Monday, September 6, 2010

City Life

Let's start off with a music video from French alt-rockers Phoenix. According to this Spin interview, the song is about how much the French capital has declined over the past century and a bit: "Paris in 1901 was better than it is now. So the song is a fantasy about Paris." Something isn't true just because it's said in the lyircs of a good song, but good art is usually produced by the perceptive.

Moving right along, here’s a fun headline from what may be the 21st century’s only successful newspaper.

84 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York a Horrible Place to Live

The Onion is a satirical newspaper, but successful humour needs to mix reality with absurdity. This article inadvertently reveals a small truth that you probably wouldn't come across in The New York Times.

For the joke to work, the reader must know that New York REALLY IS a wretched cesspool of filth, danger and alienation. All of the jokes in the article about garbage, rats, homeless drug addicts, rudeness, and the excuses New Yorkers make to justify "sticking it out" have at least a grain of truth to them.

What do these two little bits of pop culture have in common? The former hints at, and the latter confirms, a major yet unspoken trend in recent history: The 20th century has seen the decline of Europe and America’s great cities into burned-out husks of their former selves. This is partially masked by the steady progress of technology, but take away the iPads and what are we left with? Urine-soaked housing projects, decaying industries, hideous architecture, crime and disorder.

A reasonable person might ask if this outcome has anything to do with the actions of our governments, especially since the policies enacted throughout this era of decline are being pursued even more vigourously today than ever. Sadly we can only guess where the reasonable have been hiding, and when they might return.