In addition to my work book club (we’re reading How Big Things Get Done by Brent Flyvberg) I found out that one of my favorite podcasts “99% Invisible” is doing a read-along of the massive Robert Caro book “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York”. It’s a biggie – so they are going to work through it over the course of 2024, with one episode a month covering a 12th of the book. This sounds totally achievable.
I’ve just finished the first part – Robert’s beginnings, his family, his progressive paternalistic origins and the brutal education in power that he goes through. This guy seems to be a massive intellect, a fantastically energetic powerhouse of change, an aristocratic snide jerk who looked down on all of us (my ancestors are particularly some of the people his family organized to keep from embarassing them), and possibly one of the most destructive people who doesn’t get credit for it. Once you listen to Butterflies, the Memory Palace’s story of how Thomas Midgely was inadvertently a destructive monster who murdered so many of us a fraction at a time, you begin to think about the other secret monsters in the world – killing us in tiny slices. They removed so many parts of so many peoples lives, bringing the day of their death closer than needed.
Listening to the first episode of 99PI’s Power Broker read-along was great – Robert Caro is the guest, you begin to grasp that Robert Moses did the same, but in the middle of people’s lives and he did it for aesthetic reasons. He wanted to prevent us from having trains and public transportation. He had the choice and he chose to do things that made so many people in my region sit idling in cars, pumping exhaust out and increasing their blood pressure. It reminds me of the part in Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett where a demon takes credit for a the design of a UK motorway as a force of massive incremental evil. I was hooked in the first 20 pages, but I feel like we are in masterful hands by now. I was eager to not get too far ahead of the podcast – but now I can get through the next chunk. It is definitely not too soon to get started and join in – I am eager to chat with folks about it.