Parts of Philadelphia are so blighted that there is really little hope for rebuilding. Those parts that are being rebuilt have become enclaves for the bourgeoisie and their re-gentrification projects. In Philadelphia blight is often just around the corner from affluence. The shift is dramatic and can best be illustrated on certain bus lines such as the 57 going from Penn’s Landing, through Northern Liberties, into North Philly. Some blocks of Philly are are just crumbling shells with just a few row homes suitable for habitation. I’ve passed by blocks where two row homes stood like broken teeth. Some neighborhoods can feel really heavy in their depressed state, forsaken by America. Sure, there are services, such as water and gas, and people can move through the city due to public transportation. But when the bus lines went on strike, I began to wonder about the vulnerability of the poor, disabled, and elderly. What happens if the state fails(I’m talking about the nation-state, not just Pennsylvania) collapses and society collapses?
Photo credit: Michael T. Regan Original source: City Paper
Sometimes I feel like we’re all in the midst of the apocalypse but are in denial. Maybe it is ending slowly, as we are losing our grasp on our humanity. It is not so farfetched, when you really think about it. As a child in of the 80s, I grew up under the threat of a nuclear holocaust. The idea of the world as we know it ending is part of our popular imagination. We have the upcoming Hughes Brothers’ film, the Book of Eli, 2012, I am Legend, Delicatessan, the Road, Mad Max, and countless other films and books.
Some days, I think the end is near. The hints of social decay are all around us. There are parts of Philadelphia, Detroit, and West Oakland that remind me of the Terror Dome. A few weeks ago, I took a wrong turn leaving my school as I headed to the social security office. It finally dawned on me that I have been working in a North Philly post industrial wasteland. Within these streets, the border between the sociopathic and the plain ole ignorant seems to get really murky. Certain honor codes have gone by the wayside. Grown men in army uniform cuss out old ladies on the bus, women prostitute their children for a rock, and little girls get their faces blown off because they come from the wrong neighborhood. The level of violence reminds me that we don’t have to wait for the End of Days. I’ve prayed several janazahs at al-Aqsa where young Muslims lost their lives in senseless violence. Who needs fiction when you’re living your own apocalypse? I think our society, which once valued the untamed wilderness of the West, enjoys flirting with disaster. The urban apocalypse is our new frontier.