"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Ghettoes Of Affluence


"Walled or fenced housing developments to which public access is restricted, often guarded
using CCTV and/or security personnel."

The number of gated developments has been rising in the UK since they first emerged in the US some twenty-odd years ago and at the last official count I can find on't'web (2003) there were roughly 1,000 here.  I should think that 7/8years on there are now considerably more.

I can see the initial appeal, at least as touted by the developers: safety, a degree of peace and quiet, like-minded neighbours, but I've never liked the concept.  To me they are a physical symbol of division, of pulling up the drawbridge and I'm alright, Jack.   What must it be like for these set-apart people when they go outside their gates?    Are they locked in or locked out?  To the people who move out of areas they consider unsafe or unsavoury,  I say if you don't like the broken windows* in your street, don't move away, don't emigrate, stay and do what you can.

There are natural 'gates' too, such as rivers, woods or parkland that delineate the grander estates where some politicians live.  I wonder how many past and present MPs live in gated communities or on family estates, ushered to and from their place of work by security officials in chauffeur-driven cars.  These politicians don't live as normal people live.  They are removed and remote from the daily cares of the people who elected them; they have grand ideologies to put in place or self-imposed 'missions' to fulfill.  They want to change the world, to benefit all mankind and leave a grand splash of a political legacy in future historical footnotes.  Such bravado and self-aggrandisement; such self-interest and disregard for what really matters: the wishes of the electorate.

Neither gated developments nor seclusion on family estates will help in the long-run - theirs will be the first walls to come a-tumbling down ...to take Donne's words out of context, "never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee".

Actually, the title of this post isn't quite right since it's a state of mind rather than affluence which primarily determines whether someone will choose to isolate themselves from the realities of society.  However,  the common acceptance seems to be that you have to have money before you can afford to to live in a GC so I'll leave it at that.

* broken window theory

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