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The darkest moment of my life came my second night in Toronto in the mid 1960’s when a man who had offered to help me said, “If you don’t give me what I want I will kill you.”

Many homeless young men and women have been and are murdered by people who offer to help them.

Did the experience harm me?

No, it made me stronger.

As well it gave me an empathy I would otherwise not have. It gave me the ability ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

We are now in the Darkest Dark Age humanity has yet experienced.

Jane Jacobs warned us this was coming in her last book which is aptly titled “DARK AGE AHEAD.”

Get it. Read it. Read it again and again and again.

Get ready. The night has fallen.

I have had dark moments since that night but none as dark as that until now.

That morning in the mid 1960s I had been sent to my high school principal’s office where he said, “You have the wrong attitude. If you leave this school today you will starve to death in two weeks.”

In that basement stairwell looking up at the man with the hammer in his hand it looked like I would not live more than two days.

We do what we must to live.

The upshot is not only have I not starved, I would have starved had I not walked out of that office.

–Reg Hartt 2020-01–16.

Jane Jacobs was always ahead of her time. In her trilogy of urban works, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Economy of Cities, and Cities and the Wealth of Nations, written in the 1960s and mid-1980s, she not only outlined the key elements of great neighborhoods and effective urbanism, but also predicted the back-to-the city movement. Early on, Jacobs identified the increasingly important role of cities in innovation and economic development. But urbanism was not the only subject on which she proved prescient. In her last book, Dark Age Ahead, she also predicted some of the more negative and destructive trends of modern society—rising inequality, the erosion and decay of key social institutions, the downsides of globalization—that have paved the way for demagogues like Donald Trump.

Released in 2004 when she was 88 years old, Dark Age Ahead is hardly talked about among urbanists and fans of Jacobs’ earlier works. In fact, it was widely panned as the work of an aging crank whose best days and smartest commentary were behind her. The New York Times called  it an “extremely sloppy” and “haphazard” book. Such reactions were par for the course with her later works. The MIT economist Robert Solow wrote that her 2000 book The Nature of Economies “[does not tell] us much about the nature of economies, beyond the pun itself.” For these reviewers, Jacobs should have long since retired from writing. But like early critics of Death and Life, these reviews missed the incredible prescience and foresight of her thought.


Jane Jacobs’ last book is a warning ignored about the mass dumbing down we now find ourselves mired in. “Dark ages come when people forget,” she warned. We have forgotten so much. We have lost so much. It is going to get darker.

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