see beyond the current paradigm, which prevented him from writing up the data’s implications: An unknown particle had to exist. Later after many people contributed to the ideas, it was called the positron.

There is No Right Side of History according to Portlander William Deresiewicz. Frequently, like the right-side-of-history mantra, ideologies are founded in fear and hold back healthy actions (including his own). Opening us to some fresh air, Deresiewicz takes apart obsolete notions of progressive politics. Reminding us of the cute mental note: “The mind works like a parachute: it only works when it is open.”

From a centralized and siloed viewpoint, fixing Chicago appears to be a daunting task: So many things are broken; which problem to solve first, the chicken or the egg? However, if we can shift the viewpoint, finding appropriately-scaled solutions from a careful “analysis of economic governance, especially the commons,” will offer our needed success. Elinor Ostrom’s studies about policing in Chicago were not wrong before or after she won the Nobel prize in economics. What failed was Chicago’s rejection of poly-centrism: She advocated deleting the current centralized approach.

Today’s story, the fifth excerpt of “hey Kid…” takes place on a Tuesday. Kid explores a new world and tests a new idea, afterward learning how to make better judgments:

My parents leave early on Tuesdays, but I go to the Fourth Village down and learn how food changes people's feelings. The teacher is great, and I like learning how to cook breakfast with my schoolmates. We cook extra food in returnable containers, and before lunch, we distribute lots of lunch meals to cafes in nearby Villages.

My classmate’s dad takes us on the Living Ride where we can comfortably read and then take an electric bus. In less than 25 minutes we arrive at Mr. Jamaal’s Wisconsin dairy farm. We have to wash and clean the cows, and usually, we get to bring milk home.

Unfortunately, I tried milking the cow without asking Mr. Jamaal, and the cow kicked me really hard. Normally, the cows seemed so lazy I didn’t expect it. After I was bandaged up, Mr. Jamaal brought us all together and taught us a lot more about how people are like cows and cows are like people. His cows are not zebras but Zebu’s, and he helps other dairy farmers raise them in Africa.

My parents were surprised to see me bandaged up at dinner, but it was OK since it was the one night of the week we just made a simple meal at home. After dinner, we talked about different times in my parent’s life when they were curious and how careful thinking can avoid the dangers of curiosity.

Good judgment is needed to sort through images raining down from above and uncover a fair action that will lead to collective accomplishments. Somehow, the Italians, with all their complexity, contribute collectively. This time it is Franco Berardi singing: “… of the danger of love, the daily creation of a sweet energy that is never dispersed.

We sing… with warmth and prodigality to increase the power of collective intelligence.

We ridicule the idiots who spread the discourse of war… the fanatics terrorized by the disarming femininity blossoming in all of us. We sing of the infinite web of knowledge and invention, the immaterial technology which frees us from physical hardship. We sing of the rebellious cognitariat who are in touch with their bodies. We sing to the infinity of the present and abandon the illusion of a future.”

Let’s keep our eyes wide open, overcome the baddies and their ideologies, and use our collective intelligence to achieve new beauties that rival Chicago’s lakefront. Right now, today, we have lives to live. Let's choose to love Chicago, always in the present moment.

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