Urban Decay: barricading our cities,
And our minds
Everyone bemoans the way street crime, visible poverty, deteriorating infrastructure, decaying homes and boarded-up businesses are becoming increasingly common features of city life, but we rarely ask ourselves how this deterioration in the world around us is affecting the way we look at the world.
In not asking that question, we underestimate the importance of urban decay as a problem in its own right, and the degree to which it promotes other social ills. Inner city decay is part of a dangerous and silent progression that is not being given the attention it deserves: the fragmentation of our society into potentially or actually hostile camps, barricaded off from each other. And it has the potential, in the end, to exercise an important influence on the course of national politics.
In order to see why, we have to start by looking at how decay happens. It begins with an anti-urban bias, a belief, deeply-rooted in Canada and the United States, that cities are, at best, a necessary evil, and the likely scene of violence, social disorder, dirt and tension. Rural and small-town life, by contrast, is associated with cleanliness, sturdy reliability and family values.
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