No way to raise a child

January 08, 1996|By Ann Egerton

THESE DAYS it's almost perverse to support local over national or global -- in banking, retail, movie theaters, hotels, even restaurants. Big is better in this country, meaning more profitable, so we're living in the age of the mall, outlet and multiplex.

Small shops have been pushed out of the way by national and worldwide conglomerates. Vegetable stands, with their seasonal produce, still have a certain cachet, but even they are being elbowed aside by sanitized markets that sell specialty produce at only thrice the price.

Farewell to the drugstore

The prediction that 2,000 private pharmacies will close this year signals another death knell to community and another victory for the big and impersonal.

It's also reported that the tradition of Christmas gardens at firehouse is dying out, in part, firefighters say, because of lack of support from the community.

Creepiest of all, colleges and universities are finding that a growing number of their students are becoming addicted to the Internet and ignoring their flesh and blood friends.

ATMs and unmanned gasoline stations are more signs of vanishing exchange between citizens.

If you're middle-aged or older, think back to the people who knew you as a child at the grocery store, the dry cleaners, the narrower selection of retail stores or at the pharmacies (that used to sell real milkshakes) that your family frequented.

Now think of the people you deal with today at the malls and supermarkets and on other errands and ask yourself how many you know by name -- by face, for that matters since we don't seem to stay in the same place very long.

The better we get at telecommunications, the more we lose community. Efforts to bring us together more efficiently drive us apart personally. It's easier to fax, type messages on the Internet, even listen to strangers on the answering machine and voice mail than to speak to the person across the counter.

Safer too: Increasing crime both causes and is caused by diminishing community; it sure tends to discourage conversation among strangers. Locked doors and set alarms throw cold water on neighborly chitchat. Forget greeting strangers at the door.

It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. The village, as measured by neighborhoods and local commerce, is being chipped away and with it the intangibles and practice of getting along in a community. This isn't conductive to raising a child.

Ann Egerton writes from Baltimore.

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