rathowen-co-westmeath

Image: Rathowen, Co. Westmeath, from Ghost Estates of the Irish Property Bubble
The title of this post comes from a chapter in Jane Jacobs’ book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, from 1963. Though speaking about housing and planning policies in the sixties and earlier in the US, the text has a sudden renewed sharpness in relation to recent events. (It doesn’t speak of diasaster capitalism a la Naoimi Klein, although there are similarities in the language of upheaval, violence and shock). Arguing for the necessity of ‘gradual, constant close grained changes’, Jacobs says:
this money shapes cataclysmic changes in cities. Relatively little of it shapes gradual change. Cataclysmic money pours into an area in concentrated form, producing drastic changes. As an obverse of this behaviour, cataclysmic money sends relatively few trickles of money into localities not treated to cataclysm. Putting it figuratively, insofar as their effects on most city streets and districts are concerned, these three kinds of money [state, private and ‘shadow world’] behave not like irrigation systems, bringing life-giving streams to feed steady, continual growth. Instead, they behave like manifestations of malevolent climates beyond the control of man – affording either searing droughts or torrential, eroding floods…
City people finance the building of suburbs. To be sure, one of the historic missions of cities, those marvelously productive and efficient places, is to finance colonisation…
This city building money operates as it does not because of its own internal necessities and forces. It operates cataclymically because we, as a society, have asked for just this. We thought it would be good for us, and we got it. Now we accept it as if it were ordained by God or the system.
The pervasive responses to the recession here  have been variations along the spectrum of  I’m fucked to I’m alright, Jack. (And maybe now is time to get a good deal on a used car?) Apparently we will have to weather this recession until times get good again. The sense of resignation to capitalism’s sometimes cruel weather systems is disheartening. There are very many diverse microclimates to be found in the shade of mountains and in gardens and small parks elsewhere, both by chance and by design.
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