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Thread: Mythical Melting Pot AIB Paris Riots

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Mythical Melting Pot AIB Paris Riots

    Anyone remember Schoolhouse Rock on Saturday mornings when they were a kid? They taught grammar and multiplication but around the bicentennial they introduced 'America Rock' which supposedly taught American history. There was an episode they used to show all the time called Great American Melting Pot http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/7316/Grea.html and it largely dealt with culturally white Eurocentric immigration themes.
    When two ethnic groups exist in direct proximity to each other, almost inevitably some cultural practices are adopted from each other. The idea of a 'melting pot' in North America, though, is misleading in many ways because there still exists a largely Eurocentric cultural dominance. Sure, you can go out to eat at a Chinese or Indian restaurant or name your daughter Keisha but typically individuals in society are rewarded to the extent that they conform to the Eurocentric model and are marginalized to the extent that they diverge from those values and practices.
    Last edited by Maister; 09 Nov 2005 at 9:13 AM.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Its not a real answer to the question but what I want to know is what country is doing it right? America has always had racial and economic segregation, mostly hurting inner city minority residents. France and other European countries have the descendents of their former colonial subjects living isolated outside of the central city with little hope of integration.

    Is there a developed country that we can point to and say "this is how diverse immigrant groups can be best integrated into mainstream society." Is it England? They've had their riots recently. Is it Canada? Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are often used as examples of successful melting pots.

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    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    ...Sure, you can go out to eat at a Chinese or Indian restaurant or name your daughter Keisha but typically individuals in society are rewarded to the extent that they conform to the Eurocentric model and are marginalized to the extent that they diverge from those values and practices.
    Such as by wearing a suit and shaving.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop
    Is it Canada? Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are often used as examples of successful melting pots.
    I can't think of too many examples where different ethnic groups have peacefully managed to merge cultures resulting in an amalgum as opposed to a struggle with one coming out on top.
    Canada is probably a better example of a cultural amalgum than the US, although even they have their share of cultural dominance issues (can you say Quebecois?).

    India comes to mind as a part of the world which displays a relatively high degree of cultural diversity and tolerance (although here again they're not without bloodshed or intolerance in their history). India has often been successfully invaded only to culturally transform the invaders themselves within a few generations.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    I can't think of too many examples where different ethnic groups have peacefully managed to merge cultures resulting in an amalgum as opposed to a struggle with one coming out on top.
    Canada is probably a better example of a cultural amalgum than the US, although even they have their share of cultural dominance issues (can you say Quebecois?).
    Well, it does make sense that the majority cultural group would be the most dominant in politics and culture, as long as there's room for diverse cultures and opinions. I wouldn't expect a country's 5% minority to be as dominant as its majority group but I would expect them to be treated as equals and have equal opportunities. I also don't think there's anything wrong with ethnic enclaves in cities as long as they are based around residents choosing a common culture and are not being limited to isolated ghettos.

    Part of the discussion is whether you look at the melting pot as a positive mixture of cultures or a forced assimilation of minority groups. I guess it depends on whether the ingredients want to be melted or are thrown into the fire.

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    Such as by wearing a suit and shaving.
    Not all jobs or places require a person shave and wear a suit.

    I reality there are always going to be some understandable social guidelines that will dictate action or manner depending on the activity or job.
    Trusting a DC politician with your money is like trusting a hungry dog with a raw steak.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Arabs and Muslims in the United States are generally middle-class, which probably explains the lack of riots here. Most immigrant groups in the US seem to enter the economic mainstream after a couple of generations. I can only think of a few groups that remain out of the economic mainstream, mainly for historical reasons that aren't shared by Canada:

    * African-Americans that resist any cultural assimilation.

    * Native Americans on reservations, although that's been changing rapidly.

    * The decendants of Spanish settlers in isolated Southwestern communities, mainly in northern New Mexico. The poverty is mostly self-imposed, out of a desire to remain in areas with limited economic opportunities ("tradicion" - very strong family ties and an attachment to land, among other things), with religion a minor factor. ("The Virgin of Guadalupe made my grandfather poor and my father poor, so why should I bother?").

