Are fortification and foreign aid making Kabul more dangerous?
December 5, 2008 4:28 PM   Subscribe

The Archipelago of Fear. "International surveys show that the more people trust their neighbours, strangers, and their government, the more likely they are to help strangers, to vote, and to volunteer. If better streets, sidewalks, walls, and buildings all improve the ways people engage with one another, then the reverse should also be true: antagonistic architecture can corrode trust and fuel hostility. Kabul just might be a laboratory of toxic urbanity."
posted by homunculus (20 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Turquoise Mountain
posted by homunculus at 4:37 PM on December 5, 2008

That's great reporting. Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 4:58 PM on December 5, 2008

Doesn't this just prove Guy Debord's theory of Psychogeography? Maybe I'm a crackpot but it certainly would seem that our physical space does a great deal to determine how we feel about ourselves and the people around us.
posted by T-Slice89 at 5:46 PM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm still reading, but I wanted to come back and say thanks for the post/links. This is great stuff.
posted by dejah420 at 6:06 PM on December 5, 2008

Great article.

I thought about my hometown, its urban "renaissance."

I thought about the playgrounds we are creating for the well-to-do, playgrounds that will soon require (and indeed, it's already happening) an increased "police presence," increased security.

I thought about the neighborhoods in close proximity, where hundreds of out-of-work young men are easy marks for gangs, for a sense of belonging.

I thought about the hundreds of boarded-up houses in those neighborhoods, and I thought about the local technical community college, how it does not have a building rehab program.

I thought about how, with a push here, and a nudge there, all of this might somehow work.

I thought that walls are everywhere, and in this, my hometown and Kabul are not so far apart.
posted by halcyon_daze at 6:24 PM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

This was truly fabulous stuff. It kinda follows the thinking of Malcolm Gladwell, and Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Great!
posted by photomusic86 at 7:05 PM on December 5, 2008

"... might be a laboratory of toxic urbanity." Shouldn't that be urban toxicity? Just askin.
posted by SeeAych4 at 8:01 PM on December 5, 2008

Thanks for the interesting read.
posted by acro at 8:20 PM on December 5, 2008

In this same vein, Broken Windows Theory has gained a bit more support lately.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 9:02 PM on December 5, 2008

This is a wonderful article that I'll read a number of times. This is an unusual thing to say about something in the Walrus. Along with affirming Debord, it also plays well with some of Mies' ideas.

SeeAych4: 'Urban toxicity' could refer to any sort of toxic phenomenon occurring in an urban setting, while 'toxic urbanity' specifically refers a mode of urban existence that is toxic.
posted by goldfinches at 9:15 PM on December 5, 2008

Great article. Thanks.
posted by evil_esto at 9:27 PM on December 5, 2008

These are exactly the kinds of solution we need to the "war on terror" if "victory" is to mean anything except all the bad guys being dead.
posted by kaspen at 9:57 PM on December 5, 2008

This reminds me a bit of how my university is working on gentrifying our neighborhood here. TU is located on the edge of the bad part of town, and to the immediate west of campus is a fairly low-income neighborhood. TU's response to that has been to build imposing black metal fences around everything on campus, making it impossible to take shortcuts anywhere, sometimes even on-campus. It gives everything a very stifled, compound feel, like we are in a war zone or something. They also make a habit of building multiple vehicle and pedestrian exits for a parking lot, but usually close the most convenient ones after a few months of allowing us to get used to them.

They also installed a weird PA system all over campus "for emergencies," but that only gets used to wake me up every Wednesday to run a repetitive test of the system.

I guess what I am saying is that I am experiencing the ultra-first-world fuck-the-underprivileged version of this kind of thing here in Oklahoma.
posted by aliceinreality at 11:35 PM on December 5, 2008

This is exactly why we need, as part of an Obama New Deal, a government-funded series of work projects aimed at cleaning up neighborhoods and cities. We just lost 1million + jobs this year? Put those people to work picking up trash, planting trees, painting walls, renovating buildings, fixing broken windows, cleaning public transportation, building low-income homes, building playgrounds, cleaning public parks, whatever. Pay them a living wage, give them government employee healthcare, and fully funded educations at local community colleges and/or heavily discounted educations at state universities. Raise the money through higher corporate taxes, financial disincentives for outsourcing, stiff penalties for any and all labor, environmental, or other business-related shenannigins, and, of course, the money we'll save when we get the fuck out of Iraq.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:52 PM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Great TomDispatch link, homunculus. Thanks.
posted by languagehat at 9:16 AM on December 6, 2008

posted by 3.2.3 at 5:06 PM on December 6, 2008

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