no right to the city

April 7, 2011

There is always an insistent need for man to seek to improve ourselves; to achieve a higher form of existence or “being” in more ways than one. Maybe it is a result of us as the determined “higher species” on earth as we know it. The cities therefore become our building blocks. Symbols of power, strength and wealth, defined not necessarily by politicians or authority figures, but rather by the rich and affluent. As Robert Park (1067) puts it:

The city is “man’s most successful attempts to remake the work he lives in more after his heart’s desire. But, if the city is the work which man created, it is the world in which he is henceforth condemned to live. Thus, indirectly, and without and clear sense of the nature of the task, in making the city man remade himself”

No amount of achievement can quench this endless thirst for that step further forward in the way that we live out our daily lives. Harvey (2008) reiterates this point in elaborating on our insatiable appetite for innovations and how by achieving these new innovations, we in turn create a new set of needs and wants. This vicious cycle of consumerism is what binds us into this endless grappling to the right to engage the city and to call the city your own as we are constantly attempting to make our mark in an ever changing society.

In direct effect of this, we are constantly trying to grasp on to every single tangible entity in the world around us in order to satisfy our cravings for outlets to demonstrate our affluence. Harvey (2008) talks about the war on Afghanistan and Iraq by the United States and the building of infrastructure in Europe by Haussmann in the 1800s as a relentless reaching for reasons and outlets to outplay the need to establish a right to the city or in some cases, a country on an international level.

Somehow, somewhere along the line of this, we cannot deny the fact that there will always be a party, or in many cases a “people” that will be impacted in the negative way. Urbanisation has always been, therefore, a class phenomenon, since surpluses are extracted from somewhere and from somebody, while control over their disbursement typically lies in a few hands (Harvey 2008). Harvey elaborates on this in the light of Carlos Slim from Mexico in the year of 2006. In the very same time frame that he was deemed as the world’s richest man, Mexico and its social poverty level either maintained at its low estate, or diminished further into the realms of extreme poverty in the world today. This great divide between the upper “rich” class of people and the lower class therefore will keep growing in leaps and bounds if we as a people in this day and age keep raping society and the world of its commodities and as a result, its rights to exist. The more we create these social barriers that create a class of the ‘elite’, the more we diminish the very value of those who can’t afford to make a name for themselves, not because they don’t exist in numbers, but rather because they aren’t given a voice. The third world, the homeless, the negatively stereotyped, the old the slum dwellers, the refugee, all of them lose their right to the city.

Joel Lee


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