As these words are bing written the Covid-19 Pandemic is cooling down in many countries. Signs for social distancing are starting to fade in the sunlight and grocery store employees are now the only ones still wearing masks.
The Mainstream Media however, is prepping the masses for a “second wave” of the Coronavirus which should hit in early autumn. And so as vacation weather subsides we may have to go back into our homes for another stint of isolation.
The global impact of this virus has raised many questions and at the same time revealed deep cracks in established reasoning. As we sit between plagues we should take a look at probably the most important result of the virus – challenging the unquestioned narrative of how we will live in the future and its political context.
If there is one mantra that is repeated in the English speaking world from the cradle to the grave it is that “the world is overpopulated” and to a slightly lesser extent “we are running out of resources” and “climate something or other will destroy us all in X number of years”. When one takes these views as Gospel and is a childless low testosterone Liberal city planner it seems obvious that the future of humanity is going to be a “Global Hong Kong”. Something like Mega-City 1, but annoyingly pleasant and trendy with a few CHAZ gardens.
If we believe we are living in a massively overpopulated world with dwindling resources and that automobiles are the devil’s horses then there is some logic to building “coffin homes” in tall dense apartment blocks. Having such large amounts of people smashed together also creates bigger markets which is good for business and distributing resources to these people is cheaper and easier since they are all right next to each other. Any status quo city planner and many architects will tell you with absolute faith that living in houses, something like the American suburbs/European villages is “the worst of both worlds” as they use up a lot of space destroying nature yet do not provide any benefits from density. And simply put, globally people have rushed to massive cities like New York, Tokyo and London to make big careers for themselves and “live well”. Isolated and/or spread out locations like Montana, the Faroe Islands and Siberia are not known for their great career opportunities. The logic that dense urbanization is the future did not come from nowhere and has strong arguments that should be familiar to anyone who speaks English, the issue is that the Coronavirus has poked holes of various sizes into all of them.
Commuting is no longer mandatory
Our daily ritual of the “commute” which seemed like a fact of life that would never change has been stripped away quickly by Covid-19. The virus forced many businesses to maximize the amount of people working remotely. Perhaps before the crisis this would have seemed insane to have server technicians, talk show hosts, and office managers running things from home, but once “given a try” it seems to work very well and not just for the individuals but for society. In fact, many people who do not need to work with their hands, do not need to commute anywhere to keep the economy afloat. Today’s Internet has rightfully killed the commute for millions upon millions of people and we should keep it this way.
Many environmentalists have tried for years to convince (aka force via government) people to not commute to work by car. Well now instead of convincing people who can afford a car to cram themselves into a disgusting bus to save the planet, environmental activists and city planners don’t need to do anything. Covid-19 has reduced all the evil traffic congestion that we hear about on YouTube videos. Jobs that do not require a commute should not commute, the plague has shown us that this strategy works and it is the best environmental option.
Jobs are not going to depend on location
Taking the previous idea further, when many jobs no longer require physical presence, there is no reason to live in a city anymore at all. People tolerate New York for the glitzy careers, and some people genuinely like an urban lifestyle, but when given the choice to use a New York salary in New York or rural Ohio guess where you get more bang for your buck? People can and are making good salaries from great careers yet living in pleasant natural environments thanks to the Internet. When one knows a 3D artist working in Siberia for AAA video game companies and Russians in Africa making their salaries in rubles we see that tolerating cities for a big percent of the adult population is pointless. We can live in lovely houses in lovely surroundings and make enough money to have nice things. The dynamic of being forced to chose salary vs. location is going to die out for many people and when you have the option to live in an overpopulated hellhole or a valley in Kentucky many people are going to start “becoming Rednecks”.
Everything can and is delivered – Goodbye brick and mortar stores.
Many urbanite people have very naive views on the world. Growing up in the city, one sees products magically appear on store shelves, water and electricity just seem to be around and nothing you have is produced anywhere near you. Because of the childlike naivete that grows in urban centers you will often hear angry declarations from city planners who claim something like “80% of street space in Los Angeles is used for cars, this is awful, we need more walking space”. Considering that almost every item and every store was at some point transported on a truck, you can easily see why so much space is dedicated to cars and not our weak legs. This was true before Covid-19 but now we really see just how reliant everything is on transport and how cramming people into city streets is pointless when everything can be delivered to homes. Ironically it is actually the people hogging the 20% of city streets that are the blockade for the movement of trucks.
