Ecology is defined as “the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.” Mike Davis wrote Ecology of Fear as a way to provide insight on the “biology” of Los Angeles and its psychogeography. That is to say that even places such as Los Angeles, which society views as an ideal place to live in based on its landscape, has a dark past just like everywhere else. Yet fear has allowed us to ignore this truth and focus more on its appearance.
Davis talked about many different ways in which Los Angeles is haunted by its past. The ghosts appear in many forms from police brutality and racism which lead to the Rodney King riots, to containment of the homeless in a specific area to gentrification especially as a result of the segregation and the development of downtown Los Angeles. All of these ghosts make Los Angeles what it appears to be today. Yet all we recognize is this very appearance and the positive portrayal of Los Angeles we see in movies or on tv shows.
For example, the movie Blade Runner was released in 1982 which was prior to Rodney King, portrayed LA as a futuristic dystopian society. According to Davis, “…his hypertrophied Art Deco Downtown seems little more than a romantic conceit when compared to the savage slums actually being born in the city’s inner belt of decaying postwar suburbs. Blade Runner is not so much the future of the city as the ghost of past imaginations” (361). Los Angeles is always portrayed as a much more superior place than it actually is. The slums aren’t represented accurately. The fact that poor people live with bars on their windows in order to keep out robbers are never shown. The fact that immigrants are always being mistreated just because they’re immigrants is covered up. All that society seems to care about is maintaining a paradise type of effect from LA’s psychogeography.
Why is this? Why do we let the way a place looks define its character? How does what we see contribute to our “knowledge” of a place? Whose interest are being served by projecting a solely positive image of a major city, even when the city has many ghosts? What exactly is the cause of the fear that makes us ignore dark histories?