Fortress urbanism 3

As security culture intensifies and cameras are installed and walls are built and our cities become slowly fortified – Baghdad, for instance, as Dexter Filkins writes in tomorrow’s *NYTimes*, “seems a city transported from the Middle Ages: a scattering of high-walled fortresses, each protected by a group of armed men. The area between the forts is a lawless no man’s land, menaced by bandits and brigands” – I’m left wondering if perhaps Belfast – yes, Belfast, though maybe Derry (once the most televised city on earth due to the incredible extent of its police CCTV network) – could someday serve as a predictive future history for cities like London and New York – or, for that matter, Baghdad.

That coming urban secrecy and fortressed paranoia is, in fact, already marked in advance for future readers in a poem by Seamus Heaney:

‘O land of password, handgrip, wink and nod,
Of open minds as open as a trap,

Where tongues lie coiled, as under flames lie wicks,
Where half of us, as in a wooden horse
Were cabin’d and confined like wily Greeks,
Besieged within the siege, whispering morse.


This morning from a dewy motorway
I saw the new camp for the internees:
A bomb had left a crater of fresh clay
In the roadside, and over in the trees

Machine-gun posts defined a real stockade.
There was that white mist you get on a low ground
And it was déjà-vu, some film made
Of Stalag 17, a bad dream with no sound.

…We hug our little destiny again.’

(from ‘Whatever You Say Say Nothing’)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.