Build anywhere but here

And other slogans we seem to believe

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

Slogans are simple statements that summarize a person or business’s standpoint, motto or catchphrase. Some spread beyond the individual and become absorbed – and expressed – by larger communities.

Slogans, as I have written before, are where thinking stops. They are a one-size-fits-all response to the often complicated and contradictory situations we can find ourselves entangled in.

Slogans help us function and, to a degree, help us focus our energies on the details that continue to defy categorization – and slogans.

You might think of slogans as the distilled summary of what we really believe and care about.

Here are basic principles and their slogans that many of us apparently believe now…

Build anywhere but here

You’ve certainly heard of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) or even YIMBY (Yes, In My Back Yard) but for the most part, NIMBY was rarely a word people used about themselves.

Even those who did not want expanded housing in their own neighborhoods were willing to acknowledge the need for either more, or at minimum, more affordable housing – somewhere.

But while housing prices (and typical home-owner equity) have increased dramatically (as has the need for more housing), the perceived negative impact on established housing values seems more urgent every day.

The ultimate irony of housing is that, even though we all need it, not all of us have it. And some of us, apparently, spend more energy on keeping the unhoused out of our particular neighborhood than we do on ensuring safe and reliable housing for everyone. After all, if shelter isn’t the ultimate “human right”, what is?

Electric cars will save us

I don’t know about anyone else, but I see electric or hybrid vehicles every day. From trucks to buses to individual cars, everything seems to be shifting to electric.

As much as we might support addressing the carbon footprint of personal transportation, I don’t see much, if any improvement in the areas that make urban life the most challenging; parking and traffic.

If you look at an aerial view of almost any city, you see that the vast majority of property is dedicated – not to commerce or public services – but to the passage and storage of vehicles.

Those wide lanes, parking garages and constant noise and motion will not be ameliorated – or even noticeably influenced by the replacement of combustion engine vehicles by electric versions of themselves.

Electric vehicles are great in many ways, but don’t even begin to imagine that they are a solution to our transportation and urban problems.

Promoting electric vehicles as a transportation solution is similar to the circular self-contradictory logic of the “more guns make us safer” argument.

It is embarrassing to even say this, but more vehicles will not ease our traffic and parking woes.

No such thing as bad publicity

Most of us live our lives and develop our careers primarily out of the public eye. If we are publicly recognized, or portrayed in the press, we hope, and intend, that any use of our name and private life is positive.

As many of us have learned these past few years, there are those who flourish in any publicity.

Once you reach a certain level of fame, apparently, any publicity is, by definition, a recognition of your continuing influence if not dominance in your field.

If you are famous enough, in other words, the more scandals, investigation and lawsuits, the better.

It’s all free publicity.

And if there is anything that marketing specialists know, most of us have incredibly short memories.

Most of us forget the details (as in scandals and embarrassing moments) but we remember what we keep hearing; the prominent name. In other words, the “bad” news that would destroy the reputations and careers of most of us just adds to the “glow” of someone whose real career is staying in the public eye. Fame, after all, is based on a simple premise; those who are “famous” live very different lives from the rest of us and the normal rules and laws that apply to us do not apply to them.

Slogans tend to be statements that we have somehow become convinced hold near universal meaning, but the closer we look at them, the less sense they make, and even if they do make some sense, their application to practical, specific situations is limited, at best.

We use slogans to organize and perhaps focus our energies on something that is far more often an evasion than any constructive approach. Slogans tend to become easy substitutes for actual thought and, ultimately, keep us from seeing or acting upon actual resolution of increasingly pressing problems. But they won’t solve any problems and they rarely if ever give us insights into how to address any current or developing difficulties.