Thursday, February 21, 2008

The War against Mobility: in defense of car-based urbanism

In a recent post I tried to describe how many serious designer-oriented architects long for almost unlimited political power in order to achieve their goals for a better world. It was not intended to be an accusation against people who openly choose dictatorship but instead was an observation that the kinds of policies and changes in the status quo that currently dominate professional discourse have the effect of favoring centralized political power and the abandonment of democratic participation. From the dream of building a brand-new carbon neutral city dotted with grand starchitect-designed monuments to the unceasing calls by many designers to regulate how people should live--from being eco-friendly to promoting a contrived 'sense of place' to zoning that favors mixed-use density--they all require more concentrated powers to a government entity while usurping the freedoms of citizens.

The transfer of freedom from individuals to the state (or royal family) is really the transfer of who gets to make choices. It is from the ability to make choices that freedom becomes valuable, and one of the most fundamental choices is how one will get from one place to another. Mobility is crucial to exercising freedom and thus anything that promotes the free movement of individuals contributes the health of a free society. Walking is the most natural way we choose to move, and, unlike pack or herd animals, we humans cherish the ability to move at our own pace, in groups or by ourselves creating our own paths and being free to wander without fear. It is one of the reasons why the automobile has had as great a revolutionary effect on the pattern of human settlement as the beginning of agriculture. The movement of one's self, or 'auto-mobile' is as equally valid when a person walks with his legs as when that same person encloses himself in a steel cage with four wheels and an engine to drive. Scale and speed marks the difference between the two, and it also explains the fundamental change experienced by cities in the last century, evolving from mostly walkable cities to ones that have become mostly about driving from place to place. Given the mostly innate human desire to freely move, be it in a more natural mode such as walking or a more man-made mode such as driving, it follows then that car-based cities are a consistently logical development in the evolution of human habitation.

It is from this reasoning that I believe people will never willingly leave their cars en masse to walk exclusively. Despite all the added problems imposed by car use and the strains on the massive amount of required infrastructure, the enhancements cars have made average people's daily life have been dramatic as the fast-growing rate of car ownership throughout the world can attest. In addition to being able to travel greater distances in less time, the personal car, like walking, is infinitely multi-directional. Mass transit systems are by contrast linear in direction and often confine related human activity close to the line and more importantly along the nodes in where pedestrians stops (or stations) are located. They also limit an a person's perception of the city to sequence of nodes along the transit line in which the areas just beyond are almost insignificant. As an example, going out on drives through the Chicago affected my mental picture of the city in a vastly different way than what my car-less friends understood of their city. Whatever existed more than a quarter mile from the red line or blue line did not exist in their mental picture, and even they had to go to a location within such unfamiliar areas, they opted to become passengers in a taxi, which oftens prevented them from understanding where they were in relation to the train stop.

Driving allows the city to unfold itself as planar major nodes acting as coordinates, revealing the dynamic and complex relationship between remote urban concentrations. It greatly enlarges the geographic footprint that encompasses individual patterns of living and transforms locations once too far be of any use to people into a highly inter-connected node within an economically dynamic region. Whether the suburban sprawl that results is desireable should not be evaluated uniquely on an aesthetic or even spiritual basis but also on an understanding on how economic transactions take place over a geographic area. William T. Bogarts' recent book elucidates this latter aspect about sprawl, describing contemporary metropolitan areas as polycentric agglomerations consisting of a swath of competitive trading places. Critics against sprawl rely on a monocentric view of the city, which consists of the more traditional layout of a commercial downtown as the major employment center surrounded by residential zones just outside, often linked by major transit routes in a radial pattern. Bogart argues that the monocentric view no longer applies to the reality imposed by the automobile, and suggests that rather than to urge a strict return to the traditional monocentric city, we should try to better understand and improve the dynamic nature of our contemporary polycentric cities. It would allow us who hope to make positive changes to cities to do so with the goal of ensuring that metropolitan areas cultivate a wide diversity of experiences and lifestyles and to forge an environment for citizens to freely seek opportunities in infinite directions. There is no defined form or image of what such a city would look like, since it is important to acknowledge that cities transform over time and often are rarely the same place from one decade to the next.

