Friday, October 7, 2011

Brave New Subdivision

It may take a few years, but as fear and anger build, more and more walls will go up and local groups will begin to take matters of security and basic services back into their own hands as the bureaucracy fails. This development in Pakistan, a country well down the path of failure, is on the leading edge of where housing developments will go in a world of violence, collapsed municipal finances and general uncertainty:

Pakistan gated community sparks controversy
By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times
The houses and manicured lawns slope up the artificial hill edged by unbroken sidewalks and white picket fences, as children play and residents exchange pleasantries.

This sprawling subdivision called Bahria Town — "Come home to exclusivity," it boasts — operates its own garbage trucks, schools, firehouse, mosques, water supply and rapid-response force — a kind of functioning state within a nonfunctioning one. And all supplied without the bribes you'd pay on the outside, residents say.

"I like living here," said Abdul Rashid, a sixtysomething retired government worker. "It's like you're in a little protected country — tidy, utilities work, the family can relax. If there's any problem, you just ring up security..."

The article discusses the standard rich vs. poor argument against this kind of development, which is not without merit, but that misses the broader point - the combination of a turn in mood centuries in the making, paired with technologies that allow for small groups to wield immense violence is going to drive people towards an almost medieval view of living arrangements.

This is just the first glimmer of what is to come.  And these kinds of fortified towns don't have to be playgrounds for the rich.  The ones that will probably prove most durable will be those grown organically, by groups of people without tremendous resources looking to secure what they have and build a better future for their kids.  The walls that may go up could be enormous hedges around neighborhoods, or security systems based on cheap webcams, local wi-fi and volunteers who know how to use a shotgun.  Those in the building industry will change with the attitudes of their consumers.  This trend could get legs and fast in the U.S. if things continue to deteriorate in finance, politics and society.

2 comments:

David said...

Put up the gates, but check first to be sure the barbarians aren't already inside.

I long viewed the four entrances to my subdivision as potential places to establish a "gated community" in the event of rising chaos.

That ended when I learned that one of the homes inside my neighborhood was occupied by the wife of a lieutenant of the Latin Kings street gang. It seems even professional criminals like middle-class living.

The problem with "neighborhood" arrangements is that today few people know their neighbors well enough to turn their backs on them when the going gets that chaotic.

Flagg707 said...

Great point. It is not going to be painless. Things are looking positively medieval on the horizon.