Every European that came to the “new world” was descended from an extended history of aristocratic governments. Peasants had long envied royalty and when Potosi silver brought about a new mercantile period in Europe that allowed for the development of a middle class, all of Europe dreamed of ascending a personal throne. The resources potential of the Americas to allow this ascendancy was a greater equalizer of the classes and allowed people of every background to “reach for the stars” in their quest to build their own personal fiefdoms.
The fantasy of “royalty” is built into European mythology. Becoming a prince, princess, king or queen dominated the fairy tales and early cinematic cartoons of our era; however its roots were firmly entrenched from the beginning. New World Europeans, long under the boot of aristocracies, cherished the “freedom” to own their own property and lands, and create whatever personal “castles” they could with as much of a buffer between themselves and their neighbors as they could afford. In fact, this has been the standard for determining one’s status of wealth in the Americas. The more square footage; the more acreage; the more isolation one can achieve is a direct measurement of financial achievement. Today’s monoculture still exhorts the rags-to-riches mythology—a procreation of the desire to become royalty.
This desire translated geopolitically as new immigrants automatically looked to creating their own kingdom—which was eventually watered down to houses in the hills, Beverly, or otherwise. The American dream encompassed a desire to, in some small way, achieve the goal of becoming a king or queen of one’s domain—the essence of the philosophy of private property. If an individual can autonomously control the right to affect one’s property and lands with impunity—one has, in some small measure, achieved royalty.
Some people claim that I am misguided, and that this tendency toward wanting one’s own is inherent in the human psyche and can be evidenced in the behavior of children. Unfortunately, it is they who are misguided. The type of selfish behavior our children often display relating to toys and possessions is primarily a First World trait. You do not find that behavior evidenced in communally oriented communities, certainly never in Indigenous communities. It’s like the myth that all teen agers are rebellious. It simply isn’t true anywhere but in the fat First World. Teenagers the world over in Third World countries suffer no such alienation and social repugnance. It wasn’t even common in America until around the aftermath of the Second World War, when James Dean and Marlon Brando gave the myth of rebellious teens its face.
The Provinsalia (sp?) project proposed for Clearlake is a classic example of “sprawl.” It contains all the elements that have contributed to the creation of the word in the first place. What are those elements?
First is the desire to escape urbanity, with all its attendant poverty, slums, lows property values and feeling of closeness as opposed to space. Of course urban areas were constructed that way, even though space could have been incorporated if it had been deemed important. But rural planners and developers have responded to areas of poverty in the same way. Their answer is to ignore or isolate them and then relocate or develop in other areas. Redevelopment is always a last option when there are new and more pristine areas to conquer!
Second is the desire to create “upscale development—supposing that bringing in wealthier people will somehow “trickle-down” wealth to the general populace and improve values. Of course, there’s no evidence that this has ever happened. The presence of wealth has never elevated the poor… The poor areas remain poor—the wealthier people just move further away so they aren’t offended by the needy. It’s the same mentality that created landfills and Indian reservations.
Third is just plain old selfishness. Upscale people want their gated community in a safe and beautiful location. However developers and proponents never admit that, sooner or later, other development will follow. A gas station convenience store here, a mini-mall strip there…the simple drive to bring necessities closer (even if it’s only a five minute drive to town) will cause that development to ultimately take place. After all, it makes good business sense. If you have a community of 500 families and can build a business that provides services they need closer to them than other competitors—whom do you suppose they will go to? Sooner or later—the new development is consolidated into the old town and you have “sprawl”. Yes, it could take a generation, even two or three, but it will happen. That’s the model of American development we must break.
In the modern world, short of an unlikely total philosophical reversal, the issue of private land ownership rights cannot be altered, but reasonable provisions must be added that recognize the new/old understanding that we share this worl–and what we do with it, both individually and communally, will have a lot to do with whether or not we survive as a species. A communal sense of responsibility for the land and its resources must come into play, even while recognizing a right to private ownership. The concept of individual authority, cherished as the basis of the private property paradigm, has heretofore freed property owners from any community responsibility, giving them carte-blanc on their own lands. Unfortunately, no matter how entrenched this philosophy has become in the American psyche, it has become obsolete and must needs be discarded for Americans to embrace the changes that must be made.