Such an open-ended perspective allows for both new architectural and urban typologies to evolve and adapt, to solve certain conceptual and functional flaws and to generate new unintended problems. There is little doubt that automobile use has been the biggest instigator in the generation of new typologies, especially in regards to parking. The need to park our cars has transformed the way buildings relate to the street and in turn how they relate to people in terms of scale and speed. From retail storefronts lining sidewalks directly adjacent to the street to expansive gulfs of concrete and asphalt prefacing big boxes with eye-catching signage to catch the driver's eye while traveling at 60 miles per hour, new building types have been invented and new ways of approaching them have resulted. To many, auto-centric urban development has yielded dismal changes that have prompted a call for a return to pedestrian-centric development, with little interest to more skillfully integrate parking infrasture as part of a desired solution. They do not intend to improve the experience or the practicality of parking, they wish rather to eliminate it entirely. For them, the best cities are those that marginalize parking to the extremes, that promote lots of walking, and concentrate long-distance trips to linear mass transit systems.
I came across an example of this attitude against car-centric infrastructure in an article that describes the evolution of the parking garage througout the years. Philip Kennicot of the Washington Post wrote a review of presentation given by garage building historian Shannon Sanders McDonald who has recently written a history of the recent building type and how it has changed with the city the around it. Kennicot describes some rather interesting tidbits about parking garage design and how perfecting ramp systems overwhelmed any other efforts to making the parking garage fit better with the existing urban fabric. MacDonald documents this history to encourage the further innovation and improvement to make them less jarring. For Kennicot such a pursuit is futile, and thus his article quickly becomes his private tirade against the irreperable damage cars have made to the urban experience in general.

Thanks to the new-found use of reinforced concrete after the turn of the twentieth century, ramps were perceived at the time as an innovative device in the design of vertical circulation and became instrumental in portraying a new architecture that unified motion, space and time. Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright were enchanted by them as ramps could provide creative solutions to age-old as well completely new design problems. For Kennicot, though, the parking ramp helped sever the connection of a person to the ground and to the building being entered. By measuring its merits based on sound principles of pedestrian-friendly buildings, the author unfairly, in my view, indicts a building intended for the efficient storage of cars. While parking garages could be designed to enhance the experience of the pedestrian a little bit, the car-based life requires that this building type may not be able to function well if it were it designed with the kind of standards that apply to the walkable lifestyle. With this reasoning, Kennicot argues that since traditional standards don't apply, parking garages are doomed to be ugly and harmful to cities and he thus entertains the thought of simply eliminating the car-based lifestyle for good, especially since he questions whether cars are even that "fundamental to the American right to mobility in an urbanized world." He goes on to argue for the end of the parking garage and forcing people to walk or used a shared mass transit:

...Or should we work toward their obsolescence and elimination (retained only for shared cars, buses, electric vehicles, etc.)? That is a trenchant, hard-nosed but ultimately more rational choice than the blithe acceptance of them as necessary evils that just need a little tweaking. Banishing the garage would force some social engineering on a population that desperately needs to wean itself from a planet-killing addiction to the automobile. When a neighborhood becomes a parking nightmare, one of two things must happen: People stop going there, or they get there on foot, bicycle, train or bus. Residents of crowded Georgetown might well consider both options entirely positive.

Denying people the freedom to drive where they would like to go on their own terms doesn't appear to me to be the rational choice. Such freedom has been the foundation of our contemporary economy and has empowered us in ways unimaginable to those living in urban areas before the car. Something had to replace the horse and cart of not too long ago, and linear mass transit systems were the premier way of getting around until a new kind of personal vehicle could operate faster with less restrictions.

