Richard Florida, senior editor at The Atlantic, writes here about Jane Jacobs’ 2005 book, Dark age Ahead, and says it is an eerie prediction of the Trump phenomenon. She explains why it happened and how to survive.

 

This is is a must-read article.

 

Florida writes:

 

“At a time when pundits and political scientists were celebrating the end of history, pointing to an emerging Democratic majority and extolling the virtues of a flat world of globalization, she ominously predicted a coming age of urban crisis, mass amnesia, and populist backlash in her final work, Dark Age Ahead. Eerily prescient as always, rereading the 2005 book today serves as a survivors’ guide to the Age of Trump.

 

“Jacobs outlines an increasing distrust of politicians and politics, a burgeoning new urban crisis in cities, worsening environmental degradation, entrenched segregation, and an “enlarging gulf between rich and poor along with attrition of the middle class” as signals and symptoms of a coming Dark Age.

 

“Nationalism and xenophobia form the core of Jacobs’ Dark Age. “Cultural xenophobia is a frequent sequel to a society’s decline from cultural vigor,” as “self-imposed isolation” leads to “a fortress mentality,” she writes….

 

“According to Jacobs, our own dark age is taking shape around the erosion of “five key pillars” of society.

 

“The first is the decline of family and community. The same politicians who call families the foundation of society undertake policies that weaken and undermine them. The replacement of extended families with nuclear ones make it impossible for many to cover the cost of housing. Falling birth rates mean a smaller workforce to take care of an aging population.

 

“At the same time, the broader community falls victim to market pressures, materialism, and the hegemony of brands. Jacobs points especially to the automobile as a “destroyer of worlds” that not only wastes energy and promotes sprawl, but skews priorities from public interest to self-interest.

 

“The second is the decline of education, which has been transformed into vocational training. Education becomes an individualistic investment instead of a public good that produces well-rounded citizens. When that happens, jobs and profit become the sole measure of progress and ultimate justification for political choices, at the expense of everything else.

 

“The third is an attack on science, or what she calls false analogies that mask reality. “If a body of inquiry becomes disconnected from the scientific state of mind, that unfortunate segment of knowledge is no longer scientific,” she writes. “It stagnates.” Objectivity and scientific progress are replaced with dogma.

 

“The fourth pillar is the “dumbing down” of taxes. In place of public investments that build cities and societies, taxes and government investment come to be seen as waste. The result is that all sorts of public goods—education, transit, infrastructure and the social safety which contribute to a functioning and cohesive society—start to break down. Jacobs perceptively identifies the looming “new urban crisis” of unaffordable housing, gaping inequality, escalating sprawl, and congestion facing cities as the result of this sort of attack on taxes and public investment.

 

“The fifth and final pillar is the subversion of the “learned professions” such as medicine, law, architecture, engineering and journalism. We cannot possibly learn every facet of the world, so professions are needed to instill trust and maintain common welfare. Doctors, for example, adhere to a Hippocratic Oath. Lawyers have ethical requirements to adhere to. When such professions come under attack and their norms and functions are undermined, Jacobs notes, society falls victim to the whims of “frauds, brutes, and psychopaths.”

 

It all sounds very familiar.