Published September 18, 2017
Everywhere along the shores of Planet Earth: the constant pressures of endless development, population explosion, climate breakdown, civic breakdown, the loss of rootedness and deep connection to whatever place on our Mother Earth, continue to escalate a pitched battle among the people; what one side claims is Regression, the other side deems is Progress. It’s the NIMBYS versus the YIMBYS. One could argue that they represent two basic human personality-types in the world; both of whom are as if total alien strangers to the other.
The NIMBYS are the new ‘Indians’, hated, feared and maligned by the YIMBYS as much as were the real Indians of old for the obstacle they represent to the YIMBY Civilization’s juggernaut journey down through time and space that continues to crush or push off to the side any and all who ever dare to stand in its way. For the NIMBYS to try to defend themselves, their way of life and Mother Earth against the juggernaut, it always has been like trying to stop a Tsunami wave with a wall made of gossamer-thin tissue paper; that Tsunami part and parcel of a monstrous conspiracy committed by an entire civilization’s way of seeing and being. To deflect its juggernaut even a few degrees, let alone turn it around 180 degrees, will require the mightiest of Herculean efforts.
“Oh, oh!”, warns the YIMBY, “I can hear another Luddite harangue coming from one of those NIMBY Nut Cases complaining again about endless development and the constant attempt to grow the economy as non-solutions.”
If it was only that simple! For years NIMBYS have been held in contempt for speaking out in favor of preserving their way of life from being constantly slathered by the construction of so much unimaginative, non-humanistic, nature-less settings and environments to house the crunch of uncontrolled over-population, refugees and immigrants needlessly caused by mankind’s unquenchable desire for ever-mounting warfare and violence throughout the world; a process that only leads to more and more multi-cultural-less realities, devoid of any common cultural-spiritual frames of reference, that continue to spread like terminal cancer. The NIMBYS rear-guard resistance movement is a broad-based one that applies, as well, to the opposition against oil pipelines and whatever other non-renewable industrial developments that destroy the lands, waters and habitats of all living things. To the YIMBYS, who say “Yes In My Backyard” to all this, the NIMBYS local call in their communities for the preservation of such things as: Single Family Homes, Heritage & Traditional Neighborhoods are dirty words to them; akin to the indigenous native calling upon the invader to Respect Their Mother Earth.
As things stand in most Western countries, in the YIMBY Civilization’s ‘Rules of The Game’, that otherwise could be called a perpetual dictatorship by the outsider invader, the concept of private property rights always are skewed in favor of the speculator, developer and incoming new residents who always seem to have more rights to change the character, quality and composition of a community than the same rights that the native residents and community should possess, but don’t, to protect and preserve their time-honored way of life.
The YIMBYS argue that such NIMBY notions and expectations are unrealistic luxuries today in the modern world’s ever-burgeoning urban areas reeling from the irreversible explosion of population, massive immigration, refugees and constant redevelopment. “No matter how destructive they all will be to preserving whatever time-honored way of life”, they argue, “change in the future, unfortunately, will simply bring about, among other things, the constant displacement by the .1% of the 99%. Get over it! It’s just Darwin’s Survival-of-the-Fittest Redux!”
Ask the average citizen on the street, “What’s a NIMBY?” and they will offer up some negative, disparaging comment because, for years, the propaganda of the real estate industry, development community, politicians and corporate press have slandered and demeaned the NIMBY concept. But then ask the next question, “What’s a YIMBY?” and the likelihood will be a dumbfounded look and puzzled, “Huh? Dunno!”, because it’s a bit like asking someone to try to describe the surrounding invisible air. They’re just everywhere!
But from the perspective of the NIMBYs, to turn the juggernaut of the world’s urban areas around from the veritable cultural-environmental war zones that they now are – pitting natives, refugees, immigrants, the dispossessed and disenfranchised against one another – the process of reversing everything starts with the preservation of single-family homes, neighborhoods and traditional communities. This is the only grassroots means NIMBYS have within their immediate reach to try to do what the mainstream society’s YIMBYS resolutely refuse to face up to, which is to put the brakes on a runaway world on a dead-end track that refuses to acknowledge what is the Achilles Heel of the human species very reason for being beyond endless, mindless growth, expansion and warfare. How much control or authority the average citizenry has over their lives, homes and the place where they live is where the building blocks of every society, culture and civilization either begins or ends. This is where true democracies or authoritarian dictatorships are either born or die. This battle represents the key flashpoint issue that defines the vast differences in world views that exist between the two groups.
