Are we living evermore in some vast corporate art installation? Here is a precis of what I see in my beloved Londinium. Militant profiteering from the nightmarishly unrepentant British Establishment. Vulture-Economics, soft genocides. A litany of elite-serving forecourts and landscaped non-spaces disguised (barely) as redevelopment and 'urban regeneration' - inert and soulless secular temples, venerations of absence - lining a sinister path to a glittering new feudalism. We are left drowning in the wake of emergent dead zones, pastel-coloured investment silos for unaccountable off-shore power-brokers. Ghost places that have asset-stripped the future.
Things are losing their texture, rough edges hewn to a porcelain sheen. A photoshop consciousness. We deny the necessary imperfections of our skin, deny our pores, our public discourses, the blind spots of our cognition. Our politics intransigent, our socialism laminated, lacquered in gloss of the eternal tragic present - no past, reforgotten, no future, unproposed and unfinanced by our self-appointed imagineers. London is being colonised. A theme park with only the merest connection to history, or hard-fought or hard-won human rights. Only as much history as can fit on a blue commemorative plaque; struggle and achievement as Tweet. Social progress (for the cash shufflers) as status update. Soundbites are far too unwieldy these days.
The corporatisation of human will, the vampirism of the counterculture. Gentrification as rapacious acquisition. Shunt the poor and the minorities from a vibrant former ghetto, made trendy through their counterculture contributions, through human will under duress. Use redevelopment as the guise; unaffordable housing, the commodification of street-cred. The unhoused and abandoned poor now forced to some greater ghetto. This ghetto's next generation, a little more broken and colonised than their forebears ( a little more inured to the practicalities and rituals of abuse), but still resisting in their way, still creating art and culture. Non-sanctioned soulmaking. The new ghetto eventually becomes vibrant, a hotspot, a scene. The vulture economists and developers notice and swoop in. The cycle of gentrification begins again. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Brixton, Soho, Camden, Shoreditch, Whitechapel...
Reclaim our histories, renegotiate our thresholds of what we will allow, or else the new cities will be all be Damocles, razor-edged, unliveable and insouciant, hanging above our heads.