Peeling Paint??!? Infraction!!
Now fear is different. Protected by the name of Safety and her disapproving sister, Prevention, it infiltrates every part of our lives. Fear of our children falling off their scooters without a helmet on their tiny heads. Fear of celebrating a big event in a big crowd. Fear of offending someone unintentionally. Fear of terrible illness. Fear of speaking up. Fear of three teenagers sitting on a curb in a neighborhood, and now, fear of…well….somebody else’s petunias.
Fear of one’s neighbor – or potential neighbor – is at the core of each of these Homeowners’ Associations, and the successful (and subtle) marketing of such fear makes it that much easier to sign on the dotted line.
City ordinances are just plain not enough! What if your neighbor paints their house red? What if she decides to have a compost pile, or (horror upon horror) wants to stop wasting electricity and hang her clothes up to dry? What if she’s just plain crazy and wants backyard chickens? Well, sadly for many people living in these subdivisions, by-laws might protect against compost, chickens and gazing balls, but they don’t protect against ‘crazy’ – I’ve listened to too many first-hand accounts of wackadoo neighbors inhabiting tasteful homes with thoroughly approved siding to know otherwise.
Nevertheless, we are convinced that we can create nirvana with our by-laws, eliminating any variables that make us uneasy (referred to in previous generations as “the spice of life”). Consequently, it’s no longer enough to give your neighbor a list of the paint colors that won’t offend you and won’t inspire her, but now we’re going to make sure her floral life resides firmly within established parameters.
So what are we giving up in return? For if you support such petunia policing, do not kid yourself my friend, you will give up something in return. Here’s a list just off the top of my head:
1) The stifling of creative energy when a homeowner sees a beautiful plant in a nursery and finds that it’s not on the list of approved flora. Enter resentment stage left. Exit homeowner stage right.
2) The establishment of mini-monocultures which are particularly vulnerable to pests and disease (sure hope Impatiens walleriana is not on that list of ‘approved flora,’ eh?).
3) A severely impacted nursery trade as this practice (inconceivably) continues. You think the Great Recession wiped out choice at nurseries? Just wait till everyone is planting begonias. Only begonias.