Subdivided. City Building In An Age of Hyper-Diversity
Jay Pitter & John Lorinc, editors
2016. Coach House Books, Toronto
279 pages. $20.95 CAN
This collection of essays was much tougher reading than we expected. After nearly six years blogging about social difficulty in the suburbs we don’t expect to be unnerved by our topic. Subdivided unnerved us.
The good old days of multiculturalism, in which eastern and southern Europeans (and maybe a few other groups), found Toronto adjusting to, and eventually welcoming, them are long gone. In its place, we now see an ever bigger and richer Toronto home to newcomers in a living arrangement of hyper-diversity. This infinitely more complex Toronto is by turns depressing, ugly, unjust and unequal despite recurrent commentary about its peacefulness, high socio-cultural potential and general awesomeness.
Subdivided delivers unto us many a less-than-comfortable truth. There’s too many people here in isolated lives centred on a combination of shit jobs and lacklustre housing. Reading Subdivided made us feel like Toronto’s diversity is the stuff of an Adam Curtis documentary, another nightmarish expression of the global economic machine and its operating system, neoliberalism.
Toughness of presentation is what makes this collection of essays so amazing, …so real. It’s hard to think of any other such wellspring of direct, sustained observation of what it is really like to live here. A chapter on Brampton, for example, brings forth a wave of nausea faster than a jar of expired mayonnaise. ‘Browntown’ is next door to suburban-poverty.com’s backyard, we can attest to the truth of what is said about Brampton. Same for another entry on Mississauga, which is literally our backyard. You’d almost wonder why Canada bothers attracting new residents to its Sprawlvilles. Except perhaps as a cynical ploy to increase domestic markets and the tax base and to fulfill some corporate/ideological role in the global economy.
What to do? Good transit, a strong social safety net, higher wages, police reform, and affordable housing would help us toward a healthy, cross-connected society according to the essays in Subdivided. None of these things will be achieved quickly or cheaply, though.
We better get busy before something really awful comes of the present lame and indifferent regime of city building in greater Toronto. Stress is not good for the indivdual or the community. Stress and reaction brought us Rob Ford, the scale model mock up of Donald Trump. Who knows what the stresses of race and class we are leaving in place will inflict on us? We aren’t Milwaukee yet but how much longer will we sleepwalk into this?
We suggest future editions of Subdivided include a stamped, pre-addressed thank younote readers can mail to the one percent.
Buy Subdivided for your unnerved urban affairs shelf.
Abandon the dream home, this prof says. You’ll be happier. UBC’s Nathanael Lauster urges city dwellers to shake off their ‘house addiction’
image: Wikimedia Commons/CC
Maybe having a not-so-great-job and travelling to it via public transit is something a lot of us are kinda destined to get stuck with. Life isn’t always fair. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do a fair bit better than what transit riders described to Torontoist recently. The experience of being a second class citizen is acquired in layers and getting to work here is increasingly an encounter with such a layer.
How riding the TTC has affected my mental health
(974) Way too long for too little: complex & expensive trips to work [Study]
image: Andy Nystrom via Flickr/CC
We keep hearing about all this generalized American anger. Swathes of the population there are feeling filthy about the way things have turned out after decades of neoconservative nonsense from both sides of a two-party federal system. This generalized anger in turn explains the success of Mr. Orangeface Clownpants. Trump has been able to say pretty much any nasty-ass thing he wants to say and still get ahead because of the funk and fury the American voter has sunk into and seethes with respectively. Rage serves to peg in place political illiteracy these days. Hillary Clinton offers herself as the calming Mommy to the tantrum-throwing voter and so she benefits from the unfocused rage as well.
So, how about you Americans focus a little. Dare we even suggest an apoplectic unity on behalf of the children who will someday inherit your republic? A good starting point would be this kick in the head of a paper from March this year. Half of all children in America are in poverty or pretty damn near it. Half of them! What does the lackluster alumni of US federal political party leadership have to say about this topic during the weirdest of elections ever? Looks to be pretty much nothing.
Poverty and child health in the United States
(abstract & link to .pdf file)
Council on Community Pediatrics
Why facts don’t matter to Trump’s supporters
image: Thomas Hawk via Flickr/CC
This awful standpoint of the bored, impatient, high Tory critic is taken in the discussion of poverty in Canadian media all the bloody time. This tone is not the best we can do, is it?
Here’s a couple of recent examples:
Vander Doelen: Windsor’s rich spending on poverty
Fight obesity by fighting poverty
Found yourself that soul mate online yet? Maybe you aren’t trying hard enough at your assortative dating. From cardboard license plates to ATM desserts: there’s no end to the ways material circumstance and economic standing affects pretty much every second of every day.
The inequality of online dating
image: Eugenia Loli via Flickr/CC
Children in poverty more likely to have problems with friendships, study shows. Children who live in poverty are more likely to be solitary and to fall out with friends or be bullied, the National Children’s Bureau says
image: ktbuffy via Flickr/CC