Robert Moses’ Promised Land: Morals, Ethics, and Empathy in the Geography of Nowhere

I was born in Charleston but was raised, mostly, in its affluent suburb of Mount Pleasant. It was a libertarian dystopia of rich Republicans living an overt life of family-oriented suburbanites and covertly a hypocritical Las Vegas of “what Baptists do when Jesus is too drunk to notice” It was not a place where one gathered a faith in humanity but quite the opposite. It was a landscape devoid of liberal empathy or any sense of conservative chivalry and was mostly a desolate philosophical wasteland of hedonism unobstructed by any moral consideration. It was everything their grandparents had complained about hippies doing without any of the redeeming qualities of those hippies like empathy for the downtrodden, concern for the environment, desire for international peace, and the like. It was all of the vice of hippies without any of the virtue.

The values they did possess were those of HOAs and PTAs. They wanted a nice community without the types of crime and dirtiness that would erode the aesthetic prettiness, make their lives any less convienient, and they were willing to use the police to ruin the lives of whatever dirty poor or otherwise unsightly people deigned trespass, literally or metaphorically, onto their streets. It was a bit curious why the lower-middle class Buffalo soldiers of the city police would do the bidding of people who regarded them as little more than Roombas who cleaned the streets of other people they regarded as subhuman. However, the police were drunk on ‘Call of Duty’ video game fantasies whose hunting down of the marginalized underlings who wandered suburbia were something far, far, more heroic than it actually was which was truly sad and pathetic.

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, was a rife with the poison of a people who had access to anything they wanted and had lost the ability to resist it to the point of losing any and all self-discipline. It was a cesspit of undiagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There was some lingering old fashioned honor but whatever Southern chivalry was left by the time I came of age was terminal. Ultimately, they were Rawlsians, not Christians. Rawls, for them, was the perfect philosopher since he defended their Lockean rights to persons, property, and the rest and expected no civic responsibility, empathy, or anything of them. Insofar as it affected my life, their approach to special needs was not borne of an empathy for the disabled but a sluggish, slavish, bondage to their lust for pleasure and aversion to any sacrifice or displeasure. Tolerating the disabled out of love was too much sacrifice for a people acustomed to absolutely no sacrifice. The “social skills” we were taught in prosocial classes, on the rare occasions were were taught any, amounted to what neurodivergents stereotypically do that bother normal people and to stop doing those things. In addition to being spolipisitcally selfish on the part of the local adults, it was also shortsighted and extremely dumb since the ability to immerse in conversations would result in better conformity but would, of course, risk the short-term offense during the transition period.

If ordered to stop doing bothersome things immediately then there was, ostensibly, no transition period where the neurodivergents engage in offensive ways. And yet, that system doesn’t work for reasons beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say, being taught to adapt and analyze social situations organically will prepare them for all situations while giving them a list of no-nos couldn’t possibly do that because it could not cover, to any significant degree, all items and all situations. Yet, such intelligence would require culture and culture requires patience and a desire for the subtler joys of life when their life of bottomless hedonism made them slaves to the pursuit of dopamine as quickly as humanly possible. They didn’t have time to wait to get what they wanted at a higher quality but had to have what their neurochemical reward system said they needed, right away.

The geography of nowehere, a name for suburbia lacking character, does not have morals and is a place engineered to not require any. The empathy of Jane Jacobs-y communities where neighbors help one another doesn’t exist because they don’t know their neighbors and are never raised with those values. They don’t want to know their neighbors because to be their brother’s keeper would entail a sacrifice they don’t want to do and, in the end, lose the ability to. It is morally and philosophically dead.

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