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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Day 575: The Apartheid of Our Time

http://www.salon.com/2014/08/03/new_york_citys_appalling_poor_door_fiasco/

The condominiums of Riverside South, a dull glass comb along the Hudson River in Manhattan, have hardly made an interesting contribution to New York’s architectural profile. But the development has made an impact on the global lexicon, thanks to a new building’s two entrances: one for buyers of market-rate apartments and one for tenants of subsidized units.
By now you’ve surely heard about Extell Development’s “poor door,” approved last week for 40 Riverside Drive, talk of which has reverberated unfavorably from Park Slope to Paris. It’s easy to see why the concept hits that rare sweet spot for viral architecture. The poor door opens on the tensions of the times — the housing shortage, the divergence of the rich and poor, the sense of threadbare social fabric.
It’s not an isolated case. New York has a number of mixed-income developments where facilities like pools and gyms are restricted to residents who have paid the full price. London, which has adopted a similar strategy for creating affordable housing, also has a raft of poor doors. “Even bicycle storage spaces, rubbish disposal facilities and postal deliveries are being separated,” the Guardian reports. - Salon

I live in South Africa. The wounds of the racial apartheid can still be felt, not completely healed. I have seen the results of the horrors that man unleashed upon man - even from things as seemingly passive or benign as the denying of education or comfortable housing. Being told that you are not worth as much as someone else because of some arbitrary and inescapable fact can become soul crushing, because eventually that is what you start to believe about yourself.

What is the difference between discriminating against someone because of the colour of their skin and discriminating against them because of their social/economic situation? There is no difference. In both cases you are using an irrelevant and arbitrary form of measurement to determine the intrinsic worth of another person. I say irrelevant because wealth, social status and skin colour do not make you who you are. Of course, they are factors that play a role in your life, contributing to shaping your personality - but they are not the determining characteristics that define you or determine who you are.

There is no denying that your life will be different if you are born in different situations (like skin colour, culture, social status, etc) - but these things can be changed by using your free will and choosing to walk in a particular direction - to a degree of course, I am not suggesting that you alter your physical appearance, that is something for you to make peace with and realise that it does not define you or determine your worth. It is because of how we choose to participate in the world that things like skin colour, beauty, wealth and so on are seen as being important when you're working within a social setting.

Now we stand at a point of deciding whether we want to usher in a new Economic Apartheid and determine that those who have more wealth are worth more than those who have less or no wealth. Unfortunately whilst most people agree that this concept is immoral and unacceptable, most will do nothing to stop it from manifesting. This is a tendency in human nature, to step back and disconnect from situations that "do not concern us" and rather wait "for someone else to fix it". So while these buildings are going up, it is quite likely that if you were in a position of needing a place to say and this building suited your needs, you would probably ignore that icky feeling in your gut and move in, even though you don't agree with what has been done.

In essence, where your own interests are concerned, you are far more likely to allow an abusive situation to continue simply because you do not want to lose whatever stake you have. Most people do not want to admit this to themselves, but this is the reality of how things like the Holocaust happened - people are afraid of losing what they have and so they go along with whatever the norm is.

Will we allow another era of discrimination? Will the Economic Apartheid take hold? Only we can determine the outcome.

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