Thursday, March 29, 2007

Your Identification, Please 2

A reader sent this email about his experiences with gated communities, and I thought I'd share it with the rest. It's a fascinating topic and I hope that some serious scholar with access to grant money takes at a look at it someday.

As you know, I'm in Costa Rica, a country noted as being peaceful, non-violent, progressive. "A central american success story."

In the "Valle Central", home of the capital, the vast majority of homes are like cages or little prisons. The windows are barred and the porches are frequently surrounded by a mesh of heavy steel bars. Most communities have some form of gating or guards, except the poor of course.

In the areas of Escazu and Rorhmoser, where the expats and embassy staffers live, it's all fortresses. Most people choose to live in condominium complexes; which is kind of sad and ironic. The Central Valley's climate is one of the best on the planet; I've never lived in a home that required a furnace nor an air conditioning. It's the ideal place to have a big yard and leave the doors open; but sadly only the very wealthy can afford such a thing by living on a security plantation like described in Brazil. Most of us, even the relatively well to do, end up living in pretty high density complexes to share the security bill.

But we are seeing some progress! The president has been taking steps to restrict gun ownership by law abiding civilians.

When I look around here I really begin to wonder what it's like in places that i know are much more violent.


Blogger Peter said...

I fail to see how restricting gun ownership by *law abiding citizens* will improve things...

3/30/2007 04:12:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...


I think the line was penned in irony.

3/30/2007 04:22:00 AM  
Blogger PapaBear said...

Conflicts are not won by defense. They are won by going on the offense. The people who pen themselves up in their gated communities will finally lose unless they go after the bandits

3/30/2007 05:34:00 AM  
Blogger jane long said...

Have visited friends in communities that have gate and guard houses like this and masonry perimeter walls and “moats”, or low-lying surrounds that look like this on rainy days in neo-Norman suburbia. If you approach these neighborhood keeps in a well-appointed SUV or luxury car, the guards don't slightly sneer when they call for permission to let you pass.

Would love to try to gain entry on horseback one day--

3/30/2007 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

This is the America that the plutocrats envision for the USA. The Bushes have beautiful freinds souths of the border who tell them this is to be expected.

3/30/2007 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger john said...

Visiting places like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, I've noticed that almost all the regular houses have bars on the windows and that, if the house has a terrace or balcony that will also be surrounded by bars (decorative to some degree or another). I think that this stems from the very poor living in close proximity to the middle class and people's lack of trust that the authorities can solve any serious crime, much less a burglary. That and the fact that, as opposed to the USA, few can afford fancy alarm systems and panic rooms.

In the New York/New Jersey area, a walk in some Hispanic neighborhoods in Jersey City will reveal the same prison bar windows everywhere. The same can be said for areas of the Bronx that have been revitalized by building single family homes where the old burnt out buildings used to stand as the infamous signs of the city's decay in the 70's

I once took a bus ride from New York City to a town in New Jersey and these nice Dominicans kids were in the bus also. They commented on the beauty of the houses in the neighborhoods we passed. Then one made an interesting comment. He said that all the houses looked beautiful but that he was concerned that they were not safe because none had bars on their windows. Sadly he failed to understand that the best security comes from your neighbors not the house.

3/30/2007 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Excerpted from

January 15, 2007 Issue

Fragmented Future

Multiculturalism doesn’t make vibrant communities but defensive ones.In
America, you don’t need to belong to a family-based mafia for
protection because the state will enforce your contracts with some
degree of equality before the law. In Mexico, though, as former
New York Times
correspondent Alan Riding wrote in his 1984 bestseller
Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans,
“Public life could be defined as the abuse of power to achieve wealth
and the abuse of wealth to achieve power.” Anyone outside the extended
family is assumed to have predatory intentions, which explains the
famous warmth and solidarity of Mexican families. “Mexicans need few
friends,” Riding observed, “because they have many relatives.”

Mexico is a notoriously low-trust culture and a notoriously unequal
one. The great traveler Alexander von Humboldt observed two centuries
ago, in words that are arguably still true, “Mexico is the country of
inequality. Perhaps nowhere in the world is there a more horrendous
distribution of wealth, civilization, cultivation of land, and
population.” Jorge G. Castañeda, Vicente Fox’s first foreign minister,
noted the ethnic substratum of Mexico’s disparities in 1995:

business or intellectual elites of the nation tend to be white (there
are still exceptions, but they are becoming more scarce with the
years). By the 1980s, Mexico was once again a country of three nations:
the criollo minority of elites and the upper-middle class, living in
style and affluence; the huge, poor, mestizo majority; and the utterly
destitute minority of what in colonial times was called the Republic of

pointed out, “These divisions partly explain why Mexico is as violent
and unruly, as surprising and unfathomable as it has always prided
itself on being. The pervasiveness of the violence was obfuscated for
years by the fact that much of it was generally directed by the state
and the elites against society and the masses, not the other way
around. The current rash of violence by society against the state and
elites is simply a retargeting.”

These deep-rooted Mexican attitudes largely account for why, in
Putnam’s “Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey,” Los Angeles ended
up looking a lot like it did in the Oscar-winning movie “Crash.” I once
asked a Hollywood agent why there are so many brother acts among
filmmakers these days, such as the Coens, Wachowskis, Farrellys, and
Wayans. “Who else can you trust?” he shrugged.

