pattern language, politics

Face To Face, Security and “Highlands”

Ah, the mind works in mysterious ways.

Let me tie these things together. Face to face is what we lose in a cyber world. We meet icon to icon across vast physical spaces. Eye to eye is getting so uncommon that it carries some dangers these days.


Community, and the quest for it, is a huge human drive, made manifest in the sagacious writings of a Durkheim, a Tonnies, a Robert Nisbet whose book “Community and Power” was originally titled “The Quest for Comunity”. It’s a scathing and wiondrous attack on the depersonalized, atomized state.

It is a call to consider how we might resuscitate a face to face world of neighborhoods. Let us not get prematurely weepy-eyed for the return of the town. Read “Wisconson Death Trip” for a graphic suggestion that there is no difference in the violent proclivities of city and town.

The trick is to move toward a society with the tollowing community-building elements.

Pedestrian ways with plenty of outdoor nooks and crannies and places to congregate, chap, sip, schmooze.

Work within a walk of no more than a mile.

An emphasis on small and focused businesses, retail outlets, entertainment venues, sports and fitness facilities, health nodes (for preventative services), educational nodes, for a move toward total education for all ages and a move to supplement conventional schooling and on residences that are connected, not detached, and sufficiently sense so that a human settlement can actually function as an economy.

Now once we start to give prizes to architects who can give form and substance to such ideas, and get them off the metrosprawl addiction, the immediate question of security arises. Why build a matrix to encourage community if everyone is getting more and more suspicious, privatized and interested only in one’s narrow group?

But this is precisely what must be defeated. We need to reclaim the world, not shut it out, to expand life, not reify it to the point we become things.

My general solution to this is a two pronged effort.

First, there must a rubric applied to the creation of public space. At present public space is a travesty. We need to reclaim it and make it for enjoyable public interaction. We need to have the following principle: Public space must attract, not intimidate, enhance not repel. The current warehouse mode of essentially protecting structures from human interactions is all wrong.

The second thing we need is security. Security can be achieved most easily by designing living spaces that are eminently safe and secure. Most often these should be apartments or connected dwellings where the outdoor space is common, that is to say public. My own sense is that we should build settlement models after the construction of stadiums with dwellings around the perimeter and a graded public (pedestrian) way between facing rows of homes of sufficient size and variety to make them attractive to many different sorts. Everything should be mixed.

This perimeter would have all manner of nodes and kiosks and such, making such necessities as we need available within a walk, not a drive.

Now why does this all add up to security. Because a community such as this can be monitored with much greater effectiveness than our metrosprawl communities. Or our impersonal mass-residence urban projects.

It’s that simple.

Now “Highlands” — one of my favorite Dylan songs, more recent than most.

It records an older person’s journey through life and notes the reality of face to face and at the same time the alienation and even depression it can create. I mention it because it is honest about the fact that we all die, we all have needs, we all have desires. That we do not think about these things, that we rely on drugs and alcohol to dull us to who we are and where we are going is merely an indication of an alienation index that is peaking.

Dylan could not have had this meditation without there being a pedestrian option. He walks in a park and sees people. He walks into a restaurant and has an encounter with the waitress. He cogitates as he strolls. At one point he’s listening to Neil Young and is yelled at for turning up the sound.

We live in a world where the nuclear family is no longer the the measure of all things. Where people are growing older. Where we are seeing that our current automobile, oil-based, interchange-riddled social and economic structure is going to pass from the scene.

The passage can be slow and painful. It most probably will be that. But it would be easier and smarter to begin to design the communities of the future, sustainable, eco-block conscious, with urban amenities whether in NYC or Tea, South Dakota.

We do not need more conventional philanthropic efforts to influence policy with studies. We need contests to create the future. Contests to design livable options which are sustainable, cost-effective and secure. I can see what I would like. But I cannot draw it. Someone else can though.

pattern language

Kiva is Part of A New Pattern Language

Kiva is part of a new pattern language. It is an alternative to “charity”.

With Kiva you lend any amount — I generally lend $25 — to anyone anywhere in the world and she or he uses the money to set up or improve a small business. My $25 is added to other loans to make up a total of $1000 more or less — enough to enable a good business move in Peru, Ukraine, Ghana or wherever you elect to send your loan.