    * The decendants of indentured servants from England, that now make up most of the "white trash" population. (Read "Redneck Manifesto" by Jim Goad for background.)

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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    Such as by wearing a suit and shaving.
    NOOOOOOOOO! Not the oppressive, horric force of TEH RAZOR AND TEH NOOSE


    African-Americans that resist any cultural assimilation.
    Not to be too politically correct, but you really are not implying, are you, that the primary problem with African American achievement are because THEY are "resisting" cultural assimilation?

    Or, for that matter, what percentage of Southern culture is really tied to their "indentured servant" status and not tied to the deeper cultural roots of the Border Country in England?

    Interstingly enough, some social historians posit that one reason for the higher prevalence of violent crime among African Americans is that they adopted too well the "code of honor" and resulting predilection for violence found in the Southern Scotts-Irish borderland culture in England.

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    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    Not all jobs or places require a person shave and wear a suit.

    I reality there are always going to be some understandable social guidelines that will dictate action or manner depending on the activity or job.
    True. But do you concede that the expectation men should wear a suit and tie, and be clean shaven (in many business and professional jobs), are Eurocentric cultural practices?

    Japanese didn't wear suits and ties till Commodore Perry barged into their ports with our military. It's also worth pointing out their relative sparseness of facial hair has allowed them to easily conform to shaving. Arabs - hairy as they are, often don't shave, and suits and ties are not their traditional dress either. I could go on...

    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    NOOOOOOOOO! Not the oppressive, horric force of TEH RAZOR AND TEH NOOSE
    "How dare you mock me!"
    It's ok, I am eminently mockable.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

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    Cyburbian
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    Of course we all know the American experiment is more salad bowl than melting pot.

    Is the assumption that Eurocentric is bad?

    I think there is no better example than successfully integrating many cultures in our society. Sorry, everybody, but we are a Eurocentric society, for lots of reasons--but most simply due to the fact the this country was colonized and put into high gear by the massive influx of irish, english, italian, eastern and northern europeans between 1880 and 1920. Most of our grandparents and great grandparents came then.

    Yeah sure there is a long was to go, and we do not want to nor do I think we are, following the european model.

    And it won't kill anybody to put a suit and tie on!

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    Cyburbian
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    They riot because they lack expectations, they don't want to blend in with the rest of the country and when they try to look for jobs they are left aside because they don't want to blend in.

    The melting pot is possible. It happened in the US, all of the European inmigrants added a bit and adjusted to the place. They had expectations, they came for the land of oportunities and they got them. The poor muslims and black africans in Europe actively resist giving up any of their traditions and expect money without much work. This causes social tension that comes with the rise of nationalist groups and inevitably it comes with segregation that both parties support and want.

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    Of course we all know the American experiment is more salad bowl than melting pot.
    You and I may take that as a matter of course, but unless we've given this particular issue some thought wouldn't the tendencey be to wholeheartedly agree with what we're taught in gradeschool that we live in a 'melting pot' society.

    The only difference between white European culture and most other cultures in the world (at least as far as history played out) is that Europeans invented firearms first and used the knowlege/technology and the opportunity to subjugate other peoples to their will.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    As a good liberal, I want to believe in "the melting pot" or even a "salad bowl."

    I am not as sure that a bento box (reaching for metaphors here) with each group having its own jealously guarded prerogatives (the "Faith schools" in the UK, the recent proposal (thankfully not implemented) for "Sharia law" in Ontario). As Ophelia Benson puts it so well, this reliance upon often closed (or evangelical/aggressive) self-defined "communities" can be dangerous-especially for those members of said "community" who don't necessarily, for example, want to polygampusly marry at age 12-or wear a head scarf. What does "community" mean-who gives the self-appointed "community leaders" their authority anyway?

    gkmo: I agree. Is Eurocentric automatcially "bad"? Suits are an elegant form of formal dress-could this be another reason they've been adopted so widely (sorry, dob )

    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    You and I may take that as a matter of course, but unless we've given this particular issue some thought wouldn't the tendencey be to wholeheartedly agree with what we're taught in gradeschool that we live in a 'melting pot' society.