3/30/2007 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

A book I read recently on the bomber war in WWII Europe pointed out that the destruction of cities and civilians was the "normal" way of war for most of human history. Only until the 20th Century did people concoct rules of combat that supposedly put cities and their populations off limits.

So it was with Flying Fortresses and so it is with Fortess Home. Heavily defended - and defensible - enclaves fortified against the fact that life usually was "nasty, brutish and short" have been the norm, from the walled cities of only a few hundred years ago (in the West - in parts of China they were a necessary fact until 60 years ago) to the burgler alarmed homes and gated communities of today.

3/30/2007 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

RWE said...

The german cities and towns were not gated before the bombings of WWII and they havn't been gated since except perhaps in those areas with large numbers of immigrants. South America was never seriously touched by the ravages WWI & WWII any more than the USA.

Hernando de Soto of the ILD is more edifying. He asks the intelligent question. Why are some question why are some countries rich and some countries poor.

The answer that he gives and the work that he does is more satisfying than fossilized fatalism and blame shifting.

Good fenses make good neighbors.

3/30/2007 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Hernando de Soto of the ILD is more edifying. He asks the intelligent question. Why are some question why are some countries rich and some countries poor.
should read

Hernando de Soto of the ILD is more edifying. He asks the intelligent question. ... why are some countries rich and some countries poor.

3/30/2007 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Atlantin said...

re: "Mexico was once again a country of three nations:
the criollo minority of elites and the upper-middle class, living in
style and affluence; the huge, poor, mestizo majority; and the utterly
destitute minority of what in colonial times was called the Republic of

The tyranny of the IQ curve strikes again! Whites mean IQ 100, Mestizos mean IQ circa 85, and Indians mean IQ less than 80.

3/31/2007 12:41:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Having listened to 'progressive' ideas in home USA lo these many years, I'm wondering if Atlantan's Mexico observation doesn't apply to the entire political universe.

3/31/2007 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger jane long said...

Atlantin is from Atlantis, maybe? Sounds exotic.

Just for the record, may I add that some Atlantans don't bother with the IQ argument, having met "Mestizos" who are smarter or at least more common-sensical than some pale college profs they know? The whiter, privileged caste in Mexico has received better education over the course of many generations, though- there's no denying that.

3/31/2007 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger jane long said...

US (Non-race specific):

Middle class traditionalists and Walmart workers- IQ 100

Urban/suburban hip-hop and boy band fans- IQ 90

Elite Progressives and climatementalists- IQ 70

3/31/2007 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Jane, you jest, but the sword of truth shines like a flashlite at the bottom of the sea. That would have to be a waterproof flashlite of course.

3/31/2007 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger jane long said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/31/2007 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Kidnapping is the big problem South of the Rio Grande. With militia and trafficantes a step behind. All protected my a moat fear.

Several of my employees are from South America and Mexico. When they go home to visit they first start going to the tanning salon, and then they leave ALL things that mark them as Americans here including clothes, wallets, keys, etc. When they arrive they use a passport from their home country and maintain DL and addresses at their cousins. They speak zero English.

One is from Ecuador and saw an "Express Kidnapping" where the kidnappers boxed the car front and back, then pulled a girl out and took her away.

Another was home in Colombia when his mom's star pupil was shot on the street in the head and killed and her boyfriend maimed. He took the boy to the hospital.

The fear of the criminals runs deep. I once told some of them how my father and brothers confronted some gangbangers who were harassing a girl downtown. They tried to argue that that was not safe - and they persisted even when I told them that all of them were armed (CCW) and three were combat veterans.

This deep seated fear also runs in the Sicilian culture. I dated a Sicilian for a while and she was talking about the "family" and its influence on the island and my Southern pride spoke up and said that the "family" would get its due if it messed around me. She nearly freaked out when I said this. "Never say that!" she said.

3/31/2007 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger jane long said...

Red River, what you say about travel in Mexico and SA is scary but comports with a lot of other evidence. Many of us grew up being able to visit certain countries in Latin America without –inordinate- fear of being robbed, kidnapped or worse, but now when my unclueful daughter says she has plans to visit a friend’s villa in Mejico, I nearly have a heart attack. The unhappy choice between suffering a fascist police state vs. total corruption and lawlessness is not even a toss-up, sad to say.

An aside to no one in particular: I deleted a comment above that may have been interpreted as insincere, which it wasn’t. When will the Internet offer bloggers and commenters an easy audio recording option for their posts in addition to the written- just press the record or play-back icons after your name? Hearing pitch, volume, emphases, pauses, foreign accents, regional color, and filler syllables would be something to savor occasionally, instead of only speed-reading comments, and could help indicate whether words are wry, sly or on the level.

Then, of course, blogs could have a “live” picture option for commenters who think they look really good or for those who don’t care whether they do and who don’t mind a background of books and coffee cups in disarray.

Belmont should be the first to try this in the center-right sphere, or is this a computer infeasibility/ impossibility? I be dumb about IT, but wonder why we're still limited to visual scribblings and static icons, mostly.

4/01/2007 12:17:00 PM  

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