Monday, March 3, 2008

The Same Mistakes, Endlessly Repeated

A good post courtesy of Gapers Block's Ramsin Canon (he writes Revenge of the Second City there) and this is from his own blog called, Same Subject Continued. Here's a good quote and it should relate to seniors not only in gentrifying neighborhoods but other areas around the city where gentrification isn't a threat, yet...
The elderly are particularly susceptible members of society not only because of relative physical reasons, but because they are probably the most discriminated-against demographic in terms of employment. And that is for those who have the physical capacity to work. Their social networks are degraded because of death and movement. They are therefore much more likely to be poor and isolated.

Yet their value to a community is incalculable. Let's not paint with broad brushes-experience of the world brings prejudice along with wisdom-but a neighborhood's elders are its collective memory. They know the history of the neighborhood, they've worked through the hard times and seen changes that they never imagined. They are therefore more civically engaged, and have the spare time to commit to things like community policing, open-house meetings, and lobbying for stop signs and street lights.

A community without an active and visible senior citizen community has no awareness of itself, its traditions and history. It therefore has no sense of its own value, or cohesion. A neighborhood becomes just a realtor's term rather than a meaningful geographic and cultural indicator.

Our obsession is with youth; perhaps we feel like if we can shed the old, we shed the responsibility we have to the past. Our obsession is with the vaunted "creative class"; they legitimize our city as somehow more "cosmopolitan". Academic Richard Florida helped popularize the great "creative class" debate with his book The Rise of the Creative Class, a controversial book worth the time to read it. There is no doubt that the creative class is important to our city-whining about hipsters and yuppies aside-but they are but one part of a greater whole, necessary but not sufficient. If we don't defend the rights of every part of our neighborhoods, our great city becomes susceptible to devastation, like a body that hasn't built up antibodies.

The flight of senior citizens from Chicago is not a shame only because it represents our utter domination by moneyed interests and the victimization of a particularly susceptible group of Chicagoans, but for this loss of a vital pillar of so many of our communities. If we let our neighborhoods to be constantly repackaged and commodified, we end up with constantly resetting communities. Constantly throwing off collective wisdom and the bonds that reinforce mutual benefit and cooperation, and thus a city unable to avoid the same mistakes, endlessly repeated.

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