puzzling attractions …

I once asked students, for the exams, to write a brief essay on the following:

Why are we frequently impressed by looking at the poor and this lives: at least seemingly simple and content with what they have?

I recently looked at Davis’ Book on The Planet of Slums, reading there:

Urban inequality in the Third World is visible even from space: satellite reconnaissance of Nairobi reveals that more than half of the population lives on just 18 percent of the city area.This implies, of course, colossal contrasts in population density. “The gulf between rich and poor in Nairobi, one of the world’s most unequal cities,” writes journalist Jeevan Vasagar in the Guardian, “is starkly illustrated by its neighborhoods. In the leafy suburb of Karen there are fewer than 360 inhabitants per square kilometer, according to the 1999 census; parts of Kibera have more than 80,000 people in the same sized area.” But Nairobi is scarcely unique in forcing the poor to live in slums of anthill-like density while the wealthy enjoy their gardens and open spaces. In Dhaka 70 percent of the population is estimated to be concentrated into only 20 percent of the surface area.4 Likewise in Santo Domingo, two thirds of the population, living in tenements and squatter settlements, uses only one fifth of urban space, with the poorest eighth in the central city slum crowded into 1.6 percent of the city’s area.s Bombay, according to some urban geographers, may be the extreme: “While the rich have 90 percent of the land and live in comfort with many open areas, the poor live crushed together on 10 percent of the land.”

I recently said, travelling through a city that is a well-known tourist spot, that I would not really like it …- this being answered by something like

But didn’t you find all the narrow narrow side streets, so nice for a stroll?

I dared outing myself, replying

Yes, that is exactly what I found? And I longed for space, for the opportunity to escape, like air, being compressed, looking for gaps to escape or waiting for the point where the pressure is getting so high that it opens to one way to escape, one way, with two faces: implosion or explosion.


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