Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

16 May, 2013

Cultural Conformity in Madison?

Is Madison a bastion of cultural conformity?

On the surface, Madison has many progressive aspects. Sustainability and the “greening of the city” stand front and foremost as two easily recognized. Curbside recycling and composting, increasing investment in bicycle transportation, native gardening, and urban farming. There is an intense concentration of a wide range of alternative health practitioners. Artisan craftspeople abound, creating specialty foods and other handcrafted products. “Shop local” is the resounding cry to support small businesses, and farmers markets adorn every neighborhood in the summertime.

Idyllic as this sounds, there is a less appealing aspect to this picture. As Madison concentrates is cultural practices into a few baskets, the proliferation of other ideas diminishes. Ten years ago I would have characterized Madison as a place that had progressive perspectives. Now I would characterize Madison as a place with few ideas, all perpetually reinforced and more deeply ingrained every day. People regurgitate a handful of versions of the same thoughts in ever narrowing expressions. Everywhere you look it is repetition of the same ideas, whether it be on politics, design, or social culture. People strive to look the same, to dress the same, and to have the same lifestyle. It is so pervasive, that women within a 30 to 40 year age range may display similar choices in hair, dress, and accessories. What began as a city with progressive and forward looking ideas to develop a new urban course has become a closed container of cultural conformity. There is a new cookie cutter in Madison, and it is young, alterna-hip, and white.

Truth be told, this is a quote from an article called "Leaving Portlandia" and I swapped out every instance of "Portland" and replaced it with "Madison". But does it still apply here?

I've never been to Portland so I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the article but I do think there is a sense of homogeneity here in Madison. Words like white, middle-class, locally sourced, Democratic, and indie rock seem applicable to Madison whereas words such as multiracial, blue-collar, diverse, and hip-hop seem less so.

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|| Palmer, 1:25 PM


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