aesthetic critiques of morality/politics are both inherently reactionary and tbh just kind of eyeroll-inducing. “feminist insistence on verbal consent takes the sexiness out of life” “cheap block housing is ugly” “lab-grown meat would be artificial and inauthentic” grow the fuck up. capitalism has constructed elaborate dreamworlds where you can have whatever dumbass aesthetic experience you want, go enjoy it there
are cheap block housing and lab-grown meat morality/politics?
people who argue that cheap block housing is dehumanizing or that lab grown meat is unfit for human consumption because of its inauthenticity seem to think so.
I mean… Living somewhere cheap and ugly is unpleasant, though?
Like, for real, if you were the kind of person who had unfettered access to the hedonic playgrounds of capitalism you probably wouldn’t be living somewhere cheap and ugly.
And if you *are* living somewhere cheap and ugly that ugliness serves as a constant visual reminder of your inability to influence your own environment. This is unpleasant and depressing.
If the basis of your morality or politics are somehow entirely aesthetically based then you’re probably insane and also a Vampire: The Masquerade character.
But I think we should consider whether “God, if your apartment is ugly and decrepit and there are no parks in your neighborhood just fucking turn on the TV and stop whining” is actually, like, a great moral argument.
I actually have an effort post about what it has felt like to spend the majority of my life in government housing, but for Pete’s sake, y’all are trying to say that,
“I wish they hadn’t torn down the park that used to be next door to me and replaced it with a paper mill,”
Is an inherently reactionary and eye-rolling argument?
“It was really upsetting when those kids painted swastikas on the side of our synagogue.”
*rolls eyes* “Looks like we got another reactionary here.”
Ok, ok, I’ll stop. But man that middle example made me really angry.
I’m not totally sure what we’re referring to here with “block housing” but, okay, so, most of my life I lived with my mother, neither of us had jobs, and we were surviving through various forms of family and government aid, the relevant example here being government subsidized housing.
Now, it wasn’t particularly ugly, but it was generally kind of uncomfortable. Rooms were small, floors were concrete with tile slapped over it and it genuinely hurt to walk on in bare feet, and heat was provided by baseboard heaters which took up entire walls and meant you couldn’t put furniture next to them, which was kind of irritating when you were trying to furnish a 5′ x 8′ room.
One of the major things that makes poverty degrading is… How to say this… Okay, you have a sense of huge chunks of your life being defined by impersonal, outside forces.
In the housing complex we lived in, there were relatively frequent housing inspections, to make sure we were holding ourselves to a particular standard of cleanliness. This was always both humiliating and frightening, because a failed inspection could, in an extreme case, lose us our house, and it was also a reminder of the ways in which we couldn’t control our own environment.
Even climbing a little ways out of that kind of extreme poverty is incredibly freeing. There really is, in terms of psychological well-being, a massive difference between being in a position where you can say “We can’t afford to go there that often, but every Christmas we splurge and go to that nice, high end restaurant,” and “We can’t afford to go there that often, but every once and a while we go to Wendy’s.”
Part of the degradation and exhaustion of poverty comes in the millions of little reminders of the ways your own preferences don’t matter and the ways you are incapable of exerting any meaningful control over your environment and the direction of your life. And unfortunately if these feelings are reinforced too much they can lead to both learned helplessness and counterproductive ways of trying to reassert control (”I don’t care if I overdraw my account, I’m fucking going to the bar tonight because I want to.”)
In this context, a pervasive ugliness in your surroundings serves as a reminder of your own helplessness and alienates you from your home, which becomes not a sanctuary from your hardships but an amplification and reminder of them. And I happen to think that this is actually bad.
I am going to say it: I do not believe the argument I am making here is reactionary.
Part of what has been driving me up the wall about watching this post make the rounds is that aesthetic is subjective. Plenty of people have made the argument that living in cities is dehumanizing because you’re in ugly buildings instead of nice big homes and you’re around too many people; plenty of people have made the argument that living in HOA-governed suburbs with hundreds of identical houses is dehumanizing because of the mandatory commute and distance from friends/services/community centers and outsider control over aesthetic choices (all awnings must be the same color, all mailboxes must be the same design, no holiday decorations from X date to Y date); plenty of people have made the argument that rural living is dehumanizing because of the isolation and lack of services and support systems. But those are all different things than saying “concrete is a heartless and ugly material that saps the human spirit and therefore we shouldn’t let people live in concrete buildings.”
And no, obviously I don’t think “tore down the park to put in a papermill” or “swastikas painted on the synagogue” are aesthetic concerns, I’m assuming you were being facetious there.
Home inspections of the sort described here ARE dehumanizing and I don’t support that. Living in a home where furniture can’t touch the walls that has painful flooring or water damage that the residents can’t correct goes beyond aesthetic and begins to be a question of functionality/basic livability.
But everyone on my city council just ran and won on a platform of “we will absolutely not grant building permits for any more of these ugly apartment buildings.”
By which they mean these ugly apartment buildings:
People show up at city council meetings and talk about how dehumanizing *shared walls* are.
So yeah, I don’t think it’s reactionary to say “we should have parks” or “it’s better to have homes that are comfortable to live in than homes that are uncomfortable to live in” but I do think it’s reactionary to say “ ‘‘‘‘‘high density housing’‘‘‘‘‘ doesn’t belong here because our city is better than that, we’re a family town and we don’t want people to think tiny apartments or townhomes with postage stamp yards are the norm here”
Inexpensive housing isn’t uniformly dehumanizing nor does it have to be. But saying “I think this is ugly and therefore it is unfit for humans to use” is. Let’s say “narrow minded” at best and at worst actively prevents people from making the best choices for themselves.
Hey you know what’s worse than shared walls?
Not having walls nearby at all because you couldn’t build as much detached housing on the same budget. Commuting a hundred miles because there’s insufficient housing near the office. Five days in a capsule hotel a weekends home so you can see your kids at least once before going back for another five-day shift.
I am reminded of the Wheelan quote about cadillac lawyers – if the only services you allow are top quality, that doesn’t mean everybody gets top quality service. It means those who can afford top quality get it, and everybody else gets no service.
(Also the row houses in that first picture are fucking gorgeous, what the hell, those would be a blessing in almost every community.)