Kennicot also reveals the latent tendency by those who admonish cars to abridge the precious freedoms afforded by the automobile. Practicing such freedom like that of self-movement by technological means is now supposedly harmful to the planet (even though modern cities have never been cleaner and would be more so once cars run on eletric or fue cells), and forcing society to give up driving so much will make life better for all us, even while each individual is disempowered. For all of its drawbacks, the car is a symbolic enabler of self-reliance that provides an independence from collective life. It ensures that a city's citizenry will balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the community, and that one can leave an undesirable situation if it arises to go elsewhere, an undefined other place beyond the reach of walkers and mass transit passengers. Like the above author, there are many urban thinkers who believe in a city devoid of the unlimited mobility afforded by cars, who think there is little real benefit to car use. Somehow it is better to rely on a public transit system run by unions that are prone to strike, that cannot guarantee adequate personal security, or runs on an impractical daily schedule wasting lots of one's time (yes, even more than the occasional traffic jam).
Like Shannon Sanders MacDonald, I accept having imperfect-looking parking garages in exchange for the level of mobility they offer to all city dwellers. I believe that each new building type presents an opportunity for refinement and innovation and can only enrich and diversify the urban experience at a point in the long history of any city. The parkage garage is a very recent and immature building type, and who is to know what it will become in the next century? Instead of trying to return the city to an assumed golden era in the past where it was almost exclusively pedestrian-centered, I favor cities to offer multiple experiences, whether from the point of view of the walking passerby to the person driving on a viaduct at 60 miles per hour. I also favor a diversity of environments and ambiance, from both a sense of proximity as well as remoteness. And I favor all modes of getting around in an urban area, providing as many options as possible regarding the kind of speed (legs, bicycle, car, train) and the level individual control one wishes (driver/passenger/promenading). A city should always serve its traditional role as a cauldron of opportunity, but it can only prosper for as long as it enables its citizen to exercise choice in where they live and how they move.

The zero-sum mantra influences much of the thinking when it comes to how a city should develop in the future. It provides a pretext for planners and city governments to aquire more control over the lives of citizens by championing the needs of the so-called "community" over the needs of individuals. Restrictive zoning policies and ordinances follow which champion the will of a the majority (or the local city power elite) and punishes the minority, who then move out of the city and leave behing a place a bit less diverse than it once was.

A city that encourages all forms of urestricted mobility is one where everthing seems to possible with something for everyone. It suggests solutions that are not confined to 'either/or' but instead to 'both/and'.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Forget Three Parties, the Next Jump Will Be to Four

For as long as I have been politically aware, there has been steady clamoring for a third party presidential candidate, an independent rogue who could unite a big enough minority to pull off an upset. Ross Perot gave it his best shot, possibly helping Bill Clinton with sub-majority margins. Ralph Nader also tried, only to de-rail Al Gore in the tight 2000 race. And if the rumors are true, Barack Obama is prepared to do the same if he doesn't win the nomination. This must make the RNC happy, because they have to be doubting that John McCain will win over the conservative base needed for victory in November. I'm doubtful Obama would ever go for it, and would more likely wait his turn, get some experience, and improve his political acumen. He should be wise enough to know that he's too far to the left for middle America's taste in a 3-person race and doesn't currently appeal to "moderates" like McCain can.

But it raises an interesting possibility and it underscores that both parties are in desperate straights at the moment. While Republicans have boasted since 1994 they were a party with all the momentum, and that even when they lost elections it was because of the unity or purity in the conservative movement, that boast can no longer be made. The Republican party is without question divided in the same way the dreaded Democrats are, by trying to appeal to niche voting blocs like evangelicals and one-issue voters, with the one issue usually being abortion. Consequently, the libertarian influence vs. the "compassionate conservative" influence are butting ideological heads, with McCain ending up somewhere in the middle, the last man standing with little support among the purists.

That's not to say the Democratic Party also doesn't have serious problems, notably allegiance to voting blocs of their own. So, if the conservatives are unhappy with their prospective nominee, and if Obama bolts to run an independent campaign, who says this won't turn into a four-horse race? Maybe this is the time for ideological purists to fight it out on both sides, to lay it out on the table, to force America to embrace ideas over a party, especially if that party has failed them, which both sides seem to be saying.

This, of course, isn't likely, and America doesn't seem possible of embracing a German-style government, where minority parties maintain substantial clout, even in the face of no majority win. But there might be a temptation to open up the floodgates if Obama breaks rank with the DNC. After all, presumably, the winner would only need a higher percentage than the other three candidates to be president, as Bill Clinton showed in 1992 and 1996, and it wouldn't necessarily dictate that the congressional elections would need to follow suit as they do in Germany, or other European nations. Perhaps a third candidate on the left would open up the path for a fourth candidate on the right, perhaps someone who conservatives view as electable and ideologically pure, maybe a Fred Thompson/Duncan Hunter ticket.

