Read Luc Sante On Paris And Cry A Small Tear For The Inevitable In New Philadelphia
Paging through the opening chapters of Luc Sante’s excellent The Other Paris (Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2015), one comes across this, with a pang of pre-recognition:
"The past, whatever its drawbacks, was wild. By contrast, the present is farmed. The exigencies of money and the proclivities of bureaucrats — as terrified of anomalies as of germs, chaos, dissipation, laughter, unanswerable questions — have conspired to create the conditions for stasis, to sanitize the city to the point where there will be no surprises, no hazards, no spontaneous outbreaks, no weeds. The reformers and social activists of the past, faced with the urgent task of feeding the hungry and housing the unsheltered, failed to anticipate that the poor would, in exchange, be surrendering the riches they actually possessed: their neighborhoods as well as their use of time, their scavenger economy, their cooperative defenses, their refusal to behave, their ability to drop out of sight, their key to the unclaimed, the scorned, the common property of the streets. As a consequence of these and other changes, we have forgotten what a city was. There was a flavor to the city that has now been eradicated. It had a fugitive lyricism almost impossible to recapture."
And while it’s true that Philadelphia’s bureaucrats, for better or worse, still have some catching up to with their contemporaries in Paris, this does have the ring of what we’ll call “telling the truth in advance.” Just how much in advance is up for debate. By this watch, it feels like about five minutes.