Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, a New Urban World

By Robert Neuwirth. <i>Routledge. $27.95</i>.

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As many as one out of six people on earth is an illegal squatter. In Shadow Cities, journalist Robert Neuwirth describes his travels through the megalopolises of Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, and Nairobi to discover what life is like for that 1 billion. What he finds defies many of the stereotypes of grime- and crime-ridden Third World slums.

The improvised shanties he visits on hillsides and along train tracks, though constructed illicitly, are often well tended. Neuwirth finds the “law-abiding outlaws” who inhabit them to be for the most part upstanding and neighborly. “People may be poorer here,” a woman tells him in one of Rio’s favelas. “But they pay their bills.”

Squatting is not simply trespassing, contends Neuwirth, but an inevitable phase of urbanization. “All cities,” he writes, “start in mud”: New York’s Upper East Side began as a shantytown, and Paris and London once teemed with the semi-homeless.

City governments should learn from this history, he argues. Instead of ignoring (or bulldozing) slums, they should provide squatters a fair stake in their de facto homes. Ultimately, Neuwirth has faith that the most daunting aspect of squatter cities — their size — will be their salvation, as their residents discover the sheer power of numbers.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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