To recognize this basic issue for what it is should call to mind the ancient Japanese maxim of the three wise monkeys “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil”. Like Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru in the proverb, an ignorant ‘blind eye’ is turned towards the human species moral responsibility to itself for the sake of its own survival. Taken collectively, this ancient proverb translates to mean “Don’t listen, look or speak to the truth because it will disturb all the existing consoling lies”. Each time a great hue and cry arises from every country to do something to reduce the human causes of climate breakdown, the same fervor and urgency should issue forth in the same breath to likewise not only do something to reduce population explosion, and the resulting civic breakdown that’s continually created, but also reduce the production of armaments that leads to ever more world warfare. All are intimately inter-twined!
But it never happens because the YIMBYS – deaf, dumb and blind – can’t come up with any other solution to stop this malaise other than passively allow for more of the same. Exponential population, more economic growth and warfare is their holy mantra. It’s not a sacred place, heritage or way of life they seek to protect and preserve but an ideology that doesn’t know where its civilization is going and doesn’t care. Its solution is the slippery slope upon which there is ultimately no sustainable recovery for the human or natural world’s, save for the ultimate “HongKongization” of life, with all living things multiplying, competing and fighting with one another for survival like rats gone mad in a maze. Like Dodo birds, YIMBYS adhere to a quasi-religious belief in the miracle of mankind’s science, technology, and their limitless powers that, even as the last second before midnight is about to strike the ‘Doomsday Clock’, somehow, miraculously, science and technology will somehow lift the human species coals from out of the all-consuming fires of its suicidal ways before its doom and that of Mother Earth’s is sounded. But it’s nothing more than madness and magical thinking!
Meanwhile, all the blame is transferred onto the backs of the NIMBY scapegoats, who only want to preserve a way of life they’ve come to love, but who the YIMBYS claim only know how to “point fingers” because they just selfishly want to “turn their paradisiacal Eden into an exclusive club for themselves.” In actuality, the many unresolved problems of the modern human condition are nothing more than symptoms of an age-old dis-ease about the real meaning of life that only continues to grow worse with the passage of time, because they all emanate from the same unresolved core problem.
YIMBYS always shift the blame and argue that it’s the NIMBYS opposition to ‘progress’ that actually is what impedes society’s ability to improve upon its own shortcomings, like; the endless lack of public transit, affordable housing, failing waste management systems, and the vast array of infrastructure needed to try to keep up with the unending glut of redevelopment.
What is happening on the North Shores of British Columbia, Canada is one example. The perpetual More of Everything there wouldn’t ever be needed if its North Shore politicians, city planners and development community explored alternative solutions other than those that inexorably eradicate single-family homes, entire neighborhoods and time-honored ‘mom & pop’ commercial zones; replaced by high-rise, high-density, high-end redevelopment used as knee-jerk solutions to society’s many critical unresolved problems. The out-of-control growth may start in the easier to build on flatter, tree-less, less-affluent neighborhoods, but the ‘domino effect’ rapidly continues until it reaches into even the richer, more exclusive communities. The core issues will never be resolved using the YIMBYS unresolvable definition of progress.
Humans on the North Shore, like everywhere else, must simply constantly remind themselves that they’re not above the Laws of Nature. That they would actually be better served if they took a lesson from how Nature naturally self-regulates itself within every ecosystem by setting sustainable limits for every one of its species population’s and their rate of growth. Like all other life forms, every municipality needs to abide by Nature Law’s and instead devise a glass ceiling formula for its own population and economic growth that would flourish within sane limits, based upon a realistic formula for sustainability and stewardship, as indigenous peoples worldwide have done since time immemorial. What at first may sound like a Jonathan Swift Modest Proposal will ultimately prove far less radical than continue in the same vein and direction as everything is going. Otherwise little hope exists for the people ever regaining even a modicum of the kind of local control over their lives, towns and cities that indigenous peoples once had. Life instead remaining an endless corruption and abomination, requiring the equivalent resources of countless more Earth’s than the sole one the human species now must rely on; constantly ruled by waves of homeless, rootless strangers, as if they were a species of alien invaders from another planet, who never have the local dwellers best interests at heart.
