Sunday, January 2, 2011

Metaphors we live by, part ?: "Imprisoned in their homes"

The home, and especially home ownership, is one of the most powerful anchor metaphors for citizenship in our post-modern democracy. In past generations, idealized citizens were imagined taking action in the public, whether the battle field or through mobilized public citizenship, and above all the commercial market place, for baby boomers and subsequent generations the homeowner has been valorized as the major way people contribute to the public good of their communities. I've argued in some recent publications that this kind of home ownership is also the anchor for citizen as crime victim, which drives "governing through crime" and the war on crime/drugs/terror. In particular, of all the ways that a polity might choose to be "tough on crime," the form of mass incarceration is shaped the influence of this homeowner as crime victim conception.

Against this the words of New York's new Governor Andrew Cuomo inaugural address as reported by Danny Hakim and Nicholas Confessore in the NTYtimes, drew my attention:

Mr. Cuomo described residents as being imprisoned in their homes, which are losing value even as their tax bills keep climbing.

“Nothing is going up in their lives,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Their income isn’t going up, their banking account isn’t going up, their savings aren’t going up. They can’t afford the never-ending tax increases in the state of New York, and this state has no future if it is going to be the tax capital of the nation.”

New York is far from as messed up as California by mass incarceration so the irony of describing homeowners as imprisoned in their homes is not as sharp as it would be if Jerry Brown said it. The fact that his sympathies are completely with the people as homeowners, rather than workers, families, etc. is worrisome. I'll have more to say in the near future about his political agenda , but on the metaphors we live by level, not inspiring to say the least. No doubt this guy wants to be President...

On the Joana Yeates case I blogged about in my last post, Steven Morris has an insightful piece in the Guardian exploring why victims like Joanna are so compelling to the media and the public out of all the murder victims, young and old, that accumulate in the UK.

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