I'd be amazed if we ever left the two-party system in any branch of government. Too much of our government, and even our culture, is built around a basic understanding of majority rule. In that sense, we more accurately represent a republic than a democracy, or a mobocracy. The loudest or largest minority of many minorities does not the law-maker make. Only the one who has the ability to sell himself and/or his ideas to a majority of the public can claim such a mantle. But there is the possibility that in a one-person office like the presidency, in a year where there are no clear front-runners, four candidates would emerge just as soon as three.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

God, the Grammy's, and Drugs

I admit to having the dangerous combination of an education and an opinion, which makes me a "snob," at least in the eyes of my wife. But I find the Grammy's weird. Or rather, I find our reaction to them weird. Granted, their ratings were dreadful, but that really any of us care about them at all anymore is puzzling. I realize that such award shows do not appeal to me, as I cannot help but view music in light of history, which forces me to eschew much of what is modern. Even more, I find little innovation in modern pop, and spend far more time listening to podcasts than FM radio. What struck me in particular, though, was the response to Amy Winehouse's victories for best song ("Rehab") and best pop vocal album ("Back to Black"). 

Judging from my wife, it was a moral victory, a win for the underdog, the girl just struggling with an addiction. Now, perhaps my wife is alone in that sentiment, but judging by the audience's reaction, everyone seemed to agree. It really didn't matter how good her album was, only that she was trying to get her life back together...after the threat of prison, of course. I'm not sure any of the albums were particularly worthy of many awards and, being largely unfamiliar with the music scene these days, wouldn't know the difference. I can boast that Natalie Cole agrees with me, but still I find Winehouse's music uninspiring to say the least. I understand that she has successfully made lounge music from the 50's cool again, but is that really worth heaping praise on? (Which reminds me, is her music even good, or has she just run into a sympathetic Postmodern crowd, anxious to crown the latest "old" thing the next "in" thing. I remember Norah Jones riding a similar wave on better-than-average music, only to join the ranks of the musically "good, but not compelling" category quickly thereafter.)

While I didn't watch the whole show, I can only say that my general sentiment was one of emptiness. Not to sound like a college radio DJ, but do we really believe these shows are driven by much more than the music industry picking who they would want to win, who should win? Winehouse was apparently a great pick, as no one was going to deny an addict struggling to recover. But at the end of the day, the show was just a trip down memory lane, hoping to tap into some rock nostalgia, and a display of the latest and greatest, who rarely seem able to develop an interesting chordal progression, presumably because it doesn't sell well.

This reminded me of a seminal reality as it concerns art, morality and religion. Ultimately, my main objection to most modern art, be it oil on canvas, Amy Winehouse, or independent films, is that they are trying to cull from a rather shallow well: themselves. While occasionally brilliant pieces of artwork is produced using the inside-out method (I still enjoy Radiohead's Grammy-winning "OK Computer", and Warhol, while overrated, made some interesting observations about popular and celebrity 
culture), I would not be surprised at all if one-hit wonders are a by-product of this method more than anything else. Simply put, we're capable of producing fine art on our own, but inspiration that's lasting is hard to come by in secular circles. Beyond shock and anger, the staples of the modern artist, what else can the world give you?

What's the alternative? Well, I'll call it the outside-in method, the process of devoting your art to God, at the risk of sounding like a pietist. In other words, it is a fool's paradise to assume art is its own reward, or that it can stand on its own for long. (I highly differ from Ayn Rand in this regard.) Eventually, inspiration for the artist will be limited if their own minds and souls are the sole source. But the beauty found in religion, God, or scripture, or any combination of the three, is a treasure trove of inspiration for the modern artist, if they will only bother to look. 

Consider the amazing (stunning, really) output that the Church has produced. 2,000 years worth of sermons based on a pretty small number of ancient texts, and the artform is still evolving. The invention of western music from Josquin des Prez, to Palestrina, to Bach, to wonderful largely anonymous composers who are still producing beautiful poetry. Or the cathedrals that still stand as prayer in stone, even after architecture said those styles were outdated. Again, label me a snob, I just find songs about rehab boring, and worse, depressing. Only when we engage in such Postmodern irony do we chuckle at such a song, and feel so, well, nothing about it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Further Reading...

