Saturday, April 03, 2004

A vision of the liberal body politic at the Reading Terminal Market 

The Reading Terminal is one of Philadelphia's great institutions. It's a combination of a Central Market and a food court—except, unlike at a mall, none of the restaurants and stands are chains, they all sell real food, and because they're local, the money stays in Philly. And it's right in Center City, so you can walk or take the train to it. And now the Reading Terminal has free WiFi.

So this morning, I've been blogging from the Reading Terminal ($2.00 home-made ginger snaps described, of all places, in the Times).

All around: Tommy Dinic's Roast Beef and Pork. Johnny Yi's Fish Market; in neon: "Eat Fish, Live Longer." Famous Philadelphia Hoagies (run by Koreans). Food for the Skin (Bath - Body - Spirit) by Terralyn. Mezze Mediterranean Foods. Martin's Fancy Meats and Sausages.

And lots of Philadelphians—old, young, black, white, rich, poor, local, out-of-town—sitting down at the smae table and happily chowing down the food of their choice. You want lean? We got lean. Cholesterol bomb? We got that too. Kosher? No problem.

This is, I think, a paradigm of the body politic as a liberal conceives it. People get to choose their own food, and all sit down together. Also, a lot of small businesses making it on a playing field that the government makes sure is level by providing the right infrastructure.

This is, I think, also the opposite of how the Fundamentalists conceive the body politic. If they had their way, there would be only one kind of food, and only those who wanted it would sit down together. Everyone else would be out in the cold. "They only have one book, and it tells them to burn all the other books," as Neil Stephensen observed in another context in The Diamond Age. FTF ...

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