Thinking about the upcoming election–and the various issues and proposals candidates bring up–has led me to thinking about where, in Ottawa, people live. Under current definitions, we would say that most Ottawans live in the suburbs, but this isn’t really correct. When we are saying that people live in the suburbs, we often mean that they reside in the suburbs…and by that we mean that they sleep there.
Most of our lives occur past our driveways. People travelling from their home in one area to work, play, worship, exercise or study in another area don’t really live in the area where their home is. And our current definition of “living” really perverts the concept, driving the banal soul-less life of North American stereotypes.
It would seem that this concept of living is an outgrowth of the cult of home ownership. The rise of the suburbs and the associated sprawl are driven by the desire to own some land. It is the suburbs where people look to find cheaper (but still nice!) homes and neighbourhoods. Although you can rent in the suburbs, the suburban lifestyle is built off of home ownership.
The cult of ownership has led to many desperate situations in North America in the past few years. The compulsion to buy rather than rent is insidious. It colours decisions and distorts perspectives. It also helps to obscure what life really is about.