Gentrification of the mind

Over at Bookslut, there are a few brilliant posts related to the gentrification of cities like New York, Paris and Berlin. I should have known. Bookslut has all the answers. This is exactly what my book (Berlin, Second Hand) is about. I think Berlin’s gentrification is particularly sad because Berlin was, at one point, renowned for its tolerance, its cantankerous anti-establishment stance and its creative atmosphere. These ingredients combined with cheap rents allowed people to, as Bookslut’s Jessa Crispin puts it, “live radical, exciting, David Bowie kinds of lives. (Not so much the drug addled state, more to do with the philosophical embodiments of his outfits.).” The way rents are going up in Berlin, this kind of freedom is slowly becoming extinct. It’s funny, but after I got my book back from the printer, it hit me: Today’s Berlin is sort of a watered down, second hand version of what the city once was. I didn’t think of this when I originally chose a title for the book. Funny how that works.

Anyway, cities once challenged people and offered a refuge from the homogenized suburbs, but wealth is changing that. People want their organic lattes and this means mom & pop businesses get elbowed out. Expensive rents mean one must join the rat race. I like to think of it as a hamster running on a wheel. (I mean, what if we all just stepped off the wheel?) But gentrification touches on deeper issues, like creative thinking, challenging the status quo, independent thought and the tyranny of hipness. It’s about 21st century feudalism where the majority of us are serfs and the 1% are the landlords. Okay, I’ll stop ranting.

Here is an excerpt from Sarah Schulman’s The Gentrification of the Mind. A little food for thought, my dear Sloggers:

“There is something inherently stupid about gentrified thinking. It’s a dumbing down and smoothing over of what people are actually like. It’s a social position rooted in received wisdom, with aesthetics blindly selected from the presorted offerings of marketing and without information or awareness about the structures that create its own delusional sense of infallibility. Gentrified thinking is like the bourgeois version of Christian fundamentalism, a huge, unconscious conspiracy of homogeneous patterns with no awareness about its own freakishness. The gentrification mentality is rooted in the belief that obedience to consumer identity over recognition of lived experience is actually normal, neutral, and value free…

Ignoring the reality that our cities cannot produce liberating ideas for the future from a place of homogeneity keeps us from being truthful about our inherent responsibilities to each other. For in the end, all this self-deception and replacing, this prioritizing and marginalizing, this smoothing over and pushing out, all of this profoundly affects how we think. That then creates what we think we feel.”

For some reason this brings to mind Shepard Fairey’s OBEY t-shirts. There is kind of a mindless, pack mentality to today’s cities. We’re all being spoon-fed by our technology.


~ by Valerie Palmer on June 27, 2013.

One Response to “Gentrification of the mind”

  1. You have an amazing blog! I am so glad to have found another person avid about gentirication! Do you have some suggestions on other blogs you like to follow?


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