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February 22, 2011

Ghettoes of Affluence

"Walled or fenced housing developments to which public access is restricted, often guarded
using CCTV and/or security personnel."

The number of gated developments has been rising in the UK since they first emerged in the US some twenty-odd years ago and at the last official count I can find on't'web (2003) there were roughly 1,000 here.  I should think that 7/8years on there are now considerably more.

I can see the initial appeal, at least as touted by the developers: safety, a degree of peace and quiet, like-minded neighbours, but I've never liked the concept.  To me they are a physical symbol of division, of pulling up the drawbridge and I'm alright, Jack.   What must it be like for these set-apart people when they go outside their gates?    Are they locked in or locked out?  To the people who move out of areas they consider unsafe or unsavoury,  I say if you don't like the broken windows* in your street, don't move away, don't emigrate, stay and do what you can.

There are natural 'gates' too, such as rivers, woods or parkland that delineate the grander estates where some politicians live.  I wonder how many past and present MPs live in gated communities or on family estates, ushered to and from their place of work by security officials in chauffeur-driven cars.  These politicians don't live as normal people live.  They are removed and remote from the daily cares of the people who elected them; they have grand ideologies to put in place or self-imposed 'missions' to fulfill.  They want to change the world, to benefit all mankind and leave a grand splash of a political legacy in future historical footnotes.  Such bravado and self-aggrandisement; such self-interest and disregard for what really matters: the wishes of the electorate.

Neither gated developments nor seclusion on family estates will help in the long-run - theirs will be the first walls to come a-tumbling down ...to take Donne's words out of context, "never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee".

Actually, the title of this post isn't quite right since it's a state of mind rather than affluence which primarily determines whether someone will choose to isolate themselves from the realities of society.  However,  the common acceptance seems to be that you have to have money before you can afford to to live in a GC so I'll leave it at that.

* broken window theory

10 comments:

sig94 said...

Unfortunately you can only fix the broken wondow so many times before you take other measures to protect your property.

The largest impediments to bringing a community around are the parents and the courts. When one or the other is incompetent, there is trouble aplenty. When both are useless, there is disaster. I have participated in various kinds of law enforcement initiatives over the years and I have yet to see one work for any period of time and still retain residual stabilizing effects. Even after pouring trillions of dollars into the war on poverty in the US, the poverty rate has remained unchanged for generations and the lawlessness of the underclasses and the middle class has gotten much, much worse.

A gated community is the next to last resort of those who are truly disgusted with the condition of society and can afford to make such an investment. The final resort, of course, is armed resistance. Shoot the buggers as they come over the wall and use their carcasses to feed the guard dogs.

banned said...

In north London lies Colney Hatch, formerly a mental health facility, said to have the longest single corridor in Europe; its notoriety was such that schoolchildren would curse each other along the lines of "You're f*cking mental you are, you'll end up in Colney Hatch".

Its reputation got so bad they renamed it "Frien Barnet" which was fine in that it recognised historic local place names. Under the disastrous policy of returning lunatics into the community Frien Barnet was closed down and redeveloped into a gated community for the wealthy.

Thus it went from an asylum for the insane to an asylum from the poor.

sig94 said...

banned - sounds like gentrification. How else to take an eyesore and have the private sector pay to clean it? Of course I am assuming that it was a private developer and that any tax breaks he received were minimal.

There are several former mental institutions down in my former haunts on Long Island (Kings Park and Pilgrim State) that are hideous, empty wastes of property. It would be a blessing if someone did the same thing with them.

banned said...

sig94 'gentrification' to me means taking over of traditional areas by the fashionably wealthy and pricing the original inhabitants out ( I know, it happened to us in Crouch End, N. London c.1990).

These mental health facilities were not 'eyesores', they were grand Victorian institutions that, while perhaps not 'fit for purpose', were certainly worth preserving in their own right.

Google images: devington park, napsbury, harperbury, all gone to Gated Communities.

Gorges Smythe said...

I don't know what the ones in the UK are like, but most of them over here are a joke. One determined truck-driver with a shotgun could pretty much go where he wanted.

LL said...

I've never wanted to live in a gated community - and I've never lived in one. Neither can I recall anyone messing with my property.

Goodnight Vienna said...

I think I should say that I wrote this as a follow-on to a previous post on my blog about the Labour govt in the UK giving us the biggest influx of immigrants since 450AD, ie for more than a thousand years, and people retreating from problems, behind their gates and walled estates. They're out of touch.

Like LL, I've never wanted to live in a gc either but I can see why some people prefer them, and no doubt many of our aspirational ruling classes already live in one, but it won't save them when the crunch comes. Guns or not, we won't lie down.

@ Banned - I used to know Crouch End quite well in the 90s - maybe sold you your house :-) Gentrification though, has always been the way of improving areas - I'm waiting for someone to 'gentrify' Tower Hamlets.

GS makes a good point - they give a false sense of security and you pay extra for the feel-good factor but, on the whole, I'm with sig94 on this one - shoot the buggers, except in England we'd have to use the cricket bat that's kept under the stairs.

Doom said...

You may have some points, but you really bungle some things up too. I lived in a place of broken windows. The politics of the area was such that nothing would be done about it. I could have... done some things. But let us just say I am not so much a community organizer as I am a tactical piece of equipment. To be useful, I prefer things like intel, orders, equipment. Still, I can work without that, freelance shall we say.

The thing is, I would have been the bad guy. I would have been arrested or shot. There was nothing to do for the place but leave and let them enjoy their self created hell.

I moved to were I do not need gates. We are all armed. There is a strong police presence, mostly for the college nearby. And they do keep that part of it very clean. No, I am happy to have moved and would recommend it for every Brit, European actually. Get out if you can, how you can, if it means survival.

Goodnight Vienna said...

Thanks for that Doom, but we don't have that option in England. A strong police presence is becoming a thing of the past unless you're a strategic target or someone of influence (aka politician). We're not armed, save for the cricket bats, and not everyone is willing to uproot their family to go and live miles from schools and place of work. We, ie people in general, have to stay and work with what we have and it's a place the politicos talk about but don't really know because they're shielded from the worst of it - many areas are just statistics and targets to them.

Doom said...

Leave the country. If all of America, save the homes of politicians and other cultural and industrial princes' had no safety, and safety was banned for all but them, I would leave this nation. There will always be a few sanctuaries. Of course, the better places also limit who comes in.

I realize JFK did his best to ruin both Europe and American by making sure you could not leave what was planned as the socialist hellhole England (and in large part Europe) has become. I think it was planned, probably before him. Further, by barring Europeans from entry here, he helped kill our culture. These things were intended. Still, if a poor uneducated South American or Chinese can find their way here, it really should not be a problem for you and yours. GET OUT! While you can.