    The only difference between white European culture and most other cultures in the world (at least as far as history played out) is that Europeans invented firearms first and used the knowlege/technology and the opportunity to subjugate other peoples to their will.
    Is it this simple? I doubt it. Actually, the Chinese invented gunpowder first, and could have easily invented firearms. They deliberately decided to turn inward, I've read.

    Note: I'm not justifying European (or American) colonial atrocities, but the cultural roots of Western dominance are far broader than firearms alone.
    Last edited by BKM; 09 Nov 2005 at 1:12 PM.

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    Cyburbian ijustkrushalot's avatar
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    I am in an African American studies class right now... and this entire discussion comes up alot..

    Are ethnic enclaves a good thing? Can equality exist if people are seperated? Is eurocentrism a bad thing?

    Teddy Roosevealt once said:

    "In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes
    here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he
    shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an
    outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or
    birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in
    very fact an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here.
    A very thought provoking quote... but what is American? Even those of us who come from multiple generations of americans but live in different regions of the country probably couldn't agree on that.sister.

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    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ijustkrushalot
    I am in an African American studies class right now... and this entire discussion comes up alot..

    Are ethnic enclaves a good thing? Can equality exist if people are seperated? Is eurocentrism a bad thing?

    Teddy Roosevealt once said:


    A very thought provoking quote... but what is American? Even those of us who come from multiple generations of americans but live in different regions of the country probably couldn't agree on that.sister.
    Roosevelt's quote seems to deny that over time, the absorbtion of foreign cultures will affect what it is to be American. The melting pot is a two-way street. The fact that American English is pronounced quite differently than British English is proof that the early crossmingling of Native American, African and European language backgrounds produced a hybrid. They didn't change the structure of the language very much, but in terms of pronunciation, they all affected each other to produce a new dialect. Language evolution is continual, cause it's the shiznit.

    Of course, dialect is just one aspect of cross-cultural nexus. Food, fashion, music, art, traditions etc.: each has a different story.
    Last edited by dobopoq; 09 Nov 2005 at 1:38 PM.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

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    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by SkeLeton
    They riot because they lack expectations, they don't want to blend in with the rest of the country and when they try to look for jobs they are left aside because they don't want to blend in.

    The melting pot is possible. It happened in the US, all of the European inmigrants added a bit and adjusted to the place. They had expectations, they came for the land of oportunities and they got them. The poor muslims and black africans in Europe actively resist giving up any of their traditions and expect money without much work. This causes social tension that comes with the rise of nationalist groups and inevitably it comes with segregation that both parties support and want.
    It has been widely studied and acknowledged that more often than not first generation Muslims and black Africans in Europe, as well as in the United States, have, in general, successfully "assimilated" to the host culture (i.e. in the workforce, adopting cultural attributes, etc.)

    Where a divide occurs is in their children. Not being able to wholly identify with the host country culture or with the culture of their descendents they become stuck in a sort of "cultural limbo" and often revert to the worst of both cultures (i.e. rampant crime and drug use or radical religious tendencies) to overcompensate. An interesting book about this is called Brick Lane by Monica Ali. It is a work of fiction but highlights this phenomenon very clearly. I actually had to read it for a class on immigration this past spring.

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM

    Is it this simple? I doubt it. Actually, the Chinese invented gunpowder first, and could have easily invented firearms. They deliberately decided to turn inward, I've read.

