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February 04, 2013


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But is the 班 system really something we want? It sounds (and I could be misinterpreting here) as if it blurs the distinction between combatant and non-combatant, which to me is one of the most pernicious things to have come out of this War on Terror. There have always been attempts to limit the devastation of armed conflict, but it's our contemporary rewriting of who a combatant is to be "whoever we say" that has led to nothing but the institutionalization of murder-as-political policy in such a way that the United States has never seen before.

I think you're right in that the form of living we've been able to have for the past 70 years is going to have to change, like all social arrangements it's bound to a particular time and place. But I worry that should we see cities like this emerge, we're bound to see more battles that by necessity have to take place within them. For an example of such a battle that's already happened, this is a good read.

Hi PJ!! Two clarifications. I don't think creating a situation where you have to "destroy the village to save it" is what anyone wants, but rather was suggesting that this would be the outcome or a kind of byproduct of the above types of urbanization (not unlike this. If individual citizens are rendered unidentifiable by aerial drones, then it would force the hand of the attacker to either move on the ground (for better or worse) or destroy the entire settlement. I tend to feel that all things being equal, I would prefer police and the law (Just War→ to kill you must be willing to die?)

I think you are absolutely right that "the institutionalization of murder-as-political policy in such a way that the United States has never seen before." For me, coming home to this "war brushed under the rug" has been startling. It really has...

Regarding cities, do you remember on Mark's post on VN about trying to live more peacefully? Some one posted, "If you want to live more peacefully, buy an apartment in the city and get rid of your car." It was a surprising answer--since in America one doesn't always think of cities as being "spiritually uplifting." However, he was really making a move against the heavy eco-impacting suburban lifestyle. Kohn's city does resemble Masdar. Thanks for reading PJ!! Really great to hear from you xo

Here in Toronto, not only do we have Tower of Babel condominiums, but an entire underground city that links office towers, subway stations, malls, groceries, apartments, from Lake Ontario and up about 10 km or so. In fact, the underground pathway isn't just a labyrinth between destinations, there are restaurants, shops, doctor and dentist offices, bookstores, cinemas, and everything underground. It's possible to live and work downtown in the winter without having to go outside. And since the subway goes 20-30km in either direction from the downtown core, it extends that sort of living right to the edge of the suburbs.

Same with Tokyo, Sam. It is like a second city underground!! I didn't know that Toronto had a system like that. Was very interested to hear about it!! Happy to hear from you too.

It's funny, Peony, when I saw that comment, the first thing that popped into my mind was "well isn't that classist!" For most people, living in the city center is just going to be economically impossible, and for that commenter to just blithely say that *that* is the road to the virtuous life, well I thought it was all somewhat laughable, really! It's the kind of blinkered liberalism that I find so frustrating oftentimes at VN, where *this* course of action is what will lead to goodness and true Christian living, when that course is unavailable to most people - it just smacks of Pelagianism to me. While I think we should all strive for virtue, and emulating Christ, it's only going to be fruitful because of God's grace, and that's not limited to selling off your car and living in downtown Manhattan or San Francisco (the latter of which I'm not too far from, and WOW would a place be expensive).

That's actually an interesting point about Just War theory. My first thought is if the goal of war is to apply the greatest amount of force on the opponent, while exposing yourself to the least amount of danger in return, then all conflicts would end with ICBMs flying. But that hasn't happened (yet), so obviously there has to be something militating (hah! word choice) against that maximalist position. And my thinking is that it's [law, mercy, restraint] that requires the military to place itself at risk so that not everything and everyone is destroyed in battle. But I need to think about this more.

Well, in a sense, though, he had a point. First, in terms of global population, the majority of the world does live in cities. It is true that the suburbs are more affordable for families here, but I have to say from my own perspective that the American suburban lifestyle does not lend itself to simplicity. Not to say you couldn't strive for it, but you would have a lot harder time. Someone recently wrote something that at the core of contemporary American families today is a garage full of cheaply manufactured consumer items. There is so much stuff and so much driving –how could the planet support a world of American suburban consumers? That said, you are absolutely right—this has nothing to do with Christian virtue.

