Did you ever wonder what the thin leading edge of fascism looks like? We all know what fascism looks like when it's fully entrenched: mass rallies, jackboots, lots of leather et cetera. But what does it look like when it's just getting started? When it hasn't started to show it's ugly side? Every thug was once a cute baby and every form of political oppression started off with moves that seemed anodyne when they were first made.
Though suburbanites still live, work, play, worship, and shop, there will be very few people, if any, with whom they will have more than one activity in common. We live with people other than those with whom we work, and we pray with yet a third, different community.And that, according to Raymond Hain, is a bad thing. Now you may not agree with Hain but I doubt it strikes you that his ideas here are actually dangerous. I want to convince you that they are.
Here is Hain's first argument that suburban social life diminishes our virtue. He begins with the perfectly true claim that we need to be in council with others to identify what is good for us. But which others?
Now we can see a problem with suburbia and its various communities, isolated from one another. Typically, we have no companions who share all the various parts of our lives, but if we require the counsel of others in order to integrate these different aspects, we will need help from those who, alongside us, are a part of all the different activities that we must integrate.You know this argument right? In the modern world our lives are fragmented and fragmentation is a bad, bad thing. Why exactly? Well, there it gets murky. We must integrate our lives, says Hain, and that means we must be able to consult with people who share every aspect of our lives.
But let's flip this one around. Suppose, as Peter advises us in Acts, we wish to save ourselves from this corrupt generation. You want to talk about integrated, walkable communities: how about ancient Jerusalem? Pretty much any ghetto passes the test too.
And we do like to separate church and state for a reason don't we?
Of course, Hain means well. He doesn't plan to ghettoize anyone or to run an pogroms. If this is fascism it is, as Jonah Goldberg memorably put it, fascism with a happy face. So why worry?
Worry because freedom matters. The ability to choose the community or communities we live in is a good thing. We talk about the difficulty of integrating our lives in our lives but forget that having this problem is a tremendous luxury. Most people to live had no such problem.
To the extent that we want to integrate that is. And there's another issue. I can't help but think that Hain's real problem is not that we try to integrate and fail but that we don't really want to integrate. More of this tomorrow.