Unequal Scenes
July 6, 2016 3:46 PM   Subscribe

I love things like this. I learned years ago about this sort of thing when I lived in a middle to low income community. I was a big map guy at the time, as this was before GPS was commonplace as a device, and obviously long before such a thing was even conceivable as a widespread product in a phone. So I look at the map before moving into the place, and see that there is a nice road that leads from a main thoroughfare right to the community, and it should make for an easy drive.

Well, come to find out that the wealthy community it ran through had it blocked off with huge cement partitions. So you had to circumnavigate the area to get to businesses that would have been just blocks away. They had nice big trees and would have yard sales and kids selling lemonade and you could look over the big partitions and just see them living the life. Meanwhile there was a crappy strip mall type environment right next to our places. That was long before I learned about things like the concentric zone model. I knew it wasn't right, and I was annoyed, but it wasn't until years later I learned just how planned out these things are. I bet if I could fly a drone over that spot today, it would closely resembles these photographs. What annoys me, and probably always will, is our unwillingness, intertwined with possible inability, to identify the people and positions and organizations that continue to do these things. Our societies don't get set up by accident, and I hate how we just continue to point and stare at the results, instead of pointing and staring at the people responsible.
posted by cashman at 5:41 PM on July 6, 2016 [12 favorites]

These are really good photographs. I have used Google Earth to find similar examples where edges between rich and poor are thrown into sharp contrast, but these are much better photographs than the usual aerial image.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:07 PM on July 6, 2016

What's interesting is that the juxtapositions he shows aren't always between rich and poor, but also between poor and desperately poor: established, serviced townships and the shantytowns of migrants and refugees that pop up in the wasteland buffer zones around them.
posted by Flashman at 6:30 PM on July 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Great photos. There are thousands of locations like this around the world. Tens of thousands. In fact, I remember visiting a rich great-aunt in the city of St. Louis, on a leafy street of gargantuan houses, with servants, inhabited by people with millions and millions of dollars. Old money. In her case, from the National Lead Corporation. A big industry in Missouri, apparently. Oh, lead paint. Well, yeah.

In any case, two blocks away, as the crow flies, was a black ghetto.
posted by kozad at 8:48 PM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cashman: spot on.

My own personal experience of this, albeit not to the same degree, was talking a walk in Washington DC one evening as a naive tourist. I found it incredible how quickly the environment went from incredibly ostentatious to very poor. The juxtaposition is clear in most large cities in the world although to varying degrees - the extent to such viusal inequality has many difference causes including historic, geographic, strategic and economic factors- but perhaps most importantly the political ideology at play.

Burgeoning inequality is hopefully soon to be (at least) ameliorated by advances of technology (the idealist in me). However, as any observer or indeed participant of a group of children will know - agressive bullies who take more than their fare share by force are generally unwilling to let go easily.

Lets hope extreme minimalism catches on as a trend worldwide and technology affords us the luxury of time to dismantle some of these powerful but unedifying visualisations of inequality. Inequality fuelled by the worst aspects of human nature combiend with the inherrent ineffectiveness of modern political thought to allow a more just distribution or resources in this world.
posted by numberstation at 2:18 AM on July 7, 2016

Thank you Brandon Blatcher for sharing these. Its a system that needs a complete overhaul from the ground up. Its as stark in rural SA as it is in urban.
posted by infini at 4:54 AM on July 7, 2016

Somebody should do a similar project in the United States. There would be some notable contrasts (residences around private golf courses tend to be similarly exclusive, antithetical to the shanty town bordering the Papwa Sewgolum golf course) but I'm thinking that over all things wouldn't differ much.
posted by at by at 5:58 AM on July 7, 2016

Thank you Brandon Blatcher for sharing these.

No problem, got the link because some great man bud of mine sent it to me.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:06 PM on July 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm thinking that over all things wouldn't differ much.

I think you underestimate the nature of the divide in South Africa and the visual impact of those "informal settlements." In my mind there's nothing to compare in the U.S. I visited SA in 2010 for the World Cup and was stunned by the site of these settlements, either hard up against affluent neighborhoods in JoBurg or Cape Town or just plunked in the middle of an open expanse in the veldt. One image that really stands out is flying into Cape Town, over gorgeous green, rolling wine country, and then, suddenly the scene below shifting to a sprawling shanty town on approach to the airport There's dramatic and depressing inequality in the states, but in my mind nothing so stark and abrupt.

I loved South Africa—such a beautiful country with such friendly, creative and generous people. I hope things are changing for the better, but the challenge appears to be huge.
posted by stargell at 5:55 PM on July 7, 2016

Damn.. the backstory on that golf course:
In a twist of irony, the golf course is named after an apartheid-era golfer of Indian descent, named Sewsunker “Papwa” Sewgolum. Papwa Sewgolum was an excellent self-taught golfer, with no formal schooling. He is famous for his reversed, cross-handed grip (called the “Sewsunker” grip even today). But he is possibly most famous for beating Gary Player and winning the 1965 Natal Open.

The Natal Open was held at the Durban Country Club, which at the time did not allow non-whites into the clubhouse. Sewgolum won the tournament, the only non-white in a field of 113 players. At the time of the prize-giving, he had to receive his trophy outside, in the pouring rain, while the white players sat comfortably inside. The pictures of him in the rain were broadcast around the world, resulting in an international outcry and a number of countries imposing sanctions on South African sporting events.

Just as his career looked as if it would take off, the South African government banned him from all local tournaments, and also withdrew his passport, preventing him from competing abroad. He died impoverished in 1978, at age 50, from a heart attack.
I know it's not not even in the same ballpark as the worst abuses under apartheid but it's still shocking to me how incredibly spiteful and deliberate it is to use the power of the state to single out an individual and ruin his life and career because he was politically embarrassing.. because he was good at f*cking golf.. and somehow that made him a threat.
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:52 PM on July 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

Yes. And think of the countless stories we have never heard because the nipping in the bud happened prior to any such public expression of that talent and skill.

And still happens today wherever PoC meet the dominant culture.
posted by infini at 12:49 AM on July 11, 2016

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