On terrorism, political violence and just war, C. A. J. Coady is excellent. I think you ask an interesting question about what is militating against the maximalist position. The drones are themselves just part of the historical trend of aerial bombing—started during WW2 where suddenly war was taken off battlefields and there was tremendous collateral damage—deaths of civilians etc. What has perhaps changed is the changing definition of “war.” I think that is the significant change. “War” used to have a certain definition and now everything is being re-interpreted with significant principles, laws and consensus being undermined without any democratic discussion.

How can we ever back-track now. That we will continue is just as inevitable as the new arms race for these kinds of weapons is inevitable. It is very sad.

I sent this to our mutual friend at VN Mark G:

Shalom is a wonderful word. As you suggest, it encompasses “peace” in the world and a lack of violence but it also includes, inner peace and calm, being at peace; as well as health. When you think about “peace” as a way of “being-in-the-world or a mode of being, then Merton was quite right, I think to encourage people to begin within. I was looking at this Japanese list of possible translations for “Shalom” (see below), I realized that it encompasses every last thing I pray for.

1) 平和 (対国、対神、対人) ・・・和平、和解 Peace (no conflict; no fighting)
(2) 平安 (個人的)・・・平穏、無事、安心、安全 Inner peace and calm; no inner trouble
(3) 繁栄 (商業的) Flourishing (business)
(4) 健康 (肉体的、精神的) ・・・健全、成熟 Physical health
(5) 充足 (生命的) ・・・満足、生きる意欲 Satisfaction, fullness, sufficiency

(6) 知恵 (学問的) ・・・悟り、霊的開眼 Enlightenment, wisdom
(7) 救い (宗教的) ・・・暗闇から愛の支配へ To be saved (by Love)
(8) 勝利 (究極的) ・・・罪と世に対する勝利 Triumph (over evil)

I don’t think we can take this architecturally scheme literally (Shura City’s not the kind of place I’d want to live in certainly), but Kohn’s renderings is thought provoking and a creative response to the promiscuous use of drones by the United States. This Tang Dynasty post is especially timely (not to mention original) given the Senate hearing today on Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA. He is the person who for the last four years has overseen, managed, and essentially institutionalized the drone program and the kill lists. Unfortunately I don’t get a sense that on Capitol Hill or establishment circles there is much controversy at all about targeted killings or the extensive “collateral damage” of civilian deaths. It’s a sad state of affairs.

I’m curious J, why wouldn’t you want to live in Shura City? His city really is just a kind of intellectual exercise but the results are so much like Masdar City... I used to be a little obsessed by Masdar City, by the way... I somehow would like to see it for myself when it is completed. Not to get too crazy but if I could combine my life-long dream to see jerusalem and stop in Masdar City and maybe Amman again, well... that would be a dream... But so what is wrong with Shura? A New yorker like yourself couldn’t be against the stacked housing—like lots of apartment buildings with stained glass. The roof is very eco and appropriate for a desert. Masdar video

Anyway, I am thinking of turning this into a presentation for Shanghai and the topic is on cities. My friend Sita suggested I highlight the arms race aspect of this to better flesh out the idea of designing living quarters with this factor in mind. The problem of that is that it wouldn’t be of particular interest to a forum on Asian cities. I just kind of happened upon Kohn’s work but it really struck me as being futuristic. If you have any thoughts for this, fire away anytime!

There are no good saloons in Shura City. I think that would be be disqualifying for me.

A truism. What is life without a good saloon!!!! (aka hair salons in Japanese). But, really there is no reason why Shura couldn't have a fabulous saloon (aka hair salon, aka "jersey" style bar) tucked away in one of those stacked rooms... the stained glass windows would only add to the cozy and romantic atmosphere :)

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