Now these loans, unlike charitable gifts, are repaid. This means that, for almost every $25 I loan, I get back $25. When I lend it again I get back another $25. This means that as fast as loans are repaid, you can duplicate them. I now have made over 200 loans. A very modest initial effort rolls right along and amounts to something over time.

I invite you to visit my Kiva lender page and see what a few clicks has done. Not to show off. This is the product of considerable thought. It is a personal decision to avoid most charitable giving and  try to help others in a nonpaternistic way. This includes helping Kiva ensure that my loans are delivered to grass roots persons who will use them to build profitable enterprises where they live. A portion of what I give is a completely optional contribution to Kiva.


Pattern Language is my phrase to embrace not only the seminal work of Christopher Alexander but a way of life that moves us more fully to self-realization. I have no real affection for the plethora of stuff out there on personal development. It becomes a form of ego-bolstering which is really a sign of a dearth of meaning and direction in society.

I prefer the simplicity of an integral approach that uses psychosynthesis to reckon with human self-understanding and something like Kiva to provide a way to help others.


More on Pattern Language:

See the brief at

I forgot to mention that I could at any time take out part or all of my repaid loans. For some this is a real option for parking money that would otherwise be mouldering away somewhere. Suppose you have $10,000 you do not need — savings for a rainy day Lend it through Kiva. Keep getting repaid. Anytime you need the repayments, collect. You have helped jump start hundreds of small businesses around the world. I think that’s what Jesus wanted us to do with any fallow money. And when payment comes back many fold it is because you have used the same money over and over to keep the results coming.

benign genocide, genocide, politics

Benign or Casual Genocide

Ported and revised.

Benign or casual genocide is a way of describing the largely unprotested (accepted) death of largely-invisible millions in our world.

This is the term I believe Dr. Sachs and others at the forefront of efforts against deep poverty in the world should use. We have thus far failed to shock the “benign billions” into an acceptance even of the one percent GNP solution, which is a minimal response but vastly beyond what we are now doing.


Benign or casual genocide is an honest name for the capitalist-philanthropic system that, in a macabre dance of mutuality, allows these terrible deaths to take place year after year.

Let the definitions be plain and simple.

By capitalist I mean to embrace the entire realm of business conducted for economic gain. The entire culture of consumer desire. The entire tendency of the world to accept this on its face as the “way things are” economically. The issue I wish to press is not guilt but truth. A true description.

Linked to this is the civilization-destroying growth of gaps between rich and middle class and down (economically) in the rich or privileged parts of the world, creating a culture of acquisition based on an acceptance of predatory principles.

By philanthropic I mean the entire complex of “not for profit” enterprises, ranging from movements and non-governmental organizations to institutions of learning to explicit “charities”, to many government agencies whose purposes are (presented as) eleemosynary. Education, health, so forth.

My contention is that we can call this partnership the engine of Benign or Casual Genocide.

Globally, it represents a failure of mammoth proportions. It need not be. At its heart lies a spiritual failure of nerve and apparent ignorance, even among our most sophisticated media, of this failure.

I am not ignoring the cries of those in media who do understand. I am lamenting the naive belief that anything less than a sea-change of global consciousness will have a remedial effect.

We casually read myriad death statistics and projections. Each year UNICEF and other agencies — ambivalent partners in this promenade — inundate us with these figures.

Even Presidents quote UNICEF.

It is a dance of hypocrisy and idiocy, given the resistance of peoples to a revaluation of the values by which we live. Proper development requires such a revaluation and it is profoundly in eddor to believe anything less.

Essentially, the world system we now have, largely uncontested, accepts Capitalism as the big engine to fuel an unequal wealth/power machine and Philanthropy as the little engine that will toot along and clean up the uglier evidences of a world where wealth, power and place continue to rule under the umbrella of hypocrisies that have been transmuted into simple “realism”.

We need to openly identify the partnership and observe that it does not work. We need to say what the solution is: The very leaders who most understand the problem need to admit that we are engaged in benign and casual genocide. We need to remove the emperor’s clothes. Until this occurs, the the great poverty experts are simply rubbing salt into the world’s gaping wounds.


The truth of the wholesale destruction of millions (dare we add the words women and children?) is currently left to marginalized observers who are never taken seriously by media, governments or the philanthropic-educational community.

Or, even worse, the truth is the province of house prophets in these institutions who deliver ritual Jeremiads to salve conscience as nothing continues to get done.


