Tuesday, June 16, 2020

After the Riots

“A very civilized thing, glass—almost an index of civilization. When civilization retreats, it leaves behind broken glass.”  
― John Derbyshire

By that standard, we're doomed. Our streets in major cities are littered with broken glass. They have been, for some time.

I live in a generally quiet and safe neighborhood (helped along by the near-total status of gun ownership in those homes - SC is a 2nd Amendment stronghold). But, even there, I sometimes come out to find litter - beer bottles and cans, fast food wrappers, detrita of smoking implements and butts.

We clean it up, of course - it's one of the chores of home ownership. We clear up, not simply because we care about the condition of our property, but also because failure to do so diminishes us in the eyes of our neighbors. That conformity to the neighborhood norms is what marks us as part of the group.

True, that conformity can be oppressive - anyone who has lived in an HOA, or heard the horror stories of HOA Karens-Gone-Wild, knows that standards can be used as a club to batter away individuality and enforce rigid rules. In HOAs, residents need to be vigilant in keeping the baby tyrants from gaining control.

I well remember the 70s, and the way the cities broke apart after the riots. Previously, Cleveland's neighborhoods had been generally clean, peaceful, and supportive of family life. It's school system was considered one of the best in the country, and better than that of the nearby suburbs.

Shopping in Cleveland before the 70s was a treat - Euclid Avenue, the main street of downtown, was filled with businesses, stores and shops on the street level and in the arcades. Department stores were multi-story, and quite profitable. The upper stories of many buildings were occupied by lawyers, insurance agencies, dentists, doctors, and other non-manufacturing businesses.

Shortly after the riots - neighborhoods such as Collinwood, Glenvale, and Hough were torn apart, burned, and left with few viable commerce (often literally 'food deserts') - the movement out of Cleveland, and particularly the downtown district, commenced. When leases were up, tenants left. Even lower rents couldn't persuade them to stick around - the reduced foot traffic made those deals not worth it.

In the residential neighborhoods, people scrambled to get PART of their investment out of their house, and move to the suburbs. Most sold cheaply; some converted their unsalable home into multi-family units, and became instant 'slumlords'. The city and the schools suffered from the loss of the tax base.

Arson grew in the newly depopulated neighborhoods - who knows how many of the fires were attempts to get the insurance companies to pay out, and give the owners some cash with which to start over?

Those who had choices, took off for greener, and less squalid, hills. Primarily those who were more stable - those having a family, a job, personal gumption - were the ones to leave. Those who were less mobile, those who had few resources to finance a move, those who were stuck in denial, and those that LIKED the "New Normal" - stayed. And watched the world surrounding them sink into barbarism.

If I owned property in the cities, I'd have my ear to the ground. I'd be very attentive to the signs of impending chaos. Many of us, before the cities fell in the 60s-70s, allowed the first signs of collapse to creep in, ignored by most.

“Western culture is in its twilight; there is a dark age ahead; and while college-humanities fads and 'secular-progressive values' have certainly done much damage, they are symptoms, not causes—fragments of junk sucked into a vacuum. The fundamental reason why so much of our culture is shit—either literally, like Signor Manzoni's masterwork, or figuratively—is exhaustion, cultural exhaustion.” 
― John Derbyshire, We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism
 The signs include:
  • Trash/litter - this has nothing to do with the city services available. Do the homeowners have to clean up trash on a regular basis, that was deposited by others? Do the multi-family homes take care of the area in front of their own place, or do they let it pile up?
  • Do the local stores put bars on their establishment? Are new buildings put up with limited access/few ground floor windows?
  • Are public parks safe to walk around in, at least during the daylight hours? Do you notice broken glass/smoking litter on the grounds?
  • Do the police take down the information for crimes, but do no more? Do you hear about or get notification of crimes (you can access the police reports/maps for crimes by date in most cities). For smaller communities, the local police blotter/sheriff's dept. reports are your go-to. But, remember that many crimes are never reported, so this is likely to be underestimating the problem. Sign up for the NextDoor app if you want to keep on top of your neighborhood locally. Or, join a neighborhood association, and attend the meetings. It's a good way to get to know your neighbors, and make some connections with those who you might want to have beside you should TSHTF.
  • For Sale signs - a leading indicator - particularly if the properties sit on the market for months/years, this is VERY bad. To find out what the trend is, look at the Zillow listing - focus on the recent sales. Are they showing a drop in price? Staying the same? Increasing?
  • Keep an eye out for guys with backpacks wandering around, seemingly without aim. They're generally homeless. If you notice more of them, whether or not the economy is stable, this is bad.
  • Drive around - are neighbors working their gardens, painting or otherwise maintaining their homes, letting their kids play outside with minimal supervision? At night, is it rare to see a car not in the garage? Do some/most of the homes have security lights/alarms? What's the feel in the neighborhood?
  • Does the talk among friends/relations/acquaintances turn to worsening conditions? Could you sell your home without a loss, or with minimal loss, quickly?


Andy Texan said...

Houston's close to downtown neighborhoods even the worst ones that have been no-go zones since the 1940's are being gentrified. I live in one that gentrified 10 years ago. Was hoping to peacefully retire here near the center of the business district but these last democrat political operations will probably short circuit my desire. The communists are in ascendant in local government, helped (cheered) along by the priggish, progressive, professionals who are my neighbors; oblivious (too stupid?) it seems to the harm their moralistic nihilism will have on their future prospects. Decamping to the countryside appears to be unavoidable.

HoundOfDoom said...

Fellow (ex) Clevelander here. Boy this takes me back. Every thing, place, and event the author refers to is true. Though the intemperate weather of the region still would have driven me away, Cleveland's decline and fall should be a warning to everyone that thinks their region will be different. Believe me - it's not. You don't have magic dirt that makes your community better. Have a plan - or at least a direction to go if things start to slip. Don't be a financial casualty.

Dystopic said...

The glass quote is very apropos.