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Segregate the City: Al Jazeera Makes a Modest Proposal for San Francisco

Scott Lucas | September 16, 2014 | Lifestyle Story City Life

Is it time for San Francisco to take a page out of the Middle East playbook and solve its woes with a two-state solution? That's the provocative thesis of a piece on Al Jazeera's website. It's either a dark satire right up there with eating Irish babies—or it's the most genius political solution ever.

In it, Curtis Brown, identified only as "an Ithaca-based writer," proposes an option that's biblical in its simplicity: Cut the baby in two. "San Francisco could have the best of both worlds," he writes after advocating that we physically separate the non-techies from the techies. "Brilliant, successful tech people could enjoy the authenticity and shabby allure of the city’s traditional life while protecting themselves and their gleaming young from an increasingly restive local rabble; meanwhile that local rabble could regain unfettered access to the cheap rents, dive bar glut and irregular work hours that form their cultural patrimony." After all, says Brown, the city is already halfway there. "What my plan does is formalize it through discrete but interlocking legal, economic and judicial systems and a form of electrified cattle fencing."

Alright, so the article is clearly tongue-in-cheek. But, like all great satire, its premise hits close to home. Just ask Supervisor David Campos, for instance, who is running for the state Assembly on a Tale of Two Cities theme. Or the science fiction writer China MiƩville, whose 2009 novel The City & the City takes as its setting two separate cities that are geographically one but subjectively two (it makes sense when you read it).

Of course, there are many different ways to carve up the city besides Brown's dichotomy of young techies and aging Gen Xers. For instance, you could divide it between the very rich—with all kinds of jobs—and the poor and middle class. (Some say that divide has already happened.) Or you could slice it between those who want to build our way out of the housing crunch, and those who don't. Humorously (or not), there is a war right now between the ones who say there is a war, and the ones who say there isn't.

Point being—it might be patently ridiculous, but Brown's article also has us dead to satirical rights. Go read the whole thing here.

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