By Phil Gillen
Life, for those of us in working-class neighborhoods near the city center, begins to resemble fiction. Not the elegantly paced dramas that win awards, or the sugar-coated daydream romances we can’t resist on Netflix, but the schlockiest, most absurd horror movies at the bottom of the bargain barrel in the grocery store.
These lurid tales of zombie apocalypse, of infestation and disease, of neighborhoods invaded by a insidious threat, of neighbors struck with living death, are a more or less straightforward reflection of life in a city that embraces the policies and culture of gentrification in service to that most loathsome monster: the yuppie.
Perhaps you’ve had an awakening similar to mine. The apocalypse is slow, steady, and designed to be undetectable. But one night out at your favorite neighborhood haunt, you may have noticed something about the crowd. In some ways, the people appear to be human just like you or I.
But there’s something about their voices, (speaking and laughing a little too loudly) something about their clothes, (all shades of neatly gendered khaki and gingham) their haircuts, (vaguely fascistic) their propensity to talk about drinking as if they were doing it for the first time, (and to vomit on the sidewalk) begin to add up to a distinct impression that something is not quite right. You begin to realize that you are outnumbered, surrounded by these clumsy replicants, and, feeling like a stranger in your own neighborhood, you quietly make your escape.
Your neighborhood has been infected with the Y-virus. Like all viruses, it’s a parasite. It will find a host, drain it of all culture and joy to maintain itself, and when all resources have been extracted, it will move on to the next neighborhood, leaving behind a husk of what was once a vibrant social space, and the unsightly growths of ugly and boring architecture that are symptomatic of the infection.
This column is not about the solution to this epidemic, that’s obvious: communism. Like the protagonists of a horror movie, our main concern is currently survival. How do we maintain our sanity, our sense of community, and those little material comforts, in the face of the business-casual-wearing hordes that threaten them?
In a way, we’ve allowed the enemy inside the gates. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing art, cultivating the niche and quirky, patronizing establishments that cater to a subculture, not by themselves. But subculture, and the sense of “an experience,” is the “braaainzzz” craved by the city’s living dead. The whiff of subculture is what attracts the plague. One way to survive is to momentarily abandon the quirk zones, beat a strategic retreat.
You can find hideouts around town that are more or less invisible to the Yuppie eye. Remember, the Y-virus seeks sources of culture and “experience” to drain. All you must do to avoid them is to go to places not typically associated with culture. For bars, find establishments that look ancient, and whose patrons look even older, with the neon signs in the windows advertising only the Holy Trinity (Bud, Coors, Miller…).
For coffee shops and restaurants, ensure you’re not seen anywhere that has consulted a graphic design professional for their menus and signage. The garden-variety Yuppie won’t be found dead anywhere that doesn’t have a “consistent design language” or “brand.” Knowing how your enemy thinks is half the battle.
Beyond these survival tips, bringing an end to the infection will require a comprehensive political project. Hopefully, by using the strategy outlined above, you will find enough relief and extra minutes in the day to devote some time and energy towards an organization that strives towards a liberatory political goal, one that necessarily includes the liquidation of this contagious threat to neighborhood health and safety.