Recently I've found a couple of interesting on-line reads that I would like to share about topics outside the usual realm of architecture. I figured that I could give some of my readers a rest and maybe provoke interest regarding other subjects. Below are a few reads well worth one's time:

  • As of today, the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party is John McCain. When his candidacy was on the rise following his win in New Hampshire, I happened to read an article that at first seemed to be an invitation to support McCain but that ended up actually being a persuasive reminder on what should truly matter in all politics beyond either party's dominant ideology: a creed stating what one believes about human nature and how virtue should play a part in the affairs of individuals. It isn't a question of philosophical purity or consistency but rather a question of whether it is the right thing to do. It is fundamentally better for a political leader to adhere to timeless virtues than to repeat all the right talking points. Benjamin and Jenna Storey make to my mind a convincing point, stating:

" ...they (ideologues) will lose an important -- indeed the most central and precious -- aspect of their creed: the faith in the virtue of individuals to make a good society for themselves, rather than the faith in an ideology to make a good society for us. "

Their article takes libertarians to task and reminds me why I gradually moved away from the libertarianism I subscribed to during my youth. It may seem naive to those who are generally cynical, but I believe it is imperative to preserve virtues that undergird a free and good society.

  • Last month Louisiana inaugurated the first the Indian-American governor ever in the U.S. Considering it was a little more than 16 years ago that David Duke was riding high in the Pelican State, the overwelming electoral victory of Bobby Jindal appears to be evidence that voters were finally willing to give a young ambitious man who lacked the traditional Louisiana political pedigree to solve seemingly intractable problems. In a post I wrote on another web site on the night of Jindal's election, I reflect on where the new governor came from, as he and I are fellow alumni at the same high school Baton Rouge. It was a truly unique place, filled with brilliant and talented young minds that stood out from the stiffling malaise that was life in Louisiana during the last few decades. I admit to often being cynical to who politicians are and what they can deliver, but his unique background and proven character makes me more hopeful about that state than ever before.

  • Is the ultimate goal of an education is achieving tolerance? From my perspective tolerance is just one of the many means useful to enhancing a person's education, spurring an insatiable curiosity and a desire to continue asking questions about anything. However, to many others, the job of education is not to instill a life-long skill for knowledge or foster employable skills, nor even to familiarize the young to notions of productive achievement. Instead they would like to socialize individuals to accept difference, to doubt any notion of objective intelligence or genuine academic achievement and to scapegoat those who choose to not become part of the group. Scott Walker writes in an understandably bitter tone about the fallacy of the doctrine of inclusion that dominates pedagogy in our public schools. When a school system forces students of various learning ability in the same class, the quality of instruction and achievement declines overall. Be sure to read the accompanying comment thread, as it reveals an orthodox perspective from those who promote the doctrine of inclusion. For these people, the problems with our public schools is not the lack of academic achievement but rather a lack of money for this or that program and that it isn't inclusive enough. How can one be hopeful for any productive reforms from within the school system with such a mentality?

  • A particular preoccupation that many women my age seem to have is trying to explain the lack of men wanting to get married. Apparently "commito-phobes" are a problem to many young women, and naturally the men get the blame. If there is one thing I am certain about, it is that the scapegoating of men for all sorts of things that sometimes are really the fault of women only leads to a greater faultline in the expectations of what men and women actually want. In trying to explain why more and more men are delaying or downright shunning marriage, there are two complementary articles I recommend. The first is Kay Hymowitz's exhaustive account describing men's natural state of immaturity and the need for civilized society to channel their energy in productive ways. To put it more simply, young men of today won't grow up because society don't expect them to, which may explain why men don't aspire to marry. The second article is a forum hosted by Dr. Helen at Pajamas Media that focuses on how contemporary society has made marriage a increasingly losing proposition for men, from biased divorce laws to a rejection of letting men be men within marriage. The discussion thread features an endless series of comments from disgruntled men, which in my view are illuminating in spite of their bitterness.

  • For some dazzling and imaginative examples of computer-generated architectural modeling, rendering and graphic, be sure to visit the Slovene Igor Mitric's blog. It's a genuine craft, and doing this kind of work as part of my job makes me that much more appreciative of those who do it with such incredible sophistication.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Politics and an Exploration of Cynicism

Most generations think that the one they are enduring is the worst. Taxes are high, the war will never end, virtue is all but forgotten, and the young kids just don't get it anymore. These are common sentiments uttered in one way or another through the previous centuries as well as this one. It's as though there is a built-in sense of pessimism that we find alluring and attractive, a safeguard against our hopes being dashed and a fallback position when our best intentions don't pan out. These days, I'm hearing more and more about the role cynicism, though, as opposed to pessimism, especially in politics, but also our culture.

