Friday, February 24, 2006

A measure of winter

It's snowing again today, which I'm appreciating because I feel like this year we've been cheated out of real winter in Vermont. Yeah, it's been cold, and we've had some snow, but the joy of real winter is the snow that piles up and never goes away for months, the little mountains that accumulate on either side of the driveway, and the suspension of all the great exact rules of trafficking and sidewalk-vs-lawnness that we are supposed to obey the rest of the time.

We live in the urban neighborhood we do because we've basically incapable of keeping a lawn and garden up, and would be driven out of town on pikes if we lived in the suburbs. When everything is covered by snow for months, it is an equalizer, we don't have to worry about what lies beneath. And it's a little unpredictable, it's harder on people with cars to get around in a blizzard than people with good stout hiking boots. It's our taste of the traffic culture of Latin American cities like Caracas and Mexico City, where the roads are one big dense game of Frogger, and everyone's life is dependent on a dozen little negotiations, none of which come out exactly fairly.

So much of the politics of the middle class are Great Schemes: from conservative to liberal to leftist. The Great Scheme of the "free market" or "good business climate," the Great Scheme of "socio-economic integration in the schools," the Great Scheme of measuring everyone's exact rate of suffering in detail, the Great Scheme of academic "Socialism." None of these great schemes allow for the reality that the snow plow might just leave a big chunk of snow in front of your house, no matter how deserving or undeserving you are, and you're just going to have to convince your neighbors to all pitch in together to get your car out of the driveway. And that is (or should be) the heart of socialism.

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