- Date published:
7:30 am, October 29th, 2019 - 10 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, capitalism, China, community democracy, democracy under attack, democratic participation, Environment, International, Revolution, supercity, sustainability, uncategorized - Tags:
Following on from my little warning about the Auckland-central government relationship, it’s pretty hard to miss a variety of cities going nuts for apparently minor offences.
There’s no great regional uprising of the polis as per the Arab Spring or anything. Just a few big coincidences.
Cities are places people gravitate to in order to get ahead. But when we get there, the costs of living and the time-pressures and work-pressures are so relentless that the tiny measures of relief we buy from selling all this time and labour get so hard to defend, and so precious, that we can go psycho when we lose the tiniest measure of them.
Metropolitan living is a brittle and tenuous thing.
When you lose those little conveniences, those little margins of good, it can feel like a systemic social contract has been broken.
Tiny marginal things like fuel taxes affect everyone for whom fuel prices matter: most people.
Paris faced waves of protests since November 2018, because the French President raised fuel taxes. It has seriously corroded his Presidency.
In Saintiago Chile the President ordered an increase in metro rail prices. People went so nuts that most of the Cabinet is about to be fired.
Barcelona is having massive anti-Spanish and pro-Catalan protests that are going on and on. It’s one of Spain’s richest areas.
Hong Kong is having rolling upheavals after a proposal to allow extradition under law to the Chinese mainland. It’s half-assed democracy is allowing the worst of all representative worlds: limited power to express, limited autonomy.
In Beiruit the largest protests they have ever seen – last week – were instigated by proposed taxes on fuel, tobacco, and online phone calls.
By the traditional metric of GDP per capita, these cities are paragons of economic success. Per capital income is around US$40,000 in Hong Kong, more than US$60,000 in Paris, and around $18,000 in Santiago, one of the wealthiest cities in Latin America.
And despite this high average per capital income, people feel the need to revolt.
If they are so well off on average, why the mass protests?
All of them are by a long, long way on average are better off than the countries they dominate.
But there’s very little class mobility, very little respite from the grind of life: the promise of the city is broken. That matters the most when the city dominates its country or region and advertises its dream of class mobility the greatest.
For them ,the great ‘city on a hill’ is a lie.
Crippling housing prices are common in such cities, and for those who are utterly dependent upon cars, any change to fuel price subsidies or public transport is a devastating negative tilt in life.
In Hong Kong, Santiago, Lebanon, and Paris, their governments were quite blindsided.
Those cities who have the strongest social welfare nets, or the strongest class mobility, are going to be the most resilient. There’s less risk that the population will just rise up out of their kitchen chairs, snap in rage, and take in their millions to the streets.
Without strong formalized democratic expression, without sustaining the social goods that keep the marginal afloat, without strong links between local and central government, things just snap.