The name for the hegemony of Capitalism and Philanthropy is benign or casual genocide. We all contribute to this. We are all players on the stage of this sordid and terminally dehumanizing reality. The sooner we acknowledge what we are doing to the point that it convicts governments and media and mobilizes international leadership for a round of hopefully efficacious response, the better.

This is not about yelling louder. It is about saying the present system does not work.

benign genocide, philanthropy

Evaluating Philanthropy

I am virtually certain that the theory I have been developing — perhaps it is a thesis — will evolve as discourse on the Web.

That theory is that the global reality we have today is essentially and foundationally the product of the interaction between capitalism and philanthropy and that the major moral lapses of this accepted interaction can be termed casual or benign genocide.

A huge piece of this line of thinking involves the need to demonstrate that philanthropy in itself needs vastly more critical attention than now exists.

Another piece is the need to evaluate capitalism more as a cultural than a purely economic entity.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with creating abundance. It is the uses of abundance — and in particular the unexamined and widespread acclamation of these uses that is built into what might be called the media-education complex — that needs an updated Veblenian analysis.

I cite Veblen with the serene intent of recalling many strands of Thorstein Veblen’s thinking and applying some of its vicious strictures to the low estate of culture today. Even dissenting streams are all coagulated with the broad flow of uncritical acceptance of a tasteless hierarchy of values.

It does no good to complain about economic differentials when the mass of social engines out there are in lockstep to applaud the low estate of virtually every step on the ladder.

If you Google “evaluate philanthropy” you come onto the essentually uncritical ethos I am referring to. The philanthropic structure is as accepted as the capitalist structure is, and as the casual genocidal structure is. It all proceeds under the banners of educational-media benignity.

We fail in criticiam if we try to squeeze the reality I am describing into the old wineskins of Marxism and whatever other isms may have been pertinent.

We need a critique which answers these questions:

What is the function of philanthropy and what does its dominant status leave undone and unattended?

What is the function of governments and to what extent is their task limited or compromised by the priorities of philanthropy?

Well, one could go on and on. Just as one could go on about the limits of criticism of design, of transportation, and so forth.

It is doubtful that much will take place until he spark that accompanies these questions strikes the flinty minds of the dominant forces that might be called the mainstream of Web thinking.

I have faith that it is in the questions themselves that the prospects of significant change and growth exist.

benign genocide, capitalism, philanthropy

Capitalism and Philanthropy

Capitalism and philanthropy are not at odds in a world where benign genocide proceeds apace.

Capitalism and philanthropy need some definition, along with privilege, power and hypocrisy.

None are words that find much play in today’s media, but that may change. The text for this page might well be an aphorism of Karl Kraus: “Father forgive them, for they know what they do!”

Thanks to our media, benign genocide is never unconscious. It is the object of gravely cheerful commiseration.

Yes, let’s define some terms.


The cumulative power and decisions of those in charge of vehicles dedicated to producing a profit for stockholders.

These vehicles or corporations are comparable to major nation states. They have the capacity to obtain favorable laws and to control key policies.

Most important of all: In the face they present to the world, these entities validate a culture which is itself tiered in terms of acceptable levels of privilege. There is the top heavy top where the bulk of control resides, the insecure middle and the devil take the bottom.

Capitalism provides enough perks and narcotics to the top to enable it to write off the lives of the bottom with impunity. And where capitalism fails, philanthropy often fills in the gaps.


Philanthropy is not merely the congress of institutions that passes as philanthropic. Philanthropy is the sum total of all eleemosynary efforts. Including governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 501(c)3 not-for-profit institutions, churches, synagogues, mosques, voluntary associations — even clearly ambiguous arms of governance such as prison guards and police and armies.

Philanthropy is the sum total of educational, medical, environmental, and all other institutions and communities established to accomplish those things which capitalist enterprise professes to be, or is actually, unable to do.

Philanthropy’s most conspicuous feature is that is is incapable of doing enough to correct the injustices that capitalism creates.

Capitalism and philanthropy operate in partnership, and their survival is ensured by a combination of simple power, the privileges it assumes by custom and right, and the semi-conscious or otherwise-rationalized hypocrisy by which it escapes serious confrontation with the truth.

To understand this, an example is in order: Let’s look at how this plays out in terms of the culture of the New York Times, which must be dubbed the dominant informational medium of the ASCENDENT CAPITALIST PHILANTHROPIC CULTURE. The dominant message of the Times, in both its printed paper and its TV commercials, is one of upward mobility. The ways and possessions of the well-to-do are made palatable by a substantial suspension of critical faculties.

