I was at a meeting this weekend by the Pop-up City and the documentary displayed about urban development fits into a wider recent trend where people kick the creative class and blame them for society’s ills. Usually the dreaded specter of gentrification is pulled out to show how apathetic and different and outright bad the Creative Class1 are.
The documentary shown last weekend “Creativity and the Capitalist City” by Tino Buchholz actually showed an interesting and nuanced picture of urban development. Unfortunately this was marred by the rabid and insubstantial left-wing outings of the movie maker afterwards. That discussion did oust a lot of resentment that I think needs to be addressed more openly and more honestly than it currently is.
As was remarked in die Zeit recently about the same issue in Berlin: the only thing worse than gentrification is no gentrification. The debate is a lot more heated over there because of the massive influx of hipsters and their friends from all over the world into an impoverished city. A trust fund takes you a lot further in Neukölln than it does in Bushwick, but it also sparks xenofobic pamflets and immolation of vehicles.
I am a part of that same creative class —if you want to use a blanket term— and probably also a cause of gentrification. But I am sick of apologizing for our success. We picked a profession, we worked hard, we created value (we are not bankers) and now we are winning. Well I can tell you: it feels good to be winning.
It is perverse to rest the blame of society’s ills on those people actually doing something with their lives. I have had this problem before. If you’re a successful migrant in the messed up social debate in the Netherlands, you were nearly forced to apologize for your own success to the rest who were not. I sure as hell wasn’t going to do that. The only solution is to ignore the naysayers. It always is of course.
I can do what I am doing because of a lot of hard work and perseverance. The field of study I got a Masters in is definitely not one of the easier ones at my university but it does guarantee you a job in a wide number of techno-creative fields. For some strange reason people still are not lining up to go to technical universities, and most that do go do not finish it. Complaining to somebody else must be easier than actually working to secure your own future.
It is hard enough already in the attention starved world to stay up to date with your close ones without having to take into account every other person. Even more so if your outlook is international and you want to participate and compete on a trans-national level. A rare enough thing as it is. Should we do stuff for our neighborhood? Sure, but who should bear the onus? Shouldn’t the people who want to do stuff, maybe start something themselves and see where it goes?
Working in a creative profession is subject to taste but it is in many ways also highly meritocratic. Those with affluent parents and large networks will divide a larger piece of pie among themselves. But if you work hard and put in the effort with just a spark of vision, it will most certainly amount to something in the long run. If it doesn’t, change yourself and try something else. Keep trying until you find something that works. Is that difficult? Maybe, but it is also the only way.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.” —Thomas Edison
There are a ton of jobs in technology right now. Amsterdam cannot find itself enough interaction designers, interface designers, front-end engineers and programmers to fill current jobs. The shortage is large enough that a lot of growth opportunities are being hampered by it. Literally all comers will be able to get a job. So get at it. Teach yourself something, find a course and persevere for a couple of years. You may strike gold.
“You can tell yourself anything is too difficult, or you can just do it.
You just need to be hungry.” — http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/opinion/sunday/i-went-back-to-the-land-to-feed-my-family.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all
We, the employed, already pay taxes. As a base that should be enough. If anybody out there is failing to keep up their end of the bargain, it’s the government we are paying the taxes to. They are bailing out the rich and keeping the poor ignorant with well meant institutional schemes that rarely amount to anything (just look at the Wire). Government should change and if the recent occupy movements serve as a wake-up call to do that, all for the better. Though experience does not make me very optimistic on that front.
If there is anything we shouldn’t do in the Netherlands, it is to pretend that things here are as bad as in the US or anywhere in Europe. We have the lowest unemployment in the Eurozone. We have an egalitarian society, cheap education, social security and mobility. Pretending otherwise is disingenuous and self-serving. You can do pretty much everything you want in this country and I say that not being white, not being privileged. I sincerely believe all it takes is for you to get out and make something. So do it.
- A horrible term, but the one we got to work with. ↩