Thursday, March 03, 2005

Psychological Divide

CROSS-TOWN NEIGHBORS UNITE says today's headline. The story discusses how some Palo Altan's feel excluded from having a say about controversial building projects--namely those where someone else is building a home they object to. Groups from two areas of Palo Alto are banding together to challenge the planning process. One of the groups is south of and the other is north of the Oregon Expressway which is described as a 'psychological' divide. I'm willing to bet that Palo Alto has no shortage of 'psychological' divides.

The prolonged battle over street blockages in the Downtown North neighborhood last year is a recent example that it isn't crosstown issues that form psychological divides. More often the battle is house to house. California Avenue merchants complain about too many hair and nail salons, as if it were their place to determine how a business owner risks their money. Sometimes the pettyness is between competing business without a border to defend. The Palo Alto Weekly is consumed with their hatred towards their newspaper rival the Palo Alto Daily News. A recent edition filled the front page and other inside pages scolding the paper for having the audacity to be different. Their anger seems to have more to do with not being able to have a monopoly on the market. Sometimes the divides are merely imagined slights; such is the case with racial profiling charges.

Common among the groups is the need to control others in order to advance a utopian vision. They feel that the greater good is only accomplished with their values alone. Palo Alto isn't a big city, nor is it especially diverse, but the prolonged bickering rivals much larger more diverse communities. At some point you have to go back to the psychological divide and wonder just what is the psychological make up of the city.

Palo Alto recently awarded a $10,000 grant to an artist currently camped out in front of city hall. His project is to photograph each house in the city and somehow determine the color most representative of Palo Alto. It just might be worthwhile to do something similar with the psychological make up of the city.


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