Now that the question of gentrification is not a subject only talked about behind closed doors, it’s time to dig deeper into the root causes of gentrification. While we continue to debate whether economic development will lead to physical and cultural displacement, the issue of gentrification is merely a symptom of much deeper structural/cultural challenges. There are a litany of symptoms. A few glaring examples are the national opiate epidemic, increasing poverty, the educational crisis and climate change.
Of course we should look for ways to mitigate the negative impacts of gentrification to protect existing residents from this economic development on steroids. We should also find ways to protect communities from the opiate crisis and to mitigate the challenges of poverty. In addition, the climate change question requires we find immediate ways to protect ourselves from a fossil fuel based economy. But at the end of the day, these reforms are about as effective as putting on a raincoat in preparation for a tsunami. Any real long term solutions must take a critical look at more fundamental cultural/structural challenges.
The fundamental structural challenge is an economic system focused on the pursuit of profit by any means necessary. For example, the opiate crisis is the result of an aggressive pursuit of the marketplace. Some companies in the pharmaceutical industry peddle their latest and greatest drug. This drug of course is highly addictive and led to a nation strung out on opiates which has contributed to illegal use of heroine. The industry also through its relationship with the political sector persuaded some of our political leaders who are supposed to protect us to betray us. The incestuous relationship between the public and private sector leaves the rest of us held hostage to corporate gang culture whose pursuit of profit continues to destroy our communities. The 2008 financial crisis is another example of this. This crisis commonly referred to as the great recession destroyed families and communities for the pursuit of profit over people.
The climate apocalypse is my final but most alarming example of the structural/cultural crises of our day. This apocalypse runs the risk of total annihilation of human existence and other life forms that share this planet. Again a close look at the oil industry, will illustrate that when the industry leaders knew of the negative impact carbon based fuels were having on planet earth, they attempted to contain and conceal this information while they continued to pursue profit using fossil based fuels. This behavior clearly speaks to a collective denial and/or an insanity that can be considered suicidal.
This last point speaks to the cultural crisis we find ourselves in. Our cultural behavior has been restructured by the pursuit of profit at all costs where our definition of what it means to be human is now defined by our collection of trinkets and material wealth. This cultural crisis is now a global phenomena creating a monolithic global culture. We must also look critically at the role race, class and gender have played and continue to play in supporting this non-human centered framework.
What can we do? At the personal level, we can all begin to take a closer and more detailed look at the aforementioned challenges. We can have conversations with each other in an effort to make the invisible visible. Our conversations must reach outside of our current circles and include people who don’t look like like us and don’t share the same views. This approach provides an opportunity for healthy tension through dialogue that may expand our understanding of each other and possibly create new opportunities for improving our communities. We can take our lives back by spending more quality time engaging with each other. Put simply, we must reconnect ourselves to each other and return value to our lives based on our relationships. Some of us must have the courage to tell the truth about the destruction of our planet and our social fabric. While these may seem to be small inconsequential actions, history provides many examples where these kinds of actions led to fundamental significant structural/cultural changes in our society.
Here are some recommended readings: Entertaining Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman; Emergent Strategy, Adrienne Maree Brown; The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander; The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, Grace Lee Boggs; The New Urban Crisis, Richard Florida; Leadership and the New Science, Margaret Wheatley; Chaos Point, Ervin Laszlo and Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization, Roy Scranton.
Lastly, I would like to end with the lyrics from the song Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts by the Funkadelic:
Travel like a king
Listen to the inner voice
A higher wisdom is at work for you
Conquering the stumbling blocks come easier
When the conqueror is in tune with the infinite
Every ending is a new beginning
Life is an endless unfoldment
Change your mind, and you change your relation to time
You can find the answer
The solution lies within the problem
The answer is in every question
An attitude is all you need to rise and walk away
Your life is yours
It fits you like your skin
The oak sleeps in the acorn
The giant sequoia tree sleeps in its tiny seed
The bird waits in the egg
God waits for his unfoldment in man
Fly on, children
You gravitate to that which you secretly love most
You meet in life the exact reproduction of your own thoughts
There is no chance, coincidence or accident
In a world ruled by law and divine order
You rise as high as your dominant aspiration
You descend to the level of your lowest concept of your self
Free your mind and your ass will follow
The infinite intelligence within you knows the answers
Its nature is to respond to your thoughts
Be careful of the thought-seeds you plant in the garden of your mind
For seeds grow after their kind
Play on, children
Every thought felt as true
Or allowed to be accepted as true by your conscious mind
Takes roots in your subconscious
Blossoms sooner or later into an act
And bears its own fruit
Good thoughts bring forth good fruit
Bullshit thoughts rot your meat
Think right, and you can fly
The kingdom of heaven is within
Free your mind, and your ass will follow
Play on, children