Good for the City in Small Pieces

“Some years ago, and a year or so after the 9/11 disaster, I was standing near a conversation at a town hall session, when a constituent decried failing systems in service to the simple act of voting – long lines, ill-trained, confused poll workers, broken machines, deplorable participation rates, falling registrations, and so on.  The Senator, politely nodding said, “Little will happen on any of these issues until voting breaks down completely. Only if that happens can action with money be taken, in the meantime…” when the constituent interrupted and said, “But Senator, all the dots are in a row here,” it was like being slapped.”

Rex L. Curry

Photo © iStockphoto.com/Alvinge (Source Link)

The policy of catastrophic resolution is supported as a congressional decision-making model, and while reasonable in one sense, it has become a disease of denial regarding the value of prevention. Today, a variety of life-denying systems within the western economies are held by self-styled anthropophagus-like altruists whose logic would destroy the village to save it and who govern at an “arm’s length” with the help of psychopaths they put into public offices. They are not the oligarchs of old that hold the spoils of war. In their worlds, surrounded by the obsequious kindness of others, I believe many of them do not know what they do or have done to damage the future. The clutch of sycophants in their spheres quietly whisper in a gaggle of insistence, saying there is no need for decisive action on the unprovable loss of a single species, or global breakdowns in seasonal patterns that bring fire, drought, and thunderous waves from a rising global ocean or the searing heat across ever-widening dry plains. The policy of “no need without undeniable insistence,” must not occur.  There is a need for revolution and I think I have a sense where it might begin.

The synergy of dense urban living appears to create or at least support the rise of conditions that prevent damage to future generations as it defines and solves problems squarely ahead. It can be sloppy, however, most of the cycles of sloppiness are short, cover small geographic areas, because only parts of the systems that glue the city together fail at any one time. A city in constates of repair is a city with powerful expertise. When ancient, wood water main breaks, a sewer fails, a gas line leaks and an electric power loss occurs only a few people are affected and only for short periods because of compacity. A word that describes a lot of people nearby that know exactly what to do or how to get it done.

ConEdisons Outage Map shows the number of customers affected by location.
New York City’s “Outage Map” by Consolidated Edison
illustrates outages for 3.5 million customers by location.

If you in a dense area experience compacity by taking a walk for fifteen, twenty minutes in a reasonably straight line, make four right turns to get back where you started and you have probably walked a square mile. On average you have enclosed 30,000 to 80,000 people, miles of road, and thousands of homes. You will have come across multiple subway stations, several hundred, commercial retail, institutional service and public facilities such as schools, police and fire stations. All in a little over a one hour walk. Amazing.

The central and overriding responsibility of political leaders, as well as, public and private service agencies is to assist in the readiness of people to respond to problems of any kind or sign of trouble of any sort. They must know and understand this capacity as it represents the beating heart of NYC’s future. In every one of these enclosures whether it is a random square mile or any one of hundreds of neighborhoods the capacity for positive change is undeniable but it needs to be taught as a practical matter of citizenship, of what to do, or not do when the need for help is immediate or anticipated.

If or when a city’s potential for positive change or the need for occasionally rapid change is denied or obstructed it is readily recognized as a conflict against the humanity in the place where it occurs. The origins of the forces behind these life-defining conflicts may begin as “person-against -person,-nature, -self, -society, -technology or the raw unknown. These are not the elements of fictional narratives, they represent the day-to-day experiences of regular people. They produce these occurrences of conflict with relish in all things, from the simple exchange over the price of bread for currency to a course in high-school algebra for a grade. They are all things wrought by the compacity of urban life that are continuous and in many ways unrelenting.

In many places throughout the city, your walk would have included the observation of a highly diverse population, you would have heard many voices speaking combinations of familiar and unfamiliar words, your opportunity within this environment to purchase and consume your requirement for protein or clothing, a laugh or a smile is easily acquired. A twenty to thirty- minute train ride will take you to some of the world’s finest hospitals and universities, or to airports and trains to see far off places.

 

 

 

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