One example of where this writer lives in his tiny green ‘elfin’ sanctuary, on the shores of North Vancouver, is a high-density, high-rise development called the ‘Capilano Road/Marine Drive Village Centre’. The political dynamics are the same as those involved in every high-rise, high-density development throughout the world. The constant political betrayal of the populace by the rich and politically powerful, and their indifference to the heritage, traditions and the unique ‘iconic nature’ of what the local natives desire to preserve are one and the same. North Vancouver’s ‘Village Centre’ touted, so the YIMBY spiel goes, as, “a laudable solution, done in concert with the local citizenry, their official community plan and the developers who’ve made supreme sacrifices to their original more massive plans for redevelopment.”
What a laugh, if it wasn’t so sad! Because it was his tiny Lower Capilano Community, that once prided itself on being the proverbial Mouse That Roared,who, after years of consultation between its residents and homeowners, came up with its own unique version of a local dream plan, designed to protect and preserve their iconic ‘North Shore’ way of life, that sought to address such things as: lower height restrictions; less lot in-fill spec’s, fewer variance allowances, more creative, restrictive building codes and protected ‘green belts’. For a time the North Shore politicos acknowledged their simpler dream plan until the realization dawned on high that it would seriously impede the YIMBY movers and shakers own ‘Master Plan’ for perpetual progress.
So, without consulting the local natives, who’d burned heaps of ‘midnight oil’ and shed lots of ‘blood, sweat and tears’, the politico’s Pulled a YIMBY Fast One andunilaterally abolished their carefully crafted plan; stripped in the process were the mechanisms of community-building and democratic due process that undermined the community’s sense of itself. Overnight, the ‘middle men and women’ were ‘cut out of the loop’, with direct community involvement to realize their hoped-for dreams to protect their tiny corner of the world all but scraped. With the demise of community identity and cohesion, control and direction fell into the hands of development-obsessed, greed-based, ego-centric politicians, planners, architects and developers who, with a swipe-of-the-pen, created their own ridiculously unrealistic One Size Fits All Communities OCP that favored unchallengeable development on the North Shore.
The recommendations made by the locals to realize their dream plan weren’t the only things that were deep-sixed. They soon learned one of life’s harsh lessons that nothing comes for free, and that if they wanted any amenities in the future (community meeting place, recreation facilities, day care, natural parklands), it was they who would have to “pay for the pleasure of their own pain” by agreeing to a steeper price by the developers of ever-higher, ever-denser FSR development, regardless of however much tax monies may already have been paid into the politico’s coffers over the previous 50 years without ever having received such amenities.
There are many ways to characterize what differentiates the YIMBYS from the NIMBYS in the world. But perhaps the defining characteristic of all between them is that NIMBYS, like native peoples everywhere, possess a keen sense of place and reverence for life where they live, that one could even call ‘Sacred’ that they will strive to protect to the bitter end. On the other hand, too many YIMBYS, spiritually rootless and morally rudderless, lack such a sacred sense of place, the loss of which holds little real meaning or significance for them. Some metaphysicians say the essential difference between them and their understanding and grasp of life, that has separated them from one another for millennia, is the difference that exists between Old Souls & New Souls; the gap between them so vast as if to represent two distinct alien species. The storybook character Dr. Seuss might otherwise say that it all boils down to the simple question, “Are You a Star-Belly Sneetch or a Plain-Belly Sneetch?”
So, however characterized, this impasse is an old one. The YIMBYS of B.C.’s North Shore, like everywhere else on Planet Earth, are shills for a way of life that knows little about the concept of real Stewardship or how to resolve the three giant Elephants in the planetary room – POPULATION EXPLOSION, UNSUSTAINABILITY & WORLD PEACE.
However vigorous and unwavering the NIMBYS protests may ever be, in the end, the only alternative they’re left with beyond helpless, passive acceptance of ‘what is’, is to Fight or Take Flight. But to take flight elsewhere in the hope of finding another, more stable, tranquil way of life resembling the fast disappearing beloved one they once knew isn’t the answer because escape is futile. As old Chief Seattle once said to the White Man in a wise warning about the fate that was befalling his people, “This, too, one day, shall come to pass for your way of life!”
