24 Sep 2010

The Quest for a Streamlined Corsica (Part 3)

The Fading of Local Knowledge: My grandma and her generation of villagers were rich sources of local information. Their passing away is - to paraphrase an Arab proverb - likened to a burning library. It helped that my grandma, until her very last day, had an acute memory and was clear-headed about who was who in the village, their next-of-kin and ancestors, who owned which bit of land, who did what for a living back in 1932, local traditions and customs, beliefs and myths, crafts and other manual skills etc. She brimmed with anecdotes, some very witty and funny, which she vividly recounted on late evenings for our pleasure.


Most of her knowledge had been passed down to her by her elders and family friends, and she had built her knowledge from there. Village society at the time was united (despite the odd feud), neither fragmented, nor individualistic and certainly not indifferent like modern society has turned out to be. Back then everyone knew everyone and took a real interest in who and what surrounded them in the microcosm of the village. People made their own evening entertainment by going round houses/ inviting relatives and neighbours around, for a chat about life and storytelling. Back then, books and newspapers were rare, radio a definite luxury, theatre and cinema mostly confined to the towns, and TV's foray into the home didn't become widespread until the 1960s.


Mémé and my mum (Nice, July 1957)

Land Planning: For this section, I will take us back to that 'little slice of suburb in the sun' allegory. No disrespect to home-owners who have bought into the dream, but we need more public concertation and the issuance of stricter architectural guidelines dos and don'ts that will help harmonise style across the suburbs, without that impression of a disjointed mish-mash sprawl...

Under its various denominations (POS, PLU, PADDUC, Loi Littoral et al), land planning at large appears bureaucratic, complicated, illogic in places and mostly misunderstood by Joe Public. Too many legalities, too many amendments, too many personal interests at stake, too many loopholes and too many exceptions to the rules lead to incomprehension, unpopularity and distrust. Another case of 'who's right, who's wrong?' How about make good use of our top public servants' time and (re)write a plan that will be unified, unbiased, forward-thinking, easy to update and clear enough to be understood and interpreted by all. That will be the naive in me hoping!


Off the Bend: Road improvements have always been a welcome necessity in Corsica, to ease communication between secluded, hard-to-reach villages. However in the last ten years, when roads have been widened, dynamited à-gogo, bends softened, even obliterated altogether, corners might have been cut in the process - so to speak, i.e. by playing down the impact that such drastic redefinition would have.

The fact that whole rock chunks were blasted has weakened the structure of certain cliff faces to the point of compromising exposed soil with every heavy rainfall and strong wind, which is particularly apparent in the Cape where parts of the redesigned coastal road have caved in. Costly repairs have stabilised the damage, yet being more respectful of the local geology and typography may have helped avoid the problem in the first place, with the defacto acceptance that Corsica's mountainous terrain implies that those bends and curves simply come with the territory...

Techno-Flops: Already touched upon here, I'll keep it short and sweet with one simple question: how can you smoothly run an internet business, or even a straightforward weblog, from the villages when low voltage or even power cuts incapacitate technology?


Conclusion: The making of the future is rooted in today's work in progress and is built on the foundations of today and yesterday as today's past. We need to make sure that those foundations are solid enough for the future to hold, take root and become in turn tomorrow's present. Corsica benefits from a fabulous potential, but before putting the hard hat on, we need to pause and consider whether we should head for the port or back inland, where the story of Corsica began, ease the past into the future with financial collateral and labour resources. Then redefine our vision of tourism, balance out work and leisure industries, aim for a society where inhabitants, workers and visitors alike can each find their feet, their place and a purpose in the grand scheme of things. A place for all. Failing that, just call me an idealist...

Further browsing: Domaine de Murtoli, a successful eco-tourism compromise between past and present.

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