Comment 122526

By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted March 08, 2018 at 07:54:16

Hi Ryan!

I don’t much agree with The Tower people – whenever you find yourself advocating against improved public infrastructure, you got to give your head a shake – but the statement does get at a truth that I feel like you’re stepping around.

While of course meaningful civic advocacy involves organizing and listening and bridge building, it’s also about power. We organize to build a movement with a voice that’s loud enough to demand change effectively, that’s impossible to ignore.

That serious conversation about how to reinvest in urban neighborhoods without driving out the people already living there won’t happen because we’ve taken a positive approach and made a good case. It’ll happen because a large enough network of powerful enough constituents are demanding it, and the people in a position to implement positive change are too scared not to.

Smashing shop windows is deeply stupid, but its whole appeal is that its a shortcut to power – a fleeting and illusory power, no doubt, immediately satisfying but eventually self-destructive. But at least it’s an honest acknowledgement that power is at the root of what we’re talking about here.

Gentrification hurts poor people disproportionately, and in that sense it does indeed resolve nicely into a class-warfare analysis: people of means are profiting by committing violence against poor people. Just because it’s reductive doesn’t mean it’s not true.

The collage of capitalism and liberal democracy that we live in isn’t just messy, it’s violent. How do those of us who survive and thrive in this collage justify our lives to ourselves? Just like author of the statement, most of us engage in “ethical contortions to celebrate violence without taking responsibility for it”, pretty much all the time.

That’s why the window smashing scares us so much. It reminds us of the violence that we’re all trying to ignore, every day. Look at all the heated law-and-order rhetoric in the wake of the action: The marchers are “thugs” and “scum” who better watch out because the police are coming for them. The Tower people are suspect because they refuse to fall in line and denounce the activity, or because they refuse to cooperate with police. Suddenly we’re all blind authoritarians, baying for blood. That’s problematic too.

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