Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Taking the road to Sao Paulo

Remember Ryan Heath? He's the young Australian lefty who wrote earlier this year:

The truth is that Australia doesn't really have a world city - and it's too deluded to realise what it needs to do to create one.

Reading the morning papers in the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings, I was struck by the faces of London. Thirty-two of the 39 photos of victims that stared at us that next morning were under 35 and looked like the United Nations.

That's when I realised what a real "world city" is. It's not easy; it's not white; it's not old. It's crazy and colourful and out of control in a way I don't recognise in Australia.

Heath then compared Sydney unfavourably with certain places overseas,

it takes no great leap of the imagination to put Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro or Johannesburg on the same footing as Sydney. But it's a real challenge for white chauvinists to think that a Portuguese-speaking city might be more interesting.

To sum up, Ryan would like us to have even more immigration, to create even higher levels of globalisation, so that we can enjoy the benefits of living in a real, non-white, out of control, interesting world city like Sao Paulo in Brazil. Those who object to this vision of earthly paradise are dismissed as white chauvinists.

Well, I wonder if Ryan Heath read the newspapers today. This is how the Melbourne Age described the current situation in Sao Paulo:

The Brazilian Government offered today to send troops to the business capital Sao Paulo to help combat a wave of gang attacks in which 81 people, many of them police, have died in four days.

The gangsters set buses ablaze and blasted banks yesterday after hitting police posts and vehicles across the city and state at the weekend.

Heavily armed police manned checkpoints on main roads as fear gripped the city over the worst wave of crime-related violence in recent memory. Inmates also rioted in about 45 prisons in Sao Paulo state, holding about 200 people hostage, mostly guards.

The bloodshed was unleashed on Friday night by a powerful criminal gang ...

So, Sao Paulo is interesting alright - for all the wrong reasons. It is a city subject to extraordinary levels of crime and violence.

It is not a multicultural, world city success story, but a place and a future to be avoided.


  1. You are right abou Sao Paulo eighty odd dead at last count..

  2. But it's a real challenge for white chauvinists to think that a Portuguese-speaking city might be more interesting

    Last time I checked, Portugal was "white European". Am I missing something?

  3. Hmmm ...

    Portugal is of course European, but it's not particularly White. However, neither of those points relate to the native language of Brazilians - which was the original reference I made.

    And so 80 people died in Sao Paulo - my point wasn't that Sydney wasn't nice. My point was that not much happens in it. And things happen in world cities - including bad things.

    Personally i'd rather Sydney over Sao Paulo any day - but I know you can't have your cake and it too hen it comes to claiming 'world city' status. THat was my only point.

  4. Judging by what the media is saying, Sao Paulo is about as bad as the suburb depicted in the film 'City Of God',which I thought would have to be grossly overstated, ie, 10 year olds murdering each other in gang wars. San Paulo probably is quite hip if you are rich enough to be able to afford to live in gated communities and bribe the police.