January 20, 2008

Walled City

Lots of people told me about Johannesburg’s high concrete walls surrounding nearly every home and office building.  It’s definitely the first thing I noticed on the ride from the airport, as they are not only over 20 feet high, but are also all topped off with barbed wire and broken glass.  Although perhaps designed to induce fear, for me they just feel like a part of the cityscape, like steel storm gates on New York stores or bulletproof glass in New York taxis.  I know those things came when New York was a much less safe place.  And I’m not naïve enough to believe Jo’burg is as safe as NYC today.  But it did make me think about how crime, and their associated socio-economic factors, can partly define the look and feel of a city, which in Jo’burg unfortunately seems to only say, “Stay away.”

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