Disparities within the metropole are dealt with by a feature at Christmas called Neediest Cases. The paper is rife with features and articles which essentially commend or accept the payment of high salaries, the purchase of high-ticket items and the living of a Good Life.

This life is defined as one that only the upwardly-mobile can even contemplate.

The vaunted Times news product is a philanthropic element within a sea of blatent underlining of the dominant and ascendent culture built upon BENIGN GENOCIDE.

(All institutions associated with philanthropy have internal tensions, engendered by the obvious idiocy involved in giving assent to the sort of affluence that is the cultural Emperor’s clothing worn by the privileged group. But these merely serve to create a deflecting sort of drama within the institutions, manifested in endless speculation about various hierarchical postings and positioning, down to analysis of that people said and what body lingo they put out.)

BACK TO THE TIMES: Issues are defined within the envelop of an accepted state of affairs in which the millions who will receive NO EDUCATION or NO HEALTH CARE or NO FOOD or NO PROTECTION AGAINST HIV AIDS have no standing at all — either because the problem is too horrible to contemplate, even intellectually, or because it is rarely front page news or because it is, at a certain point, inimical to the maintenance of the dominant culture.

The Times’ defense against this sort of “simplistic” analysis is that it is seen as a bastion of anti-Christian liberalism by the Genet-like puppets of the right. This is merely the manifestation of the internal tension dynamic on a somewhat wider stage. Ultimately the powers within both seemingly polar opposites work to support the same hypocritical status quo.

HYPOCRISY is a hiding or suppression of the truth. Jesus made hypocrisy, particularly religious hypocrisy, the key sin because he recognized, in all probability, that human beings have always had the theoretical power to act wisely and decently. When they do not, it is because it is more pleasurable at some point to hide the truth and grasp the comfort and privilege, elaborating a garment in the form of the CULTURE to hide our nakedness.

It is not as if, in the Times, or anywhere else, we do not have ample indication of what the problem is. It is the way in which a grasp of the truth is overwhelmed by the flood of daily material that is more appealing to the mind that is comfortable within the great system of CAPITALISM AND PHILANTHROPY.

We can spend millions and millions generating stories about abductions of cute blond children and have no care whatsoever for millions and millions of brown and black children who are already under a death sentence because no powerful global sentiment exists to resolve their problem or the problems that future generations will have as the result of doing nothing.

We can support, via philanthropy, which has many guises and aspects, academic inquiry into every sort of horrendous past practice or event, in order to create theories to explain everything from violence to forms of worship, but under the seal of BENIGN GENOCIDE these enquiries become part of the background music of lemminglike play in the fields of the Lord.


Thorstein Veblen, in The Higher Learning, illuminates an aspect of what makes for genign genocide:

As bearing on the case of the American universities, it should be called to mind that the businessmen of this country, as a class, are of a notably conservative habit of mind. In a degree scarcely equalled in any community that can lay claim to a modicum of intelligence and enterprise, the spirit of American business is a spirit of quietism, caution, compromise, collusion, and chicane.

It is not that the spirit of enterprise or of unrest is wanting in this community, but only that, by selective effect of the conditioning circumstances, persons affected with that spirit are excluded from the management of business, and so do not come into the class of successful businessmen from which the governing boards are drawn.

American inventors are bold and resourceful, perhaps beyond the common run of their class elsewhere, but it has become a commonplace that American inventors habitually die poor; and one does not find them represented on the boards in question.

American engineers and technologists are as good and efficient as their kind in other countries. but they do not as a class accumulate wealth enough to entitle them to sit on the directive board of any self-respecting university, nor can they claim even a moderate rank as “safe and sane” men of business.

American explorers, prospectors and pioneers can not be said to fall short of the common measure in hardihood, insight, temerity or tenacity; but wealth does not accumulate in their hands, and it is a common saying, of them as of the inventors, that they are not fit to conduct their own (pecuniary) affairs; and the reminder is scarcely needed that neither they nor their qualities are drawn into the counsels of these governing boards.

The wealth and the serviceable results that come of the endeavours of these enterprising and temerarious Americans habitually inure to the benefit of such of their compatriots as are endowed with a “safe and sane” spirit of “watchful waiting,” — of caution, collusion and chicane. There is a homely but well-accepted American colloquialism which says that “The silent hog eats the swill.”