Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gentrification = Yuppiescumification

The following is a letter sent to Exberliner Magazine after reading that they want us to 'Save Berlin.' I am all for it. Hence the letter I sent them:

Open Letter to a Foreign Media Publication
on the Impending Gentrification of Berlin
By Craig Robinson

I want to save Berlin. I want to give that big ole bear a human hug and throw innovative ideas into the whirlpool of creativity. I want to stop the Atomic Bomb of Mall Culture from being dropped onto the last ‘island of affordable civilization for outcasts and dreamers’. I shouldn’t have any right to care about Berlin as I’ve been living here for less than 6 months. But I do. Over the last 15 years I have witnessed the gentrification of every place on earth I’ve ever lived in for any significant length of time.

Sacramento, San Francisco, London, Dublin, Prague. I came. I saw. Yuppies conquered. The cost of living in each of these places has gone up tenfold in as many years. But the average wages stayed way below the new high water mark.

Submitted for your perusal: Notes on the Global Gentrification Wars
as witnessed by concerned citizens, friends and comrades.

I am not submitting any ideas to your ‘Save Berlin’ action, as obviously I am too late. But please consider the following, especially in light of the fact that your current issue is about ‘the yoga craze.’ Even though I do not have adequate authority as a gentrification expert—only as a witness—I still feel obligated to point out the glaring hypocrisy in declaring your intent to ‘Save Berlin’ from gentrification, mallification, etc., when you clearly are serving up heaping portions of brine to the yuppie larvae in the form of a ‘yoga issue.’ Yoga is New Age Bollox. It was invented by well-meaning Indian gurus 1000s of years ago and appropriated by ex-hippies-turned-new-age-yuppies in California in the 90s. It spread like a disease from there. The only people who follow the yoga craze are certain neo-hippies and yuppies. The neo-hippies don’t have the money for these highly priced yoga courses and such, but their rich parents do. Please consider who you accept your advertising income from and who your target audience is. I fully intend to buy your yoga issue and read it. Perhaps I am wrong and it is a parody on yuppie life, in which case I will be extremely pleased and offer my sincere apologies. In the meantime, the following is a list of warning signs that will signify the beginning of the end of any neighborhood, to whit; gentrification is coming fast and furious.

SUSHI JOINTS – few foods suggest yuppie scum like sushi. Unless you are born in Japan, if you eat sushi on a regular basis, you may as well have a gold card and a Beamer parked up your ass.

YOGA – yuppies without soul shop for religion. They already jog, but that’s free (except for the $500 jogging gear). What better way to satisfy the exercise instinct AND the craving for something ‘meaningful’ to fill their empty, materialist lives?

GALLERY / ARTIST LOFT DISTRICTS – this one needs no explanation. First comes the cheap gallery / artist loft spaces, next comes the barrage of Beamers (God, I hate Beamers, but you may substitute whatever trendy piece of crap the yuppies are driving these days: Lexus, Hummer, etc.). Here’s an actual authority: And a concerned post by myself (dunkin’ berliner) on the gallery/artist space rental situation in Berlin:

UBER BRAND CAFES – Starbuck’s, etc. Overpriced ‘half-caff-triple-latte-lemon-bullshit’ is for yuppies. Nobody else drinks that shit. Ever.

Following is a historical timeline of some grass roots struggle for our turf. Call it Crips vs. Bloods with slightly fewer bullets.

Thwarting Gentrification Strategy I: Grass Roots Class Warfare

San Francisco, CA, mid 1990s:

Threatened District: The Mission District, predominantly Hispanic families, students and artists.

The Threat: Encroachment from neighboring hip districts, rising rents displacing generations of original residents.

The Response: Whatever vehicle the yuppies were parking in the Mission District too long would receive a welcome basket in the form of a bumper sticker applied to many a BMW, Lexus, etc: ‘Die Yuppie Scum.’ The Mission does not fuck around. They managed to thwart gentrification much longer than most other S.F. districts. In the end, the dot com craze swept almost everyone under the income level of 80k per year (who didn’t already own their property) out of the City. Permanently.

Sacramento, CA, late 1990s:

Threatened District: Midtown Sacramento and surroundings, a mix of every race, income level and lifestyle.

The Threat: Suburban yuppies stuck in gridlock on the way to their downtown offices are drawn to the newly-renovated Victorian architecture in the old Midtown neighborhoods, which happened to be much closer to their offices. In addition, a large influx of Bay Area urban refugees hit Sacramento, driving up the rents.

The Response: Sadly, almost none. Residents sat around for years with their thumbs up their collective asses and watched their rents go from $400 per month up to $1200. Then they left. One response of note: a punk rock couple who ran an independent video store in a prime district in Midtown Sac fought back. Their store bulletin board was designed for other musicians, artists and film people to post notes to each other. A preponderance of irrelevant New Age fliers started to appear, aromatherapy workshops, yoga lessons, etc. The staff responded by placing a large notice on the board: NO FUCKING YOGA FLIERS!!!!

Thwarting Gentrification Strategy II: I Wish I Had One

But in lieu of a competent strategy, I would suggest that all foreign language media publications (i.e. anything not published in German language) start a disinformation campaign or at least a misinformation campaign. Everybody who has read anything about Berlin knows that it’s ‘poor, but sexy.’ That unemployment is high. This doesn’t discourage anyone from coming here. Especially yuppie scum. They are desperate to be hip. They can buy almost anything with their salaries and their credit. But they can’t buy cool.  I am not cool.  Nor are most of my friends.  We are mostly poor.  But we care about our neighborhood, our city and our lives. Dear Editor of a Foreign Language Publication in Berlin, pretty please, with sugar on top: tell the yuppies to fuck off. How you do it is up to you. A little hint: don’t advertise ‘penthouse flats with a view of Berlin for only 1200 euros per month!’ That’s a start.

Sincere thanks,

Craig Robinson
Veteran of the Gentrification Wars