Posted 634 days ago
The 21st-century city is the child of catastrophe. The comforts and infrastructure we take for granted were born of age-old afflictions: fire, flood, pestilence. Our tall buildings, our subways, our subterranean conduits, our systems for bringing water in and taking it away, our building codes and public-health regulations - all were forged in the aftermath of urban disasters by civic leaders and citizen visionaries.
It's nice to have an optimistic view of what the future can bring. We can look to the past and see similar situations where people came together to transform the public space into something that was better for everybody. But is that what America can do today? Is it like the industrial age or more like the fall of Rome, like Thompson alludes to. If we look at our recent history, and the catastrophes that Americans have endured (hurricane Katrina, COVID-19, etc.) are we really at a point where we will come together and build the future better? Or has capitalism and the gutting of government for "libertarianism" in a grotesque form created a sad and complacent citizenry that will bunker down and protect their gold as they point the finger to others that are causing their problems?
I always like Thompson's writing; he always balances somewhere between cautious optimism and outright pessimism. He knows that we live in a sad time for the public sphere, but tries to give us some hope to look towards.