For years here at Adventures in Irony, I gleefully held to a word target of 666 each week. Just for the giggles. That ended when these columns started being too short during layout. The editor said, “Hey, your columns are shrinking! Send a few extra words.”
I’ve finally figured out what’s caused the shrinkage. No, it wasn’t the cold weather (haha, very funny). It was Trump’s fault.
I’m serious! What I’ve realized was, ever since Trump has dominated the news, even before he was elected, the lengths of the individual words in these writings have on average decreased.
You don’t need 50-cent words to describe Donald Trump, his opinions, or his actions. Nickel and dime words are all it takes to talk about the five-and-dime president.
The shorter the words, the more you need. We are now encroaching upon 777. A year from now I expect that as this Trump shrinkage effect continues, all my words will be four letter words, on average, and we’ll be up to 888 of them per week.
Speaking of unexpected effects, I’ve been dwelling lately on unintended consequences. I was delighted to see that Wikipedia has an article on “unintended consequences,” laying out the history of the concept, going back to John Locke and detailing varieties of unintended consequences and the kind of conditions that lead to them.
I have some favorite examples of my own. Building I-5 up the middle of Seattle was supposed to solve Seattle’s traffic problems. Instead it created as many new problems as it fixed by making it hard to travel east-west across it, among other things.
A consequence down the road of all that east-west split has been that city planners have since become tunnel-happy. The idea being that a tunnel doesn’t interfere as much with surface traffic. It comes with a lid already.
An intended consequence of the viaduct replacement tunnel under First Avenue is that the Seattle waterfront will be prettified and people will flock to the new parks and property values will soar along Alaskan Way (even more than they already have.)
But in order to get all that, we are channeling cars through a tunnel so that all those drivers and passengers won’t be seeing the waterfront or even much of the bay as they pass through and under the city. The intended consequence of making the waterfront more attractive may lead to the unintended consequence of making it easily forgotten and neglected.
Neglected like all those old towns in the midwest that became ghost towns when the interstates were built bypassing their main streets. Which by the way sank rural and semi-rural economies across the country from the Eisenhower presidency on, and led to widespread animosity in those communities toward the federal government, and gave us Trump.
Another array of unintended consequences revolve around efforts to make homeowners happy. There have been all sorts of schemes applied by governments at all levels, as well as by homeowners’ associations, to jack up home values and keep homeowners happy and voting for whoever pleased them the most last.
An early scheme of this sort was “zoning.” The idea of zoning was to keep ugly factories out of family neighborhoods. Unintended consequences included blocking expansions of residential neighborhoods and increasing distances to work places, forcing people to rely more on cars, making “suburb” a word in American English, and convincing people we needed more highways so people could get to their increasingly distant workplaces faster. Hence the interstate system, hence Trump.
Homeowners love it when their homes’ values go up. Oh, sure, the time will come when they can’t afford the taxes anymore, but they all think of how much they’ll get from selling when they have to leave.
One way to keep the values of homes in a neighborhood up, in the thinking of people who live in them, is keeping the neighborhood free of “blight.” That means everyone has to keep their homes in good repair and the “wrong” people must be kept out, homeless people in particular.
So communities unite to drive out homeless people in order to send home values up, which, as it works, sends rental costs up within the same area, which increases homelessness, which makes it harder to drive homeless people out, there’s so many of them (“Where do they all come from?”), which results in more regulatory burdens on who can rent to whom and what conditions homes must be in, which burdens are resented and blamed on the government.
So, Trump is our president.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
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