Urban progress and reaction

“You desire the end but close your eyes to the means. You want the garden to be beautiful, provided that the smell of manure is kept well away from your fastidious nose.” ― P.D. James, The Children of Men
Nimbyism is a reactionary impulse that ignores the history of urbanism and strikes at the city's reason for being. Nimbys seek to impose a romantic fantasy of an orderly and edenic past on an urban history that in fact is a tangled tale of struggle, ambition, imagination, innovation and criminality. Indeed, it is the chaotic nature of the city
that gives it its magnetic pull, that makes it such fertile ground for creativity.

To bind a city to imaginary specifications is to strangle its spirit, to rob it of its dreams, to steal its soul. Were you to abandon a city, eventually nature would return it to the jungle or desert, the forest or prairie hidden beneath its tar and concrete; but nowhere has an urbanized locale merely devolved to an earlier stage of development. It has to be murdered, deliberately killed by greed, selfishness and myopia.

A flourishing city is an antidote to mediocrity, monotony, intolerance, rigidity, stasis, just as it is the engine of invention, adaptability, resourcefulness, enterprise, growth. We forget that the modern city developed originally as a refuge from the impliability and oppressiveness of feudalism, that within its communal
walls, and fueled by commerce, artists, rebels, scholars, free thinkers and tradesmen of every stripe were free to prosper.

It is from the concentration of talents and energies, born of the city's wealth, that the qualities of life we value most, that we count among the benefits of civilization, are afforded; cut off the city's ability to change and grow, and you condemn it, and ultimately urban culture, to death.

The city springs from hope, from the desire for a different and better future; thus, though it can be done badly or to excess, development is, at its heart, progressive.

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