The decision to stay and fight to try to arrive at a workable solution to address these elephants in the room is also problematic because there just are too many YIMBYS in the world who hold all the power and control and never enough NIMBYS who don’t, and even fewer who have the stomach for a good fight. So, it ends up being the same ol’, same ol’ Cowboys & Indians story, told and retold. Whether one is a NIMBY, an Indian or whatever other color or stripe of native, they find themselves cast as renegades, caught in-between that same old rock and a hard place. But, as far as the YIMBYS civilization goes, it’s just more “Get Outta My Way! Wagons Ho!”
With the mounting chaos of the geo-political world scene, the ultimate outcome of life as it has been previously known on Earth is predictable. One need only look at what led to the previous two world wars, and the current endless world-wide war of terror, to realize that the end result can only be the same as resentments continue to build among peoples of all races, colors and creeds; especially as the human cocktail becomes mixed with evermore lethal doses of: climate and civic breakdown; over-population; multi-cultural-less realities replacing time-honored traditional ones; skewed economics by and for the elite .1%, and; the on-going third world war that ravages whole countries, causing the constant mass displacement of humanity and its forced immigration to countries that only fuels racist sentiment and discontent in whatever host country.
In a larger world context, NIMBYS, concerned about a host of social-environmental-humanistic-planetary issues, continue to register their protests under the moral banner Not In My Name, with their concerns mostly going unacknowledged and unaddressed. As the stable world they once knew continues to disintegrate, tensions escalate, causing many to strike out in mindless rage, as clashes between the Alt-Right and Alt-Left have demonstrated over the XL Keystone, Dakota Access, Kinder Morgan Oil Pipelines and TEAR ‘EM DOWN NOLA historical statues protests; such encounters but the beginning of what will become even more violent in the future.
Still others will choose more peaceful ways to demonstrate their discontent, like those members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) who continue to peacefully protest in defense of ex-San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, blackballed by the owners of the NFL because of his courageous protests to ‘take a knee’ for 16 games against widespread racial injustice; all because, like the little boy in the Hans Christian Andersen tale, ‘The Kap’ dared to declare that America’s Emperor is Wearing No Clothes. Growing numbers of American football players and fans likewise refuse to stand for the national anthem to protest all the chaos that is going on in American culture and the need to collectively “pray for the country”.
But it’s going to take much more than prayers, ‘taking a knee’ or ‘raising a clenched fist’ as alienation and dishevelment become even more destabilizing in the lives of the people. Mass anxiety and discontent can only lead to yet more backlash on any number of grassroots fronts covering a wide spectrum. The future precariously hinges upon whether the many outcries of the NIMBYS, speaking Truth to Power, can or will ever be heard by the YIMBYS.
But Hope Springs Eternal in the Human Breast, as the old maxim goes!
Author’s Notes: The challenge to clearly articulate the fundamental differences that exist between the NIMBYS and YIMBYS has been as intense as it has been demanding from an intellectual, emotional, spiritual, personal perspective, as well as a literary one, to say what all needs to be said on this topic in the most concise, cogent way possible. Whether or not the effort has proven successful will be decided by how well, and to what degree, it jives and resonates with the reader’s own view of things.
Jerome Irwin is a freelance writer and author of “The Wild Gentle Ones; A Turtle Island Odyssey” (www.turtle-island-odyssey.com), a three volume account of his travels as a spiritual sojourner, during the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s, among Native American & First Nation peoples in North America. It encompasses the Indigenous Spiritual Renaissance & Liberation Movements that emerged throughout North America during the civil rights era. During this period of sojourn, Irwin also underwent a Lakota hanbleceya vision quest, under the tutelage of Joe Thunder Hawk, and received the name Twin Rainbow that symbolizes a healing bridge between the cultures of the West & East. and their many ensuing conflicts. In addition to being a long-time activist and political organizer among his community of Lower Capilano, Twin Rainbow-Irwin has authored over the years a number of environmental, political, cultural, spiritual articles with a special focus on Native Americans, First Nations, Australian aboriginals, Israel, Gaza, Palestine and Syria. Irwin also is the publisher of The Wild Gentle Press.