I’m writing on the morning of my 61st birthday — a phrase that does not trip off the tongue, or emerge easily on the keyboard! I am the only one awake yet — Brian is still asleep, and Loki, his fluffy fur having grown back after his late-summer grooming, is snuggled again him, napping too.
We are staying in Brooklyn, in a beautiful neighborhood built up during 1900-1915, my favorite period of American urban architecture.
Here, the texture of the streetscape is mostly intact. Old trees still line sedate red-brick tenements and elegant, historically preserved townhomes.
The early 20th century was a time of wonderful whimsy in relation to urban development, and you can see the immense hope and imaginativeness in our country at that time, in the very architecture of many of our cities. All around us, in this neighborhood, you can still see apartment buildings with castle-like crenellations, and crazy coats of arms that are entirely invented, depicted in plaster ovals placed high along the rooflines; you can still see half-timber walls, a notion lifted straight from Elizabethan English architecture, while, at the same time, entire blocks look like Edwardian London’s Mayfair. All of this wild architectural pastiche surrounds and adorns the businesses, churches and institutions of a Caribbean community that still seems culturally rich and intact; that feels, at least to me, as if, unlike Manhattan now, it has not been blown apart yet by overdevelopment, or crushed by the corporate interests that used the pandemic to destroy small businesses. For these reasons and many others (the food is sublime) it fills me with happiness to be here.
We are being propagandized to believe that human culture does not matter, but a rich, intact culture around us makes humans stronger, happier, more interesting, and better able to resist oppression.
There is a reason that Jane Jacobs’ classic 1961 book on urban civic health — The Death and Life of Great American Cities — has had such an impact on my thinking. She made the case that walkable cities, that are dense, that have public gathering-places, that allow “eyes on the street” (the eyes of caring neighbors, not of the State), and that mix residential and retail buildings, create a culture of neighborliness and civic engagement, and thus support and sustain robust, healthy, vibrant civic societies.
I come back to Brooklyn upon leaving Manhattan, where I used to live, these days feeling a sense of relief. The overdevelopment in Manhattan – that seems to have all unrolled during the “lockdowns”, when people could not gather to discuss and resist the rezoning plans prepared, in the blackout of gathering, for their neighborhoods — now makes giant swaths of Manhattan look exactly like Dallas. This overdevelopment, with its massive, ugly, featureless glass towers, has clearly changed how Manhattanites relate to one another. I no longer see the intense energy of chatting, or the unexpected, wacky exchanges, that used to characterize life on the sidewalks in that city.
For one thing, Manhattan’s real estate profile has changed so dramatically during “lockdowns” that it is a city almost entirely of rich people now, whereas until 2020 it was still a city of incredible economic and racial diversity. So that energy that Manhattan used to have until “lockdowns,” and the stealth redevelopment that clearly was part of the “lockdown” agenda — of people with greatly different life experiences and perspectives interacting and jostling against one another productively — is evaporated.
For another, the glass-and-steel megaliths that disorient the visitor along the entire midtown stretch of Hudson Yards, or that replace what used to be miles of charming, raffish waterfront buildings — tiny hand-wrought townhouses, and warehouses that dated to Walt Whitman’s wanderings along the same stretch of real estate — do not lend themselves any longer to crowds gathering peacefully, enjoying a varying cityscape (because it no longer varies), or wandering, chatting, or engaging with one another.
Indeed, the very profile of the city is unrecognizable. This profile, as seen from Queens or from New Jersey, as you approach — a profile that used to be so uplifting and rhythmic and poetic, and that inspired so many songs and poems: the visual dance from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Seaport, to Murray Hill and what used to be called Hell’s Kitchen (now rebranded “Hudson Yards”), to the pinnacles of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, to the skyscrapers of Midtown to the towers along Central Park and the East Side, and the elegant diminuendo of old-school Harlem — this rhythm, this famous cityscape, has been essentially respected for decades, even with new development. In the recent past, no matter what happened, you never entirely lost the feel of the landscape under these various undulating landmarks. A view of Manhattan from New Jersey in 2018 had the pentimento beneath it of the same view as it was when seen from a boat arriving into harbor in black and white images from 1940.
But now you can’t even see that elegant visual rhythm any longer, whether you arrive from the New Jersey side or from Queens. Indeed, as you approach Manhattan now, you can barely tell where you are. Downtown Hong Kong? Downtown Shanghai? Downtown Albany? (The same globalist destruction of landscape and urban features has taken place in London and elsewhere in Europe, but that is another essay).
The change in architecture has changed the culture, for the worse. Manhattan now is an alienating, fancy shopping mall, for mile upon mile, surmounted by sleek, unmemorable tower blocks no different from those that deface any midwestern US, or global, downtown. It is now a place of wealthy anonymity.
Paradoxically, as a result, it is a city that is easier to control, propagandize or to destroy.
It is easier now to turn a city like Manhattan into a “15-minute city” or a “smart city”, or to cordon it off — as I witnessed a few days ago when every entrance into the city from the FDR Drive was closed off for miles (the Marathon, but that could be done again at any time for less benign purposes) – than it would have been in the recent past, when Manhattan was rich with low-rise neighborhoods, brownstones and tenements, with a mix of incomes, and with crowds on the street talking to one another, exchanging information, and resisting the plans of the elite, as the citizens of Manhattan successfully resisted certain plans, in the past, for decades.
As I write, protests have been deployed in our major cities in the West. This too is a planned strategy to destroy the freedoms and unity of our Western cities.
Brian O’Shea has recently pointed out a major finding of his, with important primary sourcing: that there are digital platforms, which may be indirectly funded by Soros- and CCP- backed entities, where anyone, including foreign actors, can coordinate protests in the West remotely. His argument, “Anti-Israel Protests Are Being Organized with CRM-[Customer Relationship Management] Style Apps”, is that old CRM software platforms are now repurposed so as rapidly to deploy protesters en masse anywhere in the world by anyone, for strategic purposes. BLM, check. (Destroy the cities). Defund the Police, check. (Destroy the cities). Abortion rights, check (divide society). Now Israel/Palestine, check. (Divide society, strip us of civil liberties).
It is worth noting, I’d add, that under the guise of these protests, which can now be manifested digitally at the press of a button, Western liberties and symbols of Western and national history are being targeted. The Cenotaph in London, which honors the British war dead. Grand Central Station, the beating heart of free assembly in Manhattan. Capitalism itself — BlackRock was targeted. I am not a fan of BlackRock; but it is notable that the often-violent mass protests, nominally about violence in Gaza (as in the past about other issues), have somehow identified as targets some of the key symbols and institutions of Western history and its economic organization — symbols and institutions that do not organically relate to the conflict in the Middle East.
That is not an accident, I would argue. All of this points to a larger globalist pretext, for which Brian’s discovery is invaluable. We are all being manipulated, and tribal hatreds are the mechanism.