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Monday, August 10, 2009

The ills of modern cities

The ills of modern cities

The most glaring ill of modern cities is that the people in it are always in a hurry. Businesspeople, wage-earners, laborers, pedlars, crooks and assorted characters all rush about in their activities. It is rush, rush and more rush. City folks rush to work, rush to get their work done, rush to have lunch and rush home. Then perhaps they rush to have dinner or rush to a party. Finally in the early hours of the morning it is a rush to, as they say, grab some sleep before the rush next morning.

I was in Sydney, Australia, for a visit once. As I took a leisurely stroll along the city streets, I was amazed at how everyone seemed to be walking very quickly past me. Even old ladies of seventy simply overtook me without any difficulty. Some younger ones were actually running towards God knows where. To cross the busy roads, everyone crowded near the traffic lights. The moment the lights changed to green for the pedestrians, they took off not unlike sprinters off the blocks. That was a rush indeed. I was forced to walk quickly too, otherwise I was likely to be trampled on by the crowd.

NO wonder modern city-dwellers suffer from all sorts of stress-related diseases. Some of these stressed people are probably rushing towards an early grave too.

In a city like Kuala Lumpur, after the workers have gone home, the uglier side of the city emerges. The night-sports open up attracting all sorts of people. Prostitutes, drug addicts, drug pushers, con-men, thugs and other potentially dangerous characters abound. The police are hard-pressed to handle them. The crime rate is always rising.

However, compared to other cities like New York, Kuala Lumpur is relatively tame. In New York, everyone knows that it is dangerous to even go for a walk in some areas after 5 p.m. The likelihood of getting mugged or even killed is very high. The street gangs rule and no sane person would go out to tempt them. Still robberies, murders and all manner of human perversion continue. Certainly there is great ill in this city. This trend of lawlessness s spreading in other cities as well and there is no indication that things will get better.

While skyscrapers dominate the skyline in a city, one could say squatters and shanties dominate the baseline. In some cities, it is estimated that these shanties occupy more than half the city space. On one side, the wealthy ones rush around in their posh cars, while on the other side, the less fortunate ones rush around stealing them. The imbalance of wealth is glaring and nothing is done about it. This is another ill of modern cities.

What are the remedies for these ills of modern cities? It would seem that nobody knows. Nobody seems to care too, which is another typical city illness. At the rate the cities are progressing, it certainly looks like they are headed for some sort of social disaster. Already the inner areas of some huge cities are experiencing a breakdown of law and order. The authorities simply cannot cope. There is not much an ordinary person can do to alleviate these ills. All he can do is to hope that they will go away, which seems very unlikely.

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