Shadow cities – Robert Neuwirth

I watched this video today, which I thought was very interesting. In Brazil, people underestimate the importance of favelas. They ignore them, pretend they don’t exist, and people who live in them are ashamed to say they do so, but I have always thought it curious how the middle and upper classes can ignore such an overwhelming reality as that of the lower classes and how they live. I am not talking about pity, but the possibilities and simple acknowledgement of the relevance these places and their people have in our lives. They are our workers, our nannies, our teachers, our nurses, our bus drivers..and people simply don’t like to think about the power of favelas. They are the only true conglomerates of people in the world.

Lots of people have heard about the Bottom of the Pyramid, but no one really thinks about how beneficial it would be to participate with this slice of the pyramid. What if someone taught the little children in a favela nursery how to speak English, for example, instead of letting them sit around all day while their parents work?  Imagine the impact that would have on everyone’s lives, including people they have never even met, like their future employers. And what if someone taught stay-at-home mothers in favelas a trade? And introduced them to internet selling? Simple actions have incredible results in favelas because of the massive number of participants, and that is their power. They are the unexploited, gaping and extremely promising cities of the future.

In the political arena, they are also overlooked. Politicians offer free food and parties to the people that live in all poor areas, and then ignore them for the rest of their term, leaving them without sewage systems, roads, etc. They simply forget that they are in office because of these people, and yes, they do care if there is an open sewage in the middle of their dirt road, or if all the local construction companies dump their rubble in their neighbourhoods. Sometimes even the rubbish truck refuses to go to favelas, so people just throw their rubbish in heaps and wait for it to disappear. The only exception is the favela da Rocinha, in Rio, the home of some politicians who made promises to the residents in exchange for votes and actually stuck to them.

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