Even more so the real waste of space in the 21st century could be brick and mortar stores. The semi-robotic delivery revolution of Amazon, coupled with the inability to go to physically go buy things like we used to caused by the Coronavirus has proven that everything can and is deliverable. Malls are dying out quick, and stores in general are becoming pointless, as commercial real estate shrinks that leaves more room for humanity and nature.
20 years ago to get top of the line computer parts or new clothing in Russia you had to live in Moscow, now those same parts can be delivered to a mountain village with more sheep that citizens with no problem. This delivery power again calls into question this unwavering faith that the future lies in cramped cities.
City life is harmful mentally, physically and spiritually.
Obviously when there is a plague in the air being in a cramped city is an awful option. We all knew this before Covid-19 came around, but now living through it and feeling it people are unlikely to forget this fact. For those of us who work hard and have had the good luck or intuition needed to buy a home outside the city have had a much happier and healthier quarantine. When times are bad and we are insolation it is almost like a vacation in one’s own house rather than being trapped in a tiny concrete box. For some Corona, offered the chance to renovate their property, spend more time with their children, and just in general be outdoors, for others who live in massive urban areas it was a prison sentence. In times of trouble and uncertainty a house may prove to be a much better option.
On a more philosophical note, it can be argued that apartment/flat dwelling is very harmful to the male psyche. When we look at highly male professions – military, construction, oil work, etc. we see that many of them are all done outside. Furthermore, anything “outdoorsy” in nature is oriented towards men. Historically women’s domain has been inward looking focusing on the home/family and men’s has been outward looking focusing on getting resources and triumphing over challenges. When men are trapped in boxes where they cannot work with their hands (as it causes mess and noise) or do anything other than play Xbox this has a castrating affect. Men need the outdoors and living in homes provides at least some piece of this and it makes the “man of the house” responsible for fixing and maintaining things which is also psychologically/spiritually important to any Right Wing political movement.
You can’t plan the future of housing based on old standards
Perhaps when I-beams were developed and buildings started to get much taller this architectural revolution was easy to notice. But in a more subtle way the efficiency and autonomy of homes has been radically increasing very quietly, due to the fact that from the outside everything looks the same. A house built 50+ years ago is like a car from the same time period – an energy inefficient money toilet full of flaws that today seem obvious and easy to fix. This concept that houses are bad and inefficient comes from historical inertia rather than present realities. Passive houses (although pricey) should be an environmentalist’s dream as they have no “footprint” to speak of. And if you look into them, they can be quite large and do not need to be smashed together into a block to make them efficient. The truth is that right now with today’s tech one can live almost “off the grid” on very little money thanks to a highly efficient house.
In many massive regions across the globe, like for example Russia, it is possible to live very well with only access to electricity from nuclear power, paying $75 a month for electricity during the long cold dark winter. This is a lower standard than a passive house, but it still works very well. Water, gas and other “city” services are becoming irrelevant when there is so much tech that can allow you to have a productive existence and be surrounded by trees. Village life is coming back thanks to our friend the internet.
At one point in history the words “comfort” and “city” did go hand-in-hand, the thing is that now the real physical and spiritual comfort can be found in your own home on your own plot of land on a hillside in Hungary, all you need is access to electricity and wi-fi, which today has become so cheap and easy to do.
Judge Dredd should remain Science Fiction
Again, thanks to the Covid-19 Pandemic this unquestioned pervasive vision of a dense urbanized future by city planners, environmentalists, and other people with fake careers has at the very least been called into question. We can and have started to live differently, so why go back to a pre Corona vision of things? The future can be…
- Working from home with no commute (less cars, less traffic, less pointless stores)
- Living in a natural environment (good for mind and spirit)
- Having a high standard of life due to construction advances and nuclear power
- Having most needs delivered
- Having one’s own indoor and outdoor territory
- Never forget the political context
The above when summarized becomes an alternative vision for the future residential development. A vision which competes with the aforementioned Global Hong Kong that seems so deeply seeded in Liberal political views due to their low view of humanity.
This alternative vision gifted to us by the Coronavirus should become part of the platform of the Illiberal/Right Wing movement that is starting to happen in Eastern Europe.
Ideas need to be projected as a vision as a plan that everyone can understand and living in 21st century European villages in one’s own home thanks to the advances of technology around us is a very pleasant idea that people can rally around. This idea is the kind that can win elections, deep down no one actually wants to live like a sardine in a tin, no matter how much they may virtue signal over Facebook.
Header: July 1, 2020 | Bucharest, Romania | An elderly woman stands in front of a body temperature scanner in order to get access to a food market. (VADIM GHIRDA/AP)