Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

By Wolf Schneider; Ingeborg Sammet et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
THE CITY THAT DOES MAN JUSTICE

THE MOST inexcusable and disgraceful of all noises is the cracking of whips -- a truly infernal thing when it is done in the narrow resounding streets of a town. I denounce it as making a peaceful life impossible; it puts an end to all quiet thought . . . Carters, porters, messengers -- these are the beasts of burden amongst mankind; by all means let them be treated justly, fairly, indulgently, and with forethought; but they must not be permitted to stand in the way of the higher endeavours of humanity by wantonly making a noise.

Thus growled Arthur Schopenhauer in 1859 about the noises that he had to endure in his living quarters in Frankfurt. One can well imagine the fury that would seize him if he had to suffer the witches' Sabbath that cars, trucks, streetcars, loudspeakers, and concrete mixers today are producing in a big city. A time when the worst noise to be heard was the cracking of a whip seems positively idyllic to us.

When Greek Prime Minister Venizelos during his first term in office ( 1910 to 1915) ordered that in the larger thoroughfares of Athens vehicles had to keep to the right side, the Athenian coachmen berated him as a tyrant. They considered it an encroachment on their freedom that they should not be allowed to use the street wherever they could find space and wherever they would like to drive. To stop for a traffic light at an intersection even though no vehicle is about to cross one's route would have appeared sheer madness to the artless reasoning of the Athenian coachmen.

An eight-lane highway connects San Francisco and its suburb San Rafael, but after office hours it is often bottled up by bumperto-bumper cars which can move neither forward nor backward. Time magazine reported in 1960 that a businessman who raises carrier pigeons as a hobby found it expedient to carry a cage with eight pigeons in his car, and that he released one of them now and then with a message to keep his wife informed of his progress.

British Minister of Transport Marples told the House of Commons in 1960: "When a ton of steel moving at a speed of thirty miles per hour and one hundred and sixty-five pounds of flesh

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