by Nathan Barton
A few weeks ago, I suggested that ghettos can sometimes be refuges for people and businesses, when society (or the powers-that-be) is very much against the people, their business, or their products and practices. Yes, they can be traps, as well. You are not always in a ghetto by choice, of course.
Thanks for lots of comments from various folks, named and unnamed. Published and not. Here are some further thoughts on the topic.
Ghettos are like modern “safe places” and college “free speech zones.”
One person points out that ghettos and such are kinda like the so called “Free Speech Zones” and “Safe Places” that feature prominently on college campuses today. And at political events, more and more.
Is this a good thing? Most of us do not believe that it is good. Why? Because it is limiting human rights to a particular time and place. It is either implied or specifically stated and enforced that those rights can NOT be exercised anyplace but these Zones.
Ghettos are where governments dump people to control them more.
Jeff corrected me in some things and clarified some thoughts.
He pointed out that the “Republic of Venice” (which I admit has not be a major subject of study for me) forced Jews into the ghetto. As, I understand, many other cities did. But in some jurisdictions (such as some of the Hansastadten) the establishment of these ghettos were (initially) voluntary.
Somewhat like some Chinatowns in the Fifty States and elsewhere (another possible comparison, like Jeff’s suggestion of a gated community). In some cities (LA, SF, come to mind immediately but my readers know my antipathy to California), the Chinese were forced to live in a Chinatown. In others (like Deadwood and apparently Salt Lake City), the immigrants chose to live in a specific area. Lead, Deadwood’s sister city and site of the vast Homestake Mine, had at least a half-dozen clearly defined (and enforced by public opinion, not law, near as I can tell) ethnic neighborhoods. This was voluntary, and seemed to be acceptable, even preferable, to people of the time.
And it makes sense. Until some governmental, controlling “genius” comes up with the idea of “lets prevent some kinds of people from living in some kinds of areas.”
When does a “good” ghetto become a bad one?
It is natural to want to associate with “your own” in language and culture. Jeff’s comparison to gated communities is a good one, but we usually don’t think of those as actual fortified, defensible sites.
It is also natural to have certain districts in which you have noisy, dirty, stinking industrial activities going on. “We stay over here, away from your noses and ears and all, and you let us do things that are needed and therefore make money.”
The problem comes when the controllers, when governments, make such things mandatory, rather than voluntary. And when they give any degree of control over who lives where, who does what where, and what gets built where, to the community at large, or to the government bodies themselves. Although the special zone or district might have been a blessing – a way of being good neighbors – up to then, it now becomes a trap. A large, open prison of sorts.
Whether we are talking people of a particular religion, ethnicity, or skin color. Or whether we are talking commercial or other endeavors.
The drawbacks of ghettos for governments
Speaking of gated communities, as well as special districts and ghettos and barrios, another thought Which does call for yet another thought: the various governments who pushed Jews and Blacks into ghettos certainly did not intend to create locations which could then be fortified and used to defend against outside attacks, yet they sometimes did so. The companies and politicians may be doing the same thing today, in cyberspace.
And we see where certain religious and ethnic groups take advantage of that. The “no-go” zones of cities in Sweden, France, and the United Kingdom, inhabited by Muslim migrants, are an example of that: their totally different moral and ethical values make them unsafe for anyone that they do no like.
The future of such refuges
A second thought is that under the right circumstances, a cyberspace gated community or ghetto may give birth to an actual meat-space community. More than just the “Free State Project” or “Free State Wyoming” movement. There would be both advantages and disadvantages. Places of refuge, yes. But at the same time, places in which people and ideas can be trapped, and kept convenient for disposal (as indeed was the case of many European Jewish Ghettos in the Holocaust).