A Better Memorial
I wish to thank Robert O. Blanchard for articulating the issues of Matthew Shepard's death and pending hate crime laws with such clarity, such reason, and such compassion ("The `Hate State' Myth," May). The article serves as a powerful reminder of both the terrible nature of the crime and the poor memorial that hate crime legislation pays to Mathew Shepard and others who fall prey to violent crime.
If I had any criticism to levy upon the article itself, it is that the author did not write more about alternatives to hate crime laws or of the existence of organizations such as Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, Log Cabin Republicans, Libertarians for Gay and Lesbians Concerns, the Independent Gay Forum, and Highly Productive Publishing Page. These groups address gay rights in a forum respectful of the free market and individual liberty.
If Matthew Shepard is to be remembered as something more than a two-dimensional poster boy for hate crime legislation and religious "God Hates Faggots" groups it will be because his name is invoked to celebrate individuality and secure liberty. So let us never forget Matthew Shepard and let us implore peaceful means to fight homophobia. Let us push for pro-liberty changes, from abolishing sodomy laws to ending the military ban to the many other areas where the government has stuck its nose where it never should have.
Edward T.J. Brown
As one who grew up in Brasilia, I take issue with "In a State's Eye" (May), Jesse Walker's review of Seeing Like a State. The article calls the city "a new capital in inland Brazil, constructed without regard for the country's present or past; a crowdless, cultureless monument not to the nation that built it but to an abstract idea of what a great city should be."
First of all, the main reason for constructing a new capital in the "planalto central"--a dry flatland in the heart of Brazil--was to spread development toward Brazil's central region, which at that time was extremely underdeveloped compared to the coastal regions. So the plan of building Brasilia not only did take into account the geographical reality of the country but was in part a consequence of it.
At the time it was built, most Brazilians thought it was a crazy idea that would never work. For this reason the government had to propose incentives, such as free housing, to attract people to settle in the middle of nowhere for a new life. Nowadays, Brasilia itself is enough of an incentive to new settlers that the government no longer needs to provide them.
With regard to its original goal, Brasilia did work just as intended: The entire Federal District has become an industrial center, where, incidentally, polluting industries are forbidden. It has also spawned other centers beyond its outskirts. Yes, Brasilia does have settlements around it, but don't all big cities? The fact that these settlements proliferate at such a high rate is in part the result of people leaving their home place to try their luck in Brasilia.
I grew up in one of the city's "huge concrete apartment buildings and gigantic, lifeless squares." The small streets that enter each square or "quadra" dead-end there. That means there is no traffic on these small streets. That, and the huge open spaces between the buildings within a quadra, make it a paradise for kids. As a kid I had a football-field-sized lawn right in front of my building to play in, and I could go to local stores of the quadra without having to cross any traffic.
Finally, those who come for a quick visit might agree with Walker that Brasilia has no landmarks, but I believe the landmarks are just more subtle. Of course much of what are called "cultural landmarks" belong to a city's history--which, being only 39 years old, the city currently lacks. What it does have that others might lack is a mixture of cultural backgrounds of people from all over Brazil; it is a city of contrasts. We say there that there is no in between; either you hate it or you love it. Walker hates it; I love it.
Jesse Walker replies: One theme of James Scott's book is the difference between knowledge rooted in local experience and knowledge rooted in abstract theories. In that spirit, I will not presume to dispute a Brasilian's account of her own city, and certainly not her right to love it. I'm afraid, though, that Damiao's civic pride may have clouded her reading of my review.
Scott had many criticisms of Brasilia, but the settlements around it were not among them. His point--and mine, in reviewing his book--was that Brasilia could never have survived without such settlements; that for all the planning that went into building Brasilia, it was the unplanned, spontaneous side of the metropolis, from the squatters' settlements to Damiao's "subtle landmarks," that sustained the city.