The Burning Heart of the City


The burning heart of the city. Whitewashed, minimally assembled, compacted and carefully edited. All the hands are soft and fingernails clean. Polished and buffed. Teeth perfectly White and conversation revolves around collectable cars and last minute getaways. Citizenship seems to be a passport of post-codes, and exclusive cinemas stranded up high in cascading carpeted corridors of luxuriant hell holes.

People concerned with working hard. People concerned with saving up. But in a city where a house comes at a long-term cost of nine times your salary, what other luxuries have to go? Free time. There is none. Time to dream. A quick shower. Time to create and not consume; if you can buy it it’s yours.

Have I turned into a pessimist of highest proportions or do I see a generation stubbed out and neglected by the state. No regulation of capital gain afforded through competitive bidding of the asset we call home; poor rental rights for tenants and a wage stagnation that smells worse than a corpse in the sun.

So we are called the millenials. We have the freedom of free will. An education we paid by our teeth for; with nothing much to show. With three quarter of people in the UK concerned that home ownership is out of reach, leaving people in what Shelter calls “a lifetime of instability”. Our generation is the first in a long time to be significantly poorer than their parents. Able to earn good salaries, some graduates can start on £40,000 – £45,000 a year in London, yet cannot afford to live in the capital, let alone plan to invest in an average house price of £300,000.

Generation Y, or the millenials have been raised in a world governed by political extremes. Shot into the world of infinitely available opportunity and access to reinvention by virtue of social media, but constrained by increasingly frail and fragmented economies. We are told we have so many variations of what we can become, yet when translated into pragmatic possibility, what it really means is an instagram account with far too many entries of aspirational living afforded by standing in front of someone elses car / house / dog.

There must be an alternative. For me the most obvious manoeuvre is to refuse a competitive drive to survive; find partner, get highest paid job, save, settle, pro-create, save for retirement, pass assets onto next in line. In this scenario, by my mind, life is dedicated to maximising economic return, instead of minimising time spent maximising economic return. Instead I see the benefits of focussing on mutuality, cooperation and importantly; that powerful thing called sharing. If we can break the cycle, together, in relationship with other people who commit to sharing labour; child-care, housework, food sourcing, transport holidays etc, then we  need less resources, as we pool what resources we have. This is not rocket science, yet it seems illusive in a culture concerned with capital gain for some, and for others; just getting by.