Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Highest Tower

Long ago, churches, mosques and temples used to tower over the surrounding towns. At other times it was the castles and palaces of monarchs. 

In Paris, France, the Eiffel tower stood, tall and magnificent, as a symbol of industrialisation. 

Today, we have towers of steel, concrete and glass that make all of those past structures look small and insignificant through their vast height and size. 

The size and height of buildings may reflect the priorities of a society, or at least to the distribution of power and wealth within it. The poor and powerless have traditionally lived at the bottom, in single story structures, overlooked by the wealthy and powerful in their towers. Or perhaps, society places its priority and invests its greatest effort in the areas that really matter? Like the building of pyramids by the ancients or the erection of cathedrals and domes by the pious? Where then is the priority placed in our society today?

What about these then?

Housing commission flats are tall and they are structures dedicated to welfare, to looking after the lives, theoretically at least, of those with the least power and wealth. Do they represent a high priority then? Well, they are designed, quite intentionally, to look cheap and ugly and there aren't many built these days anyway. Those that do exist are not always occupied by genuinely poor people anyway. There are ways around that system apparently. Anyway, really wealthy people want to have their own gardens and tennis courts. It is not at home, but at work that they ascend their towers and their positions of power. 

The tallest buildings in our city, and in many cities, are not for people but for commerce. The tallest are occupied by companies dedicated to the accumulation and moving about of money, closely followed by companies that mine and exploit fossil fuels. 

What's the point of all this though? Surely, for the existence of humanity to have any meaning at all, there should be two priorities held above all else: compassion and study. 

Our housing commission flats are a poor and half hearted effort to elevate (both figuratively and literally) those in poverty above the streets. They don't tackle the problem where it is at its worst, which is in developing nations, war zones and our own country's Northern Territory, though recently, poverty is a growing problem in the USA as well. 

What of study then? Well, we are hardly among the tallest buildings in the city, but the view from this university does look pretty enticing. 

Yes, there is hope here yet that study and it's goals of wisdom, knowledge and understanding, haven't completely been forgotten. We need to do a lot more, of course. Scholars are not respected or taken seriously by many powerful parts of our society. A little help from government wouldn't go astray here, but then, parliament house is so low it's half under ground. 

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