    Note: I'm not justifying European (or American) colonial atrocities, but the cultural roots of Western dominance are far broader than firearms alone.
    Of course it isn't that simple or clear cut! - just trying to throw out items for discussion. To pick up where you left off I think whether or not a particular culture would go on a conquest spree if they had much better weapons at their disposal than their neighbors is pretty debatable (and academic and also fun). The popularly held conception is that western cultures have typically embodied a more outward focus on their civilization and that eastern cultures have tended to be more inwardly focused. This is reflected in religions where western religions have been prosylitizing and eastern religions haven't. Historically and politically, China has shown little interest in 'barbarians' outside their cultural borders (a fact to note the next time you hear someone dreading the upcoming Chinese hegemony). On the other hand, the Mongols took some pretty keen interest outside their borders - so these things do tend to be rather complex. Hardly anything in life is black or white - just infinite shades of grey. But you knew that.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  18. #18
    America has the legacy of slavery that most Western countries don't, which makes these discussions difficult. Describing African-Americans as "immigrants" among the masses of "native" whites is laughable. Most black people in the US probably have longer American bloodlines than most white folks. After all, the great migration of African-Americans to Northern cities from the South followed just on the tail of the biggest waves of immigration for the Irish, Italians, Poles, and other Europeans to those same industrial hotbeds.

    Regardless, being dragged in chains across the Atlantic is not "immigration" in the first place. American inner city ghettos can't be compared to Caribbean immigrant ethnic enclaves in Canada or Algerian public housing sections of France. To do so would be to deny our unique American heritage as slaveowners.

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    Quote Originally posted by passdoubt
    America has the legacy of slavery that most Western countries don't, which makes these discussions difficult. Describing African-Americans as "immigrants" among the masses of "native" whites is laughable. Most black people in the US probably have longer American bloodlines than most white folks. After all, the great migration of African-Americans to Northern cities from the South followed just on the tail of the biggest waves of immigration for the Irish, Italians, Poles, and other Europeans to those same industrial hotbeds.

    Regardless, being dragged in chains across the Atlantic is not "immigration" in the first place. American inner city ghettos can't be compared to Caribbean immigrant ethnic enclaves in Canada or Algerian public housing sections of France. To do so would be to deny our unique American heritage as slaveowners.
    I agree with you (about 95%) and certainly acknowledge..PC Warning ahead...the privelege of a white skin.

    Be careful about general statements about group guilt, though. My ancestors were farmers and factory workers-and my parents grew up groaningly poor (eight kids in a plumbing-less shack kind of poor).

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    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    Such as by wearing a suit and shaving.
    Jeez you are really hung up on that! We heard you the first eight times. Get over it. So some part of the world likes to wear a suit and tie and some do not. Wow, what a revelation.

    Moving on...

    As for the rioters, I think they've gone and proven to everyone that they truly do not belong. Way to go, guys.

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    Since the melting pot and tossed salad have been brought up, I figured I would mention the other food-related symbol I have heard ascribed to America: Beef Stew.

    I suppose it makes sense. White/Eurocentric culture would be represented by the beef and broth, while immigrants are like the vegetables. The beef is still the dominant flavor, but it is enhanced by the veggies. The veggies retain some of their unique flavoring, but are substantially altered by the beef broth soaking in.

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    Quote Originally posted by Jack
    Since the melting pot and tossed salad have been brought up, I figured I would mention the other food-related symbol I have heard ascribed to America: Beef Stew.

    I suppose it makes sense. White/Eurocentric culture would be represented by the beef and broth, while immigrants are like the vegetables. The beef is still the dominant flavor, but it is enhanced by the veggies. The veggies retain some of their unique flavoring, but are substantially altered by the beef broth soaking in.
    Colorful metaphor The danger is when the beef stew becomes a teevee dinner-each food compnent in its own separate, hermetically sealed pocket

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Colorful metaphor The danger is when...
    The danger is that I might toss out the idea that "beef" is a metaphor for the male dominance in our culture and the thread will go straight to hell and end up closed, post haste.

    Er, and now back on topic:
    There is an interesting website about "Third Culture Kids" that I sometimes refer parents to. A third culture kid is one who is growing up exposed to two cultures simultaneously such that the child isn't fully assimilated into either one -- thus the expression "third culture" (their own unique blend of the two cultures, if I recall correctly). A classic case is an American military brat who grows up in a foreign country or the child of missionaries growing up in a foreign country. But I think it applies equally well to kids whose parents are from radically different cultural backgrounds. Personally, I think it is blended families of that sort which form the real melting pot -- or an important component of it.

