The video you are going to watch is part of an on-going PBS project called Blueprint America that addresses questions about how to rethink and rebuild America’s transportation systems and infrastructure, and about how to plan for the growth and development of our cities and towns in more sustainable and community-minded ways.
Our readings right now are asking the question, what does it mean to be a human being? Bellah and his team of researchers are showing how in American culture we have a long history of imagining selfhood in terms of radical independence and self-reliance, emphasizing the attitude of going it alone, doing it on your own, and celebrating as the goal of one’s life an image of private accumulation of material things and seclusion from others and the world.
This model of happiness has informed the way we grow our cities, build freeways and suburbs, build houses and much more. And this is of course especially relevant right now as our government makes plans to rebuild America’s infrastructure to help restart the economy (by providing jobs, for one thing). All of these things have, for quite some time now, been governed by the idea that what we all really want is to live far away from one another, in gated communities and secluded suburbs so that we have as little contact as possible with neighbors and with people who are unlike ourselves.
NOW’s Blueprint America is posing the question: what if we rethink happiness? How can a definition of happiness that believes contact, connection, and community are good things, not bad things, lead to new visions of how and where we live, how and where we work, how our homes and transportation systems and cities should be built?
As you watch the video, make notes about any sort of connections you see between the discussion about commuting and transportation with the readings in Bellah’s book about the meaning of life, individualism, community, happiness, social responsibility, and personal contentment.
Submit your comments in the box below. Then be sure to check out the guest blog and be prepared to discuss it in class next week.