The poor mans lounge
So the seemingly innocent intersection of roads and footpaths has become so imbedded in our subconscious that we hardly recognize its importance, and yet the phrase ‘meet you at the corner’ is part of our everyday life. So why?
- It’s a node
- More options of escape, fight or flight
- A prairie view
That’s the text-book view, but it’s so much more than that.
So to understand the culture of the street corner in a housing district that is designed around the grid street system ( think squares ), a social document should be viewed, understood and lessons learnt from said study.
An easily understood document is a TV series from the early 2000’s called the ‘The Wire’, considered by the local community, police, politicians, educators and press to be an accurate portrayal of the Baltimore area 1995-Present.
Written by a former crime reporter of the Baltimore Sun, David Simon and Ed Burns, a Senior Detective. They collaborated on a book ” The Corner: A Year In The Life Of An Inner City Neighborhood” This was written from a street perspective and eventually was used as a base for The Wire.
So you have the corner shop and corners occupied by the drug dealers. The series goes through the turf wars between the dealers, the police trying to rid the corners of the gangs ( think; futile), the politicians trying bury/solve the problems to thier advantage within 5 year terms, the education system trying to give the children a way out, all in the confines of a post industriual town with middle class flight. The series is about all the consequences of little or no investment into new industry, of fire fighting rather than getting to the root cause, and ultimatly letting it fend for its self.
“The recent History of Baltimore is the same all over the post industrial world where the old heavy, labour intensive industries move out or are mechanized, leaving a local population with a lost identity of work and place.”
Think of the Royal Docks in the east end of London, once the container shipping moved in at Tilbury, the boom of the London docks died over night, leaving disenfranchisement, no identity of place that had a sense of pride, no industry leading to high unemployment and eventually no hope.
A void remained to be filled, and with the local politicians with a small government agenda this will not stop the natural hard-working resourcefulness of people, it’s just that the easiest way with highest profit is at present drugs for the resourceful and for some, who lose hope, it can become a form of escape from the harsh relativity of day-to-day living. So the ‘Supply and Demand’, pure Smithsonian Market forces that the neoliberals propagate as the capitalist utopia with the invisible hand of self-regulation, will, left to its own devices bring us to a place where every man helps his brother for the good of the market. Experience tells us this is not so, short-term markets post big bang* will not allow this, the god of self-interest*, our irrational inner chimp*, fear* and greed all add up to the distopia that is Balitmore.
“And the corner is where it would be played out in this Drama”
So the how does the humble brown paper bag relate to all this?
Below is an interpretation of a scene from the episode where this all comes to a head, leading to the parable.
Paper Bag Monologue from the Wire (Kinetic Typography) from Hydraulic Pictures on Vimeo.
Obviously this is not the answer, but the point of the exercise is to look around you, take stock and think. The rational rather than the reactive*is needed to understand the cause and effect of a small change mixed with compromise can offer a solution, and get the thinking to a more Lateral position, asking different questions and exploring the consequences of long and short-term interventions.
“So the street corner where people, stop, meet and feel comfortable, it’s a place of high value.”
If a place has high unemployment, no hope then it can become a place of conflict, but it’s still a place, good or bad.
Ultimately people need money and at present that comes through gainful employment, so no matter how many beautiful parks, housing developments we build, if people don’t feel valued in themselves, then that will show on the outside. No work, then other high profit means will appear. Gentrification may push the problem elsewhere under the carpet, but you will eventually trip over it and fall flat on your face, i.e. Baltimore, Trump, Brexit etc.
This is what a Rowndtree commission conclusion was on Regeneration, but more of that for a later post.*
* Later posts for more explanation