    Mariah Carrey has a white mother and a black father and she made some comment once about how folks mistakenly think you either are black or you are not. I think she has an excellent point: we seem to artificially create "Them vs. Us" scenarios. In some other thread, there was discussion about sports teams with Native American themed mascots/names/whatever. The default assumption is that "white" people are automatically oppressing/mistreating Native Americans by using such names and imagery. Yet I am ever so white and also part Cherokee. So I identify to some degree with some of those Indian themes. Most African Americans are genetically 70% white european lineage and in Brazil would be classified as "white" and in Africa would be classified as Mulatto ("mixed race").

    Actually, if we were invaded we would probably quibble less about such details and more strongly identify ourselves as "American". I think that is an achille's heel of our country: we are so used to having security from external invasion that we create internal rifts.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    Jeez you are really hung up on that! We heard you the first eight times. Get over it. So some part of the world likes to wear a suit and tie and some do not. Wow, what a revelation...[snip]
    Yeah I admit, I am "hung up" on it ; Choking on it in fact. We all have certain topics about which we are somewhat preoccupied. This thread of Maister's is about the Melting Pot as it relates to the Paris Riots. Melting pot - implies culture. Fashion - or customs of dress, are an aspect of culture. If I'm from Namibia, and I'd like to wear a Dashiki and practice law, am I going to find this inhibits my search for a job with a law firm? In France, probably so. America too. Would wearing a suit and tie make me more likely to be accepted? Probably so.

    Landowning rich white males aren't the only people who can vote in America anymore. But you wouldn't know that from looking at who our Presidents have been and most of our elected representatives, or almost all of our Supreme Court Justices, or the CEO's of most Fortune 500 companies. The suit simultaneously communicates gender role oppression and Eurocentrism.

    Do you deny that the suit and tie has Eurocentric roots?

    If you want to sweep the subject under the rug, that's fine with me. That's the nice thing about thread communication - you can easily skip posts by people who tend to bore you, or who have ways of thinking you tend to disagree with. But my little pet peeve with "TEH RAZOR and TEH NOOSE" is directly related to fashion - culture - The Melting Pot - and this thread. As I see fit within my first ammendment rights, and the rules of cyburbia, I am going to pull it out from underneath the carpet when I think it relates to the subject at hand.

    However trivial it may seem, that the people who hold a disproportionate share of power in a society also happen to wrap themselves in the costumes of their cultural heritage is no accident. In the midst of miscegenation and all the cultural changes to speech, custom, cuisine etc, that go with it, by the mere superficiality of appearance, the status quo is easily maintained.

    That skin color matters in our society, is echoed by the fact that what you wear in our society matters. Both are means by which surface information is used to judge inner character. And what we're expected to wear sure as hell isn't being dictated to us by African Americans. I make no mistake - I see what we're expected to wear as being symbolic of those who have historically been the privileged oppressors of those who have yet to attain true equality. I as a white male cannot wear a suit and tie without wanting to bow my head in shame for all the atrocities that the white man has commited.

    The world seems to say, "wear the clothes of the oppressive class if you want to succeed." But I was born in 1976, and to my knowledge, none of my ancestors owned slaves. Yet economics dictate I perpetuate this caste system of clothing. To me it feels like a crown of thorns . This is what I feel in my soul and my soul wants to cast off this yolk - to shed it like the exoskeleton of historical baggage that it is. But it is far easier to change your clothes than your skin color, or your gender. Women have liberated themselves from the exoskeleton of being only maids, housewives and mothers. And it is no coincidence that their acceptable range of attire has changed concomitantly with this. Now it is men's turn to liberate themselves from their exoskeleton of greed, tyranny, and emotional repression.

    By instilling in men that they've got to be "tough" and "insensitive", they are thus conditioned to ignore the leash that leads them around by the collar. Women are right - men are dogs. I will neither have a master, nor be one to another. But I am willing to stir and be stirred within the melting pot of cultures. Only by this means, is evolution possible. But most of the people at the top, who are still mostly only suit wearing white males, are only stirring the pot. They need to jump in too.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

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