Whatever your intentions, to be a member of the new, more privileged wave of residents in a gentrifying neighborhood is to be a part of a process that is displacing families who have lived there for decades, even generations. You have to be something of a moral idiot not to feel some queasiness about this. Although it is rarely discussed directly, I suspect that for a lot of who are, broadly speaking, on the advantaged side in this turf war, just walking around brings regular stings of class guilt. Obviously it is worse to be on the disadvantaged side; that’s why the advantaged feel bad about feeling bad, and therefore avoid talking about it.
What the advantaged do instead is pick apart all the failings and hypocrisies of our own team. That way we align ourselves, so we imagine, with the other team, the team that seems to have justice on its side: If I’m part of something bad, at least I have the right attitude about it.
Implicated in an uncomfortable reality, we resort to a bit of psychological jujitsu to fight off the shame. Feeling the heat of the spotlight, we swing it on a fellow gentrifier who’s going about it all wrong. I’m white and raised in suburbia, but I don’t wear khakis and clog restaurants with my stroller at brunch. Or perhaps: At least I’m not this guy here on the park bench, with his beanie and flip-flops. I mean, really. Look at this fucking hipster.
This is Freud’s “narcissism of minor differences,” but with a twist. In Freud’s theory, we deride and attack those near to us to establish dominance, as an outlet for hardwired “inclination to aggression.” In this case, I think, the derision comes from an impulse toward self-violence. It’s an expression of socioeconomic self-loathing. The gentrifier insults hipsters and bobos precisely because they are more or less like him; he needs to dole out the punishment that on some level he feels he also deserves. “Narcissism” isn’t quite right, because he’s not trying to love himself more. He’s trying to hate himself less.On several occasions I have been to the Brooklyn Flea, a popular flea market franchise cofounded by Jonathan Butler. An Ivy League graduate with an MBA, Butler had previously launched the Brooklyn real estate blog Brownstoner, a haven for the gentrifying crowd, while working at a hedge fund. In a schoolyard a few blocks from the corners where the Notorious B.I.G. started dealing drugs at age 12 in the 1980s, the Flea offers shabby-chic antiques and clothing, rescue trinkets, old vinyl, and food trucks that make “ethnic food” less ethnic. You know the drill. The nostalgic instinct, the devotion to quirkiness, the almost fetishistic environmentalism—to me it’s all a bit … much. But there I am, visiting the vending table of an artist who draws cityscapes in pen on Post-It notes. I really like his stuff. Until the mental backlash comes: Oh God, I am not one of these people. Please tell me I am not one of these people.
From Evan Hughes’ article, “The Great Inversion in New Brooklyn” in UTNE Reader. Ever since I came upon Andrew Potter’s book, The Authenticity Hoax for an article I wrote about earth mothers I have been fascinated with this whole topic. It really turns my head inside out, though. “The mental backlash” – I like that description.
(Thanks to Tedra for the link).
On hating hipsters
March 17, 2013 by blue milk