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Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Eternally Bad Image of the City

Posted by on Thu, Sep 20, 2012 at 8:04 AM

Even in this new movie about Nairobi, we see the evil city, the bad city, the city that corrupts...


I must now repeat two important quotes from a previous post. One: from Edward Glaeser's Triumph of the City: "Cities do not have poverty because cities make people poor but because cities typically attract poor people..." Two: from Chengerai Hove's novel/poem Bones: “If the city is so frightening as you say… why are so many people living there?” Let me make sense of these quotes: Poverty in the city is better than poverty in the rural areas. The distortion of this truth, weirdly enough, can partly be blamed on the city itself. It stems back to the tradition of the pastorale; the sad business of playing shepherds and shepherdesses, of seeing authenticity in the mud. The city has long imposed this bad image/fiction on the harsh realities of rural life. Even today, we show/represent urban poverty and decay with no hesitation, but completely ignore and fail to represent/see the even more astonishing poverty and decay in the rural areas. Trust me, you are better being poor in Seattle than being poor in Nowhere, Montana; you are better being poor in Nairobi than Nowhere, Kenya.

 

Comments (8) RSS

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Joe Szilagyi 1
Supreme Ruler of the Kent Universe:

"Cities are a dying abortion of failed public policy over 10,000 years and people have been fleeing from cities as long for the idyllic fields and pastures of real human environments such as the Kent Highlands. Places like this with a population density of ten Hobbits to the farthing do not need the support and infrastructure of the failed cities. Cities suck and they should all secede from Seattle because it sucks having conservative voters being suppressed from any effectiveness just because they are outnumbered like 20 to 1.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on September 20, 2012 at 8:41 AM · Report this
2
I spent a week one night in Nai-robbery…
Posted by Ian Smith on September 20, 2012 at 9:06 AM · Report this
3
Chuck-

Why didn't you post that Obama's CounterTerrorism Director said the murder of Chris Stevens was a terrorist attack?

Not the result of a protest riot.....

That Stevens was on a terrorist hit list?

And knew it?

And spent the last weeks of his life fearing for his life?

And that Obama did not protect him?

Why didn't you post that?
Posted by The Truth will set you Free on September 20, 2012 at 9:25 AM · Report this
4
Granted, being poor is bad in Seattle, being poor is bad in Montana, and being poor is bad in Kenya. But your one trip to rural Montana earlier this year hardly makes you a trustworthy source on rural poverty.

Being poor in the city means you sleep on the sidewalk, beg for food, live in filth, and are surrounded by theft. Being poor in the country means you're still hungry, but you almost definitely have a better place to sleep and more room to yourself. Even if you have a home in the city, you'll have less property and will be more likely to live with theft and violence.

The city is a place of opportunity, and if you truly lose everything in the country you might need to move there to get food. But it's nowhere near true that you're better off being poor in the city. A critical mass of desperation does bad things to people.

Also, I've been to Nairobi. It's a scary fucking place.
Posted by trust me chuck on September 20, 2012 at 9:27 AM · Report this
5
How much of this view of cities has root in the cities of the Industrial Revolution? Cities of poisonous air, toxic water and incubators of mass plagues? Did this agrarian ideal persist before then?
Posted by Farmer Pete on September 20, 2012 at 9:32 AM · Report this
lark 6
Good Morning Charles,
I'm gonna slightly disagree with your last statement and tweak it. One actually is better being poor in the USA than in Kenya. That's pretty accurate.

However, it is fair that one in Kenya is better off being poor in Nairobi than in rural Kenya. In America, I am not so sure being poor in an urban area is better than being poor in a rural area. Although, it is arguable that being poor in Seattle might be better than being poor in Detroit. There are necessary qualifiers to your last sentence.
Posted by lark on September 20, 2012 at 11:10 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 7
@4,

I agree to a certain extent, but, if you're homeless, you're far better off in the city because the city actually has services to help the homeless; although it's never enough.

However, being poor in the countryside absolutely can be better than being poor in the city, depending on the circumstance. A poor farmer or shepherd in Kenya could very well be better off by virtue of having meaningful work, not living next to open sewers, and not being a likely victim of the rampant crime in many third world cities.
Posted by keshmeshi on September 20, 2012 at 11:27 AM · Report this
8
While we are resolving the relative merits of poverty some where else, why not tell us where it's at being poor here in the US. I have been poor in both cities and in the country, and it sucks in any circumstance. Being poor in an urban area can be dangerous, and there is little relief from the grit and grime of the infrastructure. But, if you can bathe and wear clean clothes, there are the free spaces, the library, museums, etc. Not so in the rural area. But in addition to the same social services available in the city, because of the recognition factor, people are more likely to help keep one fed and clothed in the country. Housing is harder to find. There is less to do - hence the roaring drug problem in the country side. People go to the city to get away from the smallness of life in the country and to take advantage of their talents and intellect. Meet more people and become a bigger and better person. People flee the city because they can't take the unfriendliness of it all even in 'friendly' cities, like Seattle (used to be). There is the degraded environment one encounters every day in the city, along with the noise, air and water pollution. And the continuous possibility of violence. I do not think you can say one is better than the other. It is a matter of values. Fortunately for both the city and the country, people are constantly migrating between the two.
Posted by Gonesouth on September 20, 2012 at 4:20 PM · Report this

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