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What's this business of viewing the poor in the city as non-citizens?

Updated on July 31, 2009

Even a rooster's eyes lose their sparkle after a demolition.

Mike Davis, in his book "Planet of Slums" talks about urbanization and its disconnectedness with urbanization. He says that in the cities of the South, there are now a billion people and the number is rising.Mike Davis ends his book with a provocative meditation on the “war on terrorism” as an incipient world war between the American empire and the slum poor.

The lives of the urban poor can be our own. A kind thought translated into a politically correct language may just be the beginning of an advocacy for a transformed world society. We just have to start somewhere....From a Community Organizer

Here's what Michael Sorkin said about "Planet of Sums":

“In this trenchantly argued book, Mike Davis quantifies the nightmarish mass production of slums that marks the contemporary city. With cool indignation, Davis argues that the exponential growth of slums is no accident but the result of a perfect storm of corrupt leadership, institutional failure, and IMF-imposed Structural Adjustment Programs leading to a massive transfer of wealth from poor to rich. Scourge of neo-liberal nostrums, Davis debunks the irresponsible myth of self-help salvation, showing exactly who gets the boot from ‘bootstrap capitalism.’ Like the work of Jacob Riis, Ida Tarbell, and Lincoln Steffans over a century ago, this searing indictment makes the shame of our cities urgently clear.” — Michael Sorkin

(Michael Sorkin is Distinguished Professor of Architecture and Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at the City College of New York. From 1993 to 2000 he was Professor and Director of the Institute for Urbanism at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Sorkin's long academic career has also included professorships at Cooper Union, Harvard, Yale (holder of the Davenport and Bishop chairs), Cornell (Gensler Chari) Columbia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois. Michigan (Saarinen Chair), Nebraska (Hyde Chair). Sorkin lectures widely and is the author of several hundred articles on architectural and urban subjects. For ten years he was the architectural critic of the Village Voice and is currently contributing editor for Architectural Record.)

Eviction without a just and humane relocation is evil. Any decent society will never resort to this madness.
Eviction without a just and humane relocation is evil. Any decent society will never resort to this madness.

In our country as well as in other cities in the world, there is a general hostility to the poor. All sorts of negative stereotypes are heaped on them - they are "eye sores", lazy, irresponsible ad infinitum....Mainstream society, I mean our society, is blind to the fact that 85%of our national coffers comes from indirect taxes. The poor pay indirect taxes everyday every time they buy goods and services on a piece-by-piece basis because they can't afford to go wholesale.

Social movements are the best channels of the poor's collective voice. With the support of people from all walks of life whose hearts understand the structural causes of poverty, social movements thrive and society gets the better for it.


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    • franciaonline profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Masmasika,

      You're right, it takes enough guts to be able to move out of the slum area and may I say that it also takes so much concern from a caring society so that the poor will believe in themselves. It is the very unkind judgment against the poor legitimized by global and national economic, political and cultural structures that the poor are up against. No wonder, there are a big number of poor people who have relented to hopelessness. We who have love in our hearts should just continue taking the standpoint of the poor and be ready to be judged ourselves.

      Thanks for leaving a generous comment.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      well. I don't know what to say. I am poor myself and I have lived in the slums for a good number of years. Perhaps it is unfair to judge them because opportunities are so scarce for them to be able to survive. It takes enough guts to be able to move out of that filthy slum area. Actually there are only very few who take being poor as a challenge. Most lack the drive and the will to get out from that place and they just live there and accept that it is their fate.

      Thanks fraciaonline. You write so well.

    • franciaonline profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Cris,

      Your comment, though you view the "poor" and the "slums" with romance shows a certain level of kindness to the poor. Activists start from romanticism - dreaming of a reality beyond what it is but experience teach them that romanticizing the poor is setting up a hump on the road to social transformation. A sense of urgency is really important.

      Thanks for reading this hub!

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 

      9 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Honestly speaking, I think I view the "poor" and the "slums" with romance and not with a sense of urgency. I guess it really takes a Roman to talk about Rome. Thanks for sharing this insightful hub :D

    • franciaonline profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks for dropping by, Kimberly.

    • Kimberly Bunch profile image

      Kimberly Bunch 

      9 years ago from EAST WENATCHEE

    • franciaonline profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Philippines

      Hi fastfreta,

      It's so good to see you dropping by soon and leaving an encouraging comment. I haven't finished reading all your hubs but I keep going back. They're very interesting and well-written.

      Yes, you're right, there are so many decent people who have very little opportunity to explore the actual sociological complexities of poverty outside of their personal show of kindness to the poor on the person-to-person level.I think the reason why there is a general negative judgment on the poor is because our social institutions do not approach society from a systemic perspective. With information so isolated from the larger picture of things - geopolitics, local politics, etc. there's a general tendency to focus only on day-to-day life as a member of a family or a clan or a particular state.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      What a very insightful article. So many good points that it's hard to isolate any one. But the point about the poor paying indirect tax is something that I never ever gave a thought to. The more we delve into the subject of the poor the more we see that we don't know the half of what they go through every day to survive. You wrote a winner.


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