How Brooklyn Hipsterdom disintegrated under lockdown
A Bushwick houseshare looked like an urban idyll — until Covid struck
How can we create lasting communities where everyone is free to do as they please? The answer, going by this weekend’s long read pick, is simple: you can’t.
In The New Yorker, Michael Schulman recounts the story of a Brooklyn flatshare falling apart under lockdown. To begin with, the ‘Sky Palace’ seems an urban idyll: a picture-perfect contemporary houseshare, coalescing through a mix of chance and friendship from the multi-ethnic, creative, hyper-individualistic New York precariat. A “queer-friendly community of strangers”, the Sky Palace is the perfect mix of you-do-you individualism and opt-in community:
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But then came the lockdown. The outbreak of coronavirus ramped up economic pressure, destroyed jobs, and prompted anxious house meetings about hygiene. The new situation called for a degree of interdependence radically at odds with the houseshare’s previously ultra-liberal norms:
Not everyone felt obliged to comply. One housemate began selling sex, bringing clients back to the apartment, before branching out into selling drugs. Tensions rose. Anyone who’s ever shared a house, or is sharing a house now, will wince in recognition at the slow-motion car crash feeling of a community in the process of curdling, yet unable to salvage itself from within a radical commitment to the ‘you-do-you’ ethic:
A moment later, Shannon replied:
Literally fuck u
Fuck you ALL
By the end of the article, all sense of community, togetherness or mutual support has evaporated. Half the house has left or is planning to leave. Javier, a former core housemate, expresses his longing to create something like a ‘family’:
Shulman does not offer a post-liberal argument. But in the gentlest and most affectionate terms, it’s all there. The Everywhere precariat left behind by the receding tide of globalisation is revealed not as the future of anything, but skint, lonely hipsters.
These lost souls mix a yearning for mutualistic community with a mindset and lifestyle tailor-made to evade the kind of collectivism that would enable such a community to develop. The story has almost elegiac feel, as if mourning the evaporation of the last shreds of optimism still untouched by the Great Crash. You can’t help liking all the characters, and it reads like a tragedy in miniature. It’s an exquisite piece of writing.
The article referenced tells us nothing about the real world and I certainly could help liking the characters. Basically the message is don’t move into some kind of strange commune with a bunch of freaks, weirdos, nutters, deviants and “Radical Faeries”, most of whom don’t appear to have proper jobs or skills and no apparent ability to acquire them. The fact that this nonsense appeared in a supposedly respected magazine like the New Yorker shows the level of decadence currently. People have been creating lasting communities for aeons, they’re called families.
My thoughts as well. There’s a reason we have families: the unconditional love we feel and the sacrifices we make and the rewards we receive as a consequence. Does this sorry lot have any clue whatsoever.
I don’t think the New Yorker is particularly ‘respected’ any more. I, for one, have given up on it. What was once a very interesting magazine has gone ‘all in’ for Trump Derangement Syndrome and progressivism etc. As for this story, it sounds like a load of nonsense to me, along with the vast majority of fiction. (I force myself to read a reasonable amount of contemporary fiction and it is mostly terrible).
“You can’t help liking all the characters”
“These lost souls mix a yearning for mutualistic community with a mindset and lifestyle tailor-made to evade the kind of collectivism that would enable such a community to develop’.
Do they have the necessary value system to create a family let alone a community.
Perhaps we need to somehow help them through their grief and the loss of an ideology that once upon a time ago held together the promising dream that mutual respect of personal autonomy would automatically create mutually respecting communities of personal autonomy as opposed to the aristocratic communities of Old.
However, what Liberal scholars of old clearly did not incorporate within their grand narrative plans was sociopathy and the fact that mutual respect for personal autonomy is an unintended paradise for sociopaths.
Is anyone surprised that this would happen, the brittleness of the “Sky Palace” when encountering the slightest adversity? Living arrangements like the one described are difficult under normal circumstances. Any real stressor e.g. COVID19, forces the household to truly behave cohesively, rather than claim they do! Families are remarkable and superior, even intergenerational or unhip ones: under normal conditions, separate lives under one roof can co-exist because growing into adulthood and maturity is part of raising children. In difficult times, whether extreme like COVID or less so, the bond of love and familial loyalty can fray from tension but won’t break. E.g. no family would leave a young woman to resort to sex work as described in the New Yorker article.
Ah, Utopia! Is this Schadenfreude I’m feeling?
Untruthful comforts …
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