Certainly, for me, cynicism is an outgrowth of Post-modern relativism, the by-product of boredom, angst and ennui. In a vacuum of truth and the general fear to commit to an ideology that is "bound to fail," a great deal of posturing has come about, and it looks like a leaning cynic. Just as sarcasm is a way to avoid a certain level of intimacy with other people, cynicism is the posture one takes to avoid political or social intimacy. So instead of cheering on Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, the cynic may disavow themselves of all politics, declaring that none of them are good enough to deserve their support. Better to be a cynic than a broken-hearted activist, the sentiment seems to be.

Cynicism is different from mere pessimism, however, in that pessimism assumes a value system. So the old curmudgeon who doesn't like the way things are going, bases his opinion on a value system that is, in his opinion, being ignored or denigrated. Bitter that taxes are too high? It's because your value system tells you they should be lower. Don't expect them to be lowered anytime soon? History has told you they tend to go up, not down. This is pessimism, a camp I often fall into. Cynicism doesn't complain about taxes being too high or low, but rather might hope the government will use your tax dollars to punish those who disagree with you, by de-funding the military because you oppose war, for example.

Cynicism does not have the type of value system that pessimism has. In fact, it doesn't have one at all. It uses people, it pits them against one another, and is driven by fear of real human contact. I often heard cynicism in jokes about marriage when I was engaged. Sure the jokes were considered harmless, and contain an element of truth. Jokes about how my freedom will be lost and how my wife would be running my life were common until I hinted that those jokes weren't appreciated. (Maybe I have a bad sense of humor, but I found them pedantic and boring after a while, if not offensive.) These are the types of jokes that seemed to suggest marriage is hardly worth it, relationships are doomed to fail, and it’s the best of a bad situation. To me, the pessimist says, marriage is at times hard work and there will be some days that are worse than others. The cynic sees it as the last refuge against what is destined to be a mostly lost cause anyway.

Politically, the Clintons seem to epitomize this sense of cynicism. They've used race explicitly throughout their careers, promising the "disenfranchised" a seat at the table of government. But now that an African-American is running against them, they've done everything they can to pit his race against him. They are the masters of making promises they know they can't keep, or keeping them knowing they'll make the problem worse. They accuse President Bush of being secretive, but are among the most secretive politicians to date. These are the ways they are the gods of supreme cynicism, pitting people against each other, waiting for humanity to fail so they can promise to pick up the pieces.

Obama is at least honest, or he comes across that way to me. He might even be optimistic, even if his form of optimism strikes me as either naive or uninformed. (His brand of populist socialism is either the result of a true optimist who believes the absolute best in humanity, or a Clinton-esque cynic who also hopes he will be able to pick up the pieces when his plans produce misery.) Obama himself highlighted Clinton cynicism when he advertised that the Clintons will "say anything" to get elected. So don't just take my word for it.

Now, I'm not going to say that only one side of the political aisle is prone to cynicism. The failure of Republicans to own and enforce conservative spending habits and legislation has generated a great deal of cynicism where optimism and hope was only a few years in the past. But I would be remiss if I didn't say that liberalism ultimately embodies cynicism more than conservatism in many ways. Liberalism, and its legislative life, are built on a certain assumptions about humanity, mainly that we are in need of a government to do what we cannot do: keep ourselves healthy, educated, or in good financial shape. At its heart, liberalism assumes the worst in people, and may even hope for their downfall to prove their biases correct. While conservatism embodies the belief in original sin, and the consequent need for limited government, property rights and the rule of law, this is born more out of fundamental anthropology that might lead one to doubt our potential, but not lose all hope. A basic lack of trust in humanity, fickle and unpredictable though they may be, is what drives much liberal ideology, and leads many a politician to unknowingly embrace cynicism.

Finally, I don't know that merely being "positive" is the antithesis or solution to cynicism. If I bought this theory, I might be a big fan of "The Power of Positive Thinking" or other self-esteem preachers/writers. Cynicism and this sense of positivism are both based on a false understanding of the human person, which is a being plagued by sin but created in the positive image of God. We can be a people of hope and be mindful of our limitations without drifting too far to either pole. Can we elect politicians that espouse a similar worldview, or is this message too nuanced for the global stage?