Few people who read the works of Jane Jacobs realize that she wrote from the perspective of the dirt poor.
Most imagine she wrote from the perspective of the world they live in.
I first found this out about myself in my teens when I read a science fiction story in which a man invented a concoction which caused him to shrink. The story is called “HE WHO SHRANK.” It is by Henry Hasse. It can be found here: http://johnnypez9.blogspot.com/2010/06/he-who-shrank-by-henry-hasse-part-1.html .
I imagined the scientist as a human being until one of the worlds he (if he was a he) shrank into was ours.
In that instant I realized our world could be part of the atoms and molecules which make up a block of metal on a desk in another reality.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
― Jane Jacobs,
When she wrote that Jane was writing from the perspective of the people she grew up among which is the same group of people I grew up among.
I confirmed this this week when I walked home from a city planners meeting with Jane’s son Jim.
I have known the Jacobs family from their arrival in Toronto in 1968.
Jane had seen a street flyer I had posted for a screening of the 1923 silent film version of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME with Lon Chaney.
She and her family were the only people who came out that rainy Saturday night in September of 1968.
They came back every week until the City Of Toronto shut down my space for violating zoning bylaws.
As I walked from the meeting to Bloor and Bathurst with Jim I said to him, “What most who read your mother’s books fail to realize is that she wrote from the perspective of the dirt poor.”
Said Jim, “YES! We were dirt poor when she wrote THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES.”
When Jane wrote, “There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served,” she wrote it from the perspective of the ordinary person who finds their accomplishments completely cast aside by the big dreams of the big dreamers in the seats of power. “There doesn’t seem to be much creativity at the top. It seems to me that Toronto has a split personality, a civic schizophrenia. On one level there is the spirit of individuals and small groups who do things…what you might call the vernacular spirit. This is all very informal, ingenious, quite romantic and full of fun, a great deal of fun. It seems to me that the official spirit of Toronto is stamp out fun. It’s pompous, impressed with mediocrity if its very, very big and expensive,”–Jane Jacobs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUO20–hXw8
I am part of that vernacular spirit the City Of Toronto is so eager to stamp out. The vast majority of us are.
The plans for Mirvish Village are BIG. They are EXPENSIVE. They are mediocre.
Here is the video of the meeting Jim and I went to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOdaTTwcTnQ .
Jim voices his concerns at 41:40. At 49:51 Jim realizes his concerns are going to be ignored. When he speaks up outraged as any of us would be realizing we are being misled he comes dangerously close to being forcibly removed. In this screenshot I can see the palpable duplicity on the face of the speaker as Jim shouts, “That’s not good enough.” He has misled his listeners. He knows he has misled his listeners.
Jane Jacobs realized in the 1960s in New York that these meetings are a sham.
“My mother loved you,” Jim has told me repeatedly when we meet. I reply, “I love your mother.”
Ed Keenan of THE STAR, also present at this meeting, said to me, “Reg, you are the only person in Toronto who stands up.”
I am not the only one but the truth is there are very few of us.
But then, historically, there have always been very few who stand up. Jane was one of those few. Margaret Meade said, “Never under estimate the power of one person and/or a handful of committed people to change the world for the better. All too often that is all that does it.”
Never under estimate your power to change the world for the better.
That change won’t come from the ranks of the wealthy. It won’t come from politicians.
It will come from the ranks of the dirt poor. I am proud to belong to those ranks. The word “rank” can also mean disgusting, rotten, a stink. The dirt poor are often called “the great unwashed.” Unwashed we may be but from our numbers the truly great rise.–Reg Hartt 03/04/2017.