Man Without Qualities

Saturday, January 31, 2004


Can the reader toss her mind up just to see where the media reporting would come down if the Kansas or Georgia or New York legislatures were considering a bill to conform building codes of those states, or policies of those states governing the construction of government buildings, to applicable directives of Leviticus or Hassidic custom? Or with some pre-Reformation notions of attracting Christian "grace" to the structure, perhaps by requiring some structures to be built in the shape of a cross - or banning icons on building walls? It requires little imagination to envision the outrage, the correct but shrill assertions of incompatibility with the First Amendment and depiction of the legislators involved by the media (especially the New York Times,where Linda Greenhouse would no doubt address the matter in her highest dudgeon) as insensitive atavists.

And what if the California legislature were actively considering passing a law "meant to encourage planning agencies, building departments and design review boards to provide for the use of feng shui principles, which often touch on the placement of doors and staircases, the position of buildings and the alignment of objects in rooms. It aims to help people live in harmony with nature by promoting the flow of chi, or positive energy, and neutralizing or avoiding negative energy."

The New York Times article describing that development would of course rage against the introduction of such obviously religious considerations - many would say superstitious considerations - into law. The Constitutional infirmity of such a proposal would be prominent in the Times article, right? The paper would never let the proponents of such an outrageous proposal conceal their transparent attempt to impose their religious strictures on state codes with the transparent dodge of "cultural pluralism," would they? We know the Times wouldn't let that dodge be asserted without contradiction because when some legislatures have considered passing laws concerning the teaching of "Creationism" in public schools the Times never allows the proponents of such measures to argue that "Creationism" is another scientific theory that competes with evolution. No, no. "Creationism" is described in every Times article on the subject as a disguise for a religious tenet. In fact, the attempted concealment is generally the major "news" component of any Times article on "Creationism"

And feng shui? That's just a matter for cultural diversity. Or, in the words of the Times' unfiltered and uncontradicted quotes:

"The structure of a building can affect a person's mood," the measure says, "which can influence a person's behavior, which, in turn, can determine the success of a person's personal and professional relationships." "We need to allow the expression of one's culture. That's why people come to California." .... "Feng shui is a very major cultural factor." ... "If there is harmony in the house, there is order in the nation. ... If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world."

No need to point out the religious content in any of that. And, for that matter, no need to point out that imposing feng sui principles on the building code would probably add many billions of dollars to construction costs every year in California, a state in which "affordable" construction is already almost extinct.

Gotta keep that chi up as a matter of official public policy and law!

I can't wait to face the Los Angeles building permit process for, say, adding another bathroom in the house, if this thing goes through. And to pay the contractor for building it.

But the Times doesn't report on any of that. Apparently Constitutional infirmity, religious outrage, and huge added construction costs just isn't news fit to print.

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