The entire December issue of The Atlantic, on how to save the United States, is a masterpiece–easily the one of the top five issues of the last ten years. One gem that jumped out at me:
I used to think of Idaho as parochial, and I used to think of cities as sophisticated. And in many ways, I was right. You can get a better education in a city; you can learn more technical skills, and more about certain types of culture. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to believe that there are many ways a person can be parochial. Now I define parochial as only knowing people who are just like you—who have the same education that you have, the same political views, the same income. And by that definition, New York City is just about the most parochial place I’ve ever lived. I have become more parochial since I came here.
It’s astonishingly difficult in this city to be truly close to someone who is not in your same socioeconomic group. For me, it’s the single most striking fact about living here. Meaningful interactions are difficult to engineer. The divide is deep. And it is largely between those who sit in the front of the Uber and those who sit in the back of it.
This statement is equally valid about Boston. Forget about stock market performance, unemployment numbers, or units of “affordable housing” created in deals with developers. Growing socio-economic gaps, and the empathy gaps that come with them, are one of the greatest threats to our society. It is baffling how little the 2020 presidential candidates seem to grasp this issue.
It also touches on my discomfort with the new “app culture” of convenience–the one in which you summon food delivery, groceries, and private drivers at the touch of a button. Convenient, yes, but you have to admit it’s basically “servants on demand.” It might have been convenient side income for average folks a few years ago, but in case you haven’t noticed, users of these services no longer have much in common with the people doing their bidding.