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RantOmatic: Lileks, James on “The Sorrow and the City”

This from the paper James Lileks works for as a columnist:Mpls. keeps landscape of rubble as city wants taxes before permit 

Now this from his personal long-running blog LILEKS (James) :: The Bleat 2020 WEDNESDAY

Okay. Burn down Chicago. The whole thing. It’s just property. And what do the lives do then? Where do they sleep? Where do they eat? What structures and systems exists to house and feed them? Of course, no, they don’t want to burn it down. They just want to own it, because they will do All the Good Things with it. The fact that there are glittering stores on the Michigan Mile in the first place is a manifestation of inequity, so these things must be redistributed, and then they will be replaced with food stalls that give away healthy produce from the communal farms, and storefronts that trade art for things like dental work.

Who thinks like this? The ideological whip holders, the privileged 1%, perhaps, but not the foot soldiers enjoying the chaos. They will end up with some consumer goods, a bricked phone, awesome pictures for social media, tales to tell, a burnishing of the meaningless credentials they use to make themselves feel like good people. (All the people involved in the rioting and looting would be angry if you called them bad people. There’s no deficit of self-esteem in that whoopin’ hootin’ crowd: these stores are all full of L’Oreal, and they deserve it!)
There were two ideas that took a catastrophic hit in 2020:

1. Public officials are competent to manage the unforeseen, especially the unforeseen things everyone with half an imagination could foresee, particularly if “foreseeing” was baked into their job description, and

2. American cities have roared back from their post-60s slump, and have become dynamic once more.

I know everyone is calling the cities “over,” which seems an exaggeration. But previous hits to the idea of the city were incremental. Disorder increased, residents and businesses trickled out. Combine it with the sudden collapse of the Office Imperative, and whoa: all of a sudden no one has to go in to the office.

And some say that’s the way it’s going to be. Why go to a 70-story skyscraper when you can work at home in your pajamas?

Because it’s a 70-story skyscraper? A lot of people proclaiming the death of the office have never spent more than half a year working from home. Oh, it’s great. I love it. But it lacks so much – co-workers, for one. The give-and-take, the office conversations, the sense of belonging to a shared enterprise. The views! The sense of connection and pride you get when you look out the window at a forest of towers. The sense of a place, a concentrated place, where things are done. The sense that home is a refuge.

I go to the office now to get a faint hint of those things, and it’s almost, barely, fractionally sufficient. Never been a 9-5 guy, because that’s not how I work, but I’ve never felt so random and atomized as I have the last few months. Not because I don’t like being at home, but because there’s this haunting knowledge that there is nothing downtown.

No one is obliged to go downtown. No one is required to stay in the city. No one can be kept for moving out to a place that feels safe. No one has to sacrifice their happiness for the Ideal of the Good City. But. I talked to a storeowner today who was red-faced with fury over what’s going on in Minneapolis, how they feel completely alone, how the property taxes – which are unreal for a small commercial building – are apparently meant for everything except public order.

All I’m saying is this: imagine if the riots and looting had been stopped, at once, and all the public leaders and opinion makers repudiated every stich of the intellectual quilt behind the defenders of disorder.

Imagine a world in which the major newspaper didn’t respond with fashion layouts of the clothes prefered by people who light public buildings on fire.

Sorry, bad-lyric-Lennon-song reference here, but imagine that? It’s not easy. I can’t.