Gentrification is a process that hides the apparatus of domination from the dominant themselves. Spiritually, gentrification is the removal of the dynamic mix that defines urbanity—the familiar interaction of different kinds of people creating ideas together. Urbanity is what makes cities great, because the daily affirmation that people from other experiences are real makes innovative solutions and experiments possible. In this way, cities historically have provided acceptance, opportunity, and a place to create ideas contributing to freedom. Gentrification in the seventies, eighties, and nineties replaced urbanity with suburban values, ... so that the suburban conditioning of racial and class stratification, homogeneity of consumption, mass-produced aesthetics, and familial privatization got resituated into big building, attached residences, and apartments. This undermines urbanity and recreates cities as centers of obedience instead of instigators of positive change.
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.
At the 2008 Lambda Literary Awards (the awards the LGBT community gives to books ignored by straight book awards) not a single lesbian book nominated for best novel was published by a mainstream press. Our literature is disappearing at the same time we are being told we are winning our rights. How can we be equal citizens if our stories are not allowed to be part of our nation's story?
Gentrification replaces most people's experiences with the perceptions of the privileged and calls that reality. In this way gentrification is dependant on telling us that things are better than they are—and this is supposed to make us feel happy. It's a strange concept of happiness as something that requires the denial of many other people's experiences. For some of us, on the other hand, the pusuit of reality is essential to happiness. Even if the process gets us in trouble. It is very hard to get a glimpse of what is actually happening when one is constantly being lied to, and it is even harder to articulate what we realize is actually happening while intuiting that punishment awaits.
The fact that one person is suffering does not inherently mean that the other party is to blame. The expectation that we will never feel badly or anxious or confused is an unreasonable expectation and doesn’t automatically mean that someone else is abusing us. These emotions are part of the human experience.
If a person cannot solve a conflict with a friend, how can they possibly contribute to larger efforts for peace? If we refuse to speak to a friend because we project our anxieties onto an email they wrote, how are we going to welcome refugees, immigrants, and the homeless into our communities? The values required for social repair are the same values required for personal repair.
Often a real conversation would illuminate nuances and correct misunderstandings. The real question is: Why would a person rather have an enemy than a conversation? Why would they rather see themselves as harassed and transgressed instead of have a conversation that could reveal them as an equal participant in creating conflict?
There is no correlation between having the ability to punish and being right. More often than not, the wrong people get punished. And the punishers use their power to keep from being accountable.