|The Public Square - wednesday 2009-12-16 2221||last modified 2009-12-27 0937|
|Categories: Daily Grind|
|TrackBacks Sent: None|
There are myriad ethical reasons to avoid Starbucks. While patronizing the nearest store during the "cold" months in southern California, I've come to the conclusion there are myriad reasons to avoid Starbucks regardless of ethical stances. It's air conditioned even in fifty degree weather, and their overly loud music is tasteless - this from someone who normally pays little attention to ambient music. Prolonged exposure to seasonal holiday music is a recipe for madness. An aside, there's one definite downside to multinational corporate chains: now that I've tried one Starbucks and found it wanting, I've given up on them all.
Such environmental configurations have their own ethically questionable purposes - to drive out consumers, especially the homeless looking for warmth and the telecommuters like me who rent a full day's space for the price of a cup of sugary garbage parked at the same table. But I'm longing for something more than just better behavior in a coffee stand. It's really about the distinct lack of urban public space. We do want to connect and interact with one another in cities, and not just in disconnected and random happenstance, but with some purpose.
We live here because the gaping chasms of suburban property lines are too insurmountable, and the precisely attenuated bazaars where something is always being sold that we know as malls do not serve for interacting with one another. They are, after all, concentrated shopping experiences to place as much product in front of as many eyeballs as possible - who cares if they notice one another as anything other than irritants in queues.
A public square, though, is space civic, an open place for all to come and sit and find others who might come and sit, and that's all. Vendors welcome but not required, a place to meet and stay, perhaps with something to see and do the first time around, unnecessary again. A place that attracts people to attract one another. It isn't Starbucks, it isn't the local coffee shop, it isn't any shop at all. We've got a spacious city. Let's found some places to meet one another.