Category Archives: The City

Wild City (376)

“Nothing I had experienced in my life led me to expect what would happen to me in my loneliness. One day in the middle of the summer as I was walking down 125th Street, I suddenly stopped and stared around me in amazement. It was as if I had awakened from a long dream that I’d walked around in all my life. I threw over all my preoccupations with ideas and felt so free that I didn’t know who I was or where I was The whole appearance of the world changed in a minute when I realized what had happened, and I began to look at people walking past me. They all had incredible sleepy, bestial expressions on their faces, yet no different from what they usually looked like. I suddenly understood everything vague and troubled in my mind that had been caused by the expression of people around me. Everybody I saw had something wrong with them. The apparition of an evil, sick, unconscious wild city rose before me in visible semblance, and about the dead buildings in the barren air, the bodies of the soul that built the wonderland shuffled and stalked and lurched in attitudes of immemorial nightmare all around. When I saw people conversing around me, all their conversation, all their bodily movements, all their signs, the thoughts reflected on their faces were of fear of recognition and anguished fear that someone would take the initiative and discover their masks and lies. Therefore every tone of voice, movement of the hand, carried a negative overtone: this in the world is called coyness and shyness and politeness, or frigidity and hostility when the awareness becomes too overpowering. I felt that I would be crucified if I alluded with any insistence to the divine nature of ourselves and the physical universe. Therefore I did not speak but only stared in dumb silence.”

— Allen Ginsberg, quoted in I Celebrate Myself by Bill Morgan (102-03)

NatGeoMega (375)

I haven’t had a chance to watch it all, but here’s a short doc. about CDMX:

In general Vice is the American Apparel of journalism. Here’s a short doc. titled The Subway Gangs of Mexico City:

Discussion Question (375)

6. Urban historians have long debated whether capitalism resulted in better living conditions for the average worker. What evidence do we have from the development of the industrial city to answer this question?

KW: extended commodity production, urban implosion, money, accumulation, Reformation, specialization of labor, class hierarchy (and “the spatial separation of the rich and poor”), commodification of everything (land, labor, etc.) and thus private property, attenuation of traditional ties (including family), enclosure of the commons, increasing size of cities (and the problems associated with population increase: overcrowding, disease, crime, poverty, etc.), lack of urban planning (uneven development), absence of symbolic aspect of industrial capitalist cities in the sense that cities’ growth did not correspond to a religions model

Engels’s description of Manchester: dangerous built space, lack of adequate sanitation, psychological toll of living in these conditions. Ex. “rivers polluted with the intestines of slaughtered cattle” and “‘foul pools of stagnation urine and excrement'” (46).

In contrast to the feudal era, when ordinary people were primarily serfs tied to the land and the arbitrary rule of a local lord, life in the industrial capitalist city was much freer. This freedom, however, depended on an element of coercion. If a person was not compelled to offer a tithe of his produce or labor to the local authorities as was common during the Middle Ages, she was essentially forced to participate in the city economy as a waged laborer simply in order to survive. At this earlier stage of industrial capitalism, when there were few if any laws regulating the treatment of workers or their living conditions, to be a member of the urban proletariat was to be at the mercy of employers and other social elites. Life in the industrial capitalist city was determined more by money than by social ties. Everything was for sale– i.e., commodified– including living space and life itself. Workers, after all, sell their lives piecemeal in return for a wage. The chaos of this social formation can be seen in the absence of urban planning, the negative consequences of overcrowding such as poverty and disease, and a general atmosphere of misery and alienation. Those who obtained the necessary wealth, on the other hand, surely experienced the industrial capitalist city as social terrain full of variety and promise. If there were beggars on every corner there were also venues where the bourgeoisie could socialize and entertain themselves.