The City

“The Papalagi live like crustaceans, in their concrete houses. They live among the rocks, just like a centipede, living inside the crevices of the lava. There are stones on him, around him and under him. His hut looks like a stone basket. A basket with holes and divided into cubicles. “

This, said Erich Scheurmann, was the opinion of a Samoan chief about the cities of the “Papalagi“, ie white men, around the fourteenth year of the last century. I read this book long ago, I found it again during the reorganization of my books and could not avoid to read it again,  no doubt which captivated me were the wonderful illustrations from Joost Swarte. The term “concrete” seems to reveal that the very Scheurmann was who really thought in that way, in any case I noticed that in many respects the cities, in almost one hundred years, have not changed too much, it is true that have been planted  trees enough and although the air continues thin, light pollution prevents us from enjoying the magnificent spectacle of a starry sky at nights and the permanent background noise makes up the soundtrack of our lives, in a survey, nevertheless, most of us would define ourselves  as “urbanites,” we are accustomed to seeing the drawbacks of this way of life as minor ailments and generally we use to qualify it as fairly good. It says that we get used soon to the good things, but we know that the good things last a little, so we can doubt that something that lasts much is good,  in the same way that it is very difficult  to get used to what is essentially short, an authentic sophistry .

Before “burgo”, a term of Germanic origin forged in the historical ambit of the end of the Roman Empire, were the Roman “urbis”  and even before were the Greek “polis” and long before, the Sumerian “Uru”  back more than five thousand years … The cities are very old ie are not good, really they grew out from fear to invasions, outdoor, loneliness, over the passage of time have been the cities themselves who have invaded, they have dressed with flowers into the gardens and is where reside the real solitude, among so many people, no one is as strange as your own neighbor.

But at night, from space, human agglomerations glow splendidly, revealing the tireless activity that in them lie, as a delicate neocortex of  incandescent neurons that deploy their dendrites of asphalt in all directions, it is clear that it is just appearance or otherwise should have given some sign of intelligence, however although I am not an environmentalist, in my opinion are too conservationists, they sense in a very different way the cities, like eczemas, pustules of a sick civilization that infect the skin of the planet,  a disgust, but in fact there are beings who live inside, much more comfortably and in much greater numbers than people: the rats and cockroaches. As this is obviously a danger to public health, there are periodic campaigns to exterminate rats and disinsectisation maintaining the population of parasites at bay, and the owls too, but this falls under the heading of  “collateral” damages (“Collateral” is a great word, a sophisticated accessory of euphemistic engineering, salvaged from military terminology, which instantly invalidates the impact of any offensive action). The seagulls have recently begun to find our landfills more nutritious than the ocean itself, so I guess that will soon also be programmed “disseagullitation”(?) campaigns, these sea bugs have no natural predators that could be harmed by the poison, mainly because we have already extinguished them previously.

Currently the only thing that gives meaning to the concept of the city is consumption, thousands of tons of garbage testify it, on this seems to have an emerging general consensus that we should reduce it dramatically, if we do not want to exhaust the resources currently available, so previously should change the social habits and urban concepts, which appears to be impossible without improving the socio-economic system that, paradoxically, depends on there are high levels of consumption.

The recent threat of the influenza A virus, has made evident, through quarantine unleashed at global scale, one of the greatest dangers of human heaping, but ultimately turned out to be a false alarm and one of the most profitable business to the pharmaceutical industry of the last times. Despite this, the inertia that governs daily life insists on the concept of the megalopolis that mankind has always practiced unintentionally, inflating the population centers like a balloon until it bursts somewhere, then it puts a patch and it continues  inflating, this really should not worry to us, by now, after thousands of years of practice, we are pretty good patching.

It has often been compared to the city with an anthill, but who knows what an ant thinks , it seems to me rather a mood, I mean, ants seem happy doing what they do, but this is not the case of the people. An enlightening information is that those who have it all, choose to go live as far as to an island of his property in the Pacific or failing to Miami. In the city just live who work in it, dreaming of escape, be free from routine, traffic jams, from the oppression of the conditioned patterns, but it seems that no one gets rich working, and ultimately, if the companies themselves, bastions of  initiative for excellence, offering courses for optimism is that things may not go very well. So people in the urban space orbit around our workplaces, entangled in the fucking economic model, toiling to clinging  on to the spider’s web that traps us.