living in compartmentalised bubbles…

This weekend moved into a new place, I relocated from staying with friends in what amounts to an affluent/aspiring affluent/student neighbourhood to an area bordering on one of the very much less-than-affluent areas of the city I am currently in. This city also has the lowest average income and highest unemployment rate (so I am told) in Canada.

I am finding this to be a huge culture shock. Staying with friends for a couple months, all I did was walk to school/work through this secluded/sheltered bubble, negating seeing the devastating impacts of the exploitative economic system we are effectively forced to survive within. I am not solely blaming the economic system for the differences n people I am now awakened again too. There will always be difference in relations/peoples preferred choices of how they interact with society – as many sociological studies have described. This, however, is little more than a drop in the bucket…

What is the problem is that relations of capital create these areas in which economically (and socially) marginalised are lumped together – the apparent aim is to keep them out of sight/out of mind for those more affluent people. Having recently experienced living in such a bubble, I can relate to the desires of those who live as such to keep living that way. These consolidated areas of marginalised people provide a not very positive and appealing image of a place to live.

Alongside the direct creation of these areas via relations of capital – which I will return to – it is the individualisation that I have also found myself drawing on that is very problematic at the least. It is socially destructive, reifies and perpetuates such divisions, and does little to challenge the constructed hierarchies and marginalisations capital fosters. On of the major implications of relations of capital are competition-constructed (false) hierarchies that lead to individualisms over communitarian approaches to social relations, arrangements and dynamics. We put ourselves above the common good, even becoming willing to objectify/ belittle, demean and oppress others to ‘get ahead’ – with ‘getting ahead’ being largely a capitalist construction: bigger house, ‘nicer’/more expensive/grandiose car, more expensive furniture (and then we brag/complain about the cost)…

I have found myself horrified, yet clearly and reflexively aware of the why, of my wanting to turn away, not see the implications of my capitalist mediated existence which – whilst I am still a student on a relatively low income – is increasingly middle class. I have become comfortable given the benefits said constructed hierarchies afford me – at the expense of others. The awareness of this, and the disgust at myself, mirrors my forced awareness of my unmarked racisms through the cultural shifts from Australia to Canada. I am very much shocked with the level of racism in Australia – which I was critically commenting on and challenging there for some time, yet not aware of how deeply engrained it is and the level to which it is present. That it is increasing (under the influence of ten years of conservatives in government) really horrifies me. For some time I have not been able to say I am proud to be an Australian.

To return to relations of capital, the problem is that these relations force this lumping of people together (for example, rent driven down in some areas, higher in others based on social perceptions of those who live there). This leads to a condensation of inequalities that exacerbate social perceptions. It also leads to the creation of other in the sense that, to refer back to differences in relations/peoples preferred choices, are no longer distributed through society, rather forced together. We become separated from them. It is analogous to, and indicative of, our apparent (generalised) inability to comfortably relate to people of differing abilities (physical and mental) due to them being effectively excluded from our normal lives.

With marginalised people being removed from our everyday experiences we lose the skills needed to relate with them, becoming normatised to the homogenised status quo. This is the root of the problem, and something I am going to struggle with for some time.

Possible solutions to such marginalisations are not easy, rather being a huge challenge. We cannot just hide in our affluent individualised and compartmentalised bubbles. Those of us privileged enough to ‘bite the hand that feeds, she feel obliged to whine and kick and scream, until everyone has everything they needs’.

This is a challenge for all of us, and one I will be – given this opportunity – hopefully attempting to address in my day-to-day activities…

One thought on “living in compartmentalised bubbles…

  1. Hamilton as a whole isn’t particularly poor, but it has pockets of extreme poverty that are among the worst in Canada. If you haven’t already, take a jaunt down Cannon street someday and you’ll see the lumping you’re talking about taken to an extreme. For vast areas, there are no stores, only foodbanks and such, with a big goodwill straddling the line. Homeless people move there from Toronto.
    It often feels like anything I might do is at best useless and at worst mockingly patronising. I want to live in downtown Hamilton and get involved with the community there, but my motivation for this is blurry. I do like the area to be in, but my desire to live there seems to be predicated mostly in an ongoing attempt to deny my comfortable middle class status as a financially supported student.
    Email Marya. She lost your email and wants to ask you about some stuff.

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