The Last Gasp of the Gentrification Push
Many great cities have risen and fallen, paralleling the fate of many nations, empires, and even businesses. But what makes a city fall? When do we begin to understand that it is falling? And is this the symptom of a broader decline on a national level?
Over the past half century and a bit, Toronto and many other major cities have flourished. They have given birth to booming towers and rising skyscrapers which outline a cityscape of the future. They shape the possibility of a future city entirely created by man and an entirely artificial environment, one entirely constructed of condos, underground walk ways, subways systems, and malls.
But more recently, things seem to be headed towards a more dystopian outcome.
Toronto, in particular, has been the blank slate and creative palate of a first-world country rich in resources and a nation that has been fairly successful in terms of its historical trajectory. Having started off with Neoclassical architecture of the norman and gothic varieties, it transitioned into a strong age of brutalist concrete and a dynamic age of art-deco-esque ornamentation and facades, only to reach an age where a kind of monolithic Internationalism has become present in the glass boxes that reflect the surrounding world, paralleling the shape of the computer processors which fill the rooms within. But what is it that this glass processor reflects?
What we can see is a clash of styles and a clash of cultures which reflect a broader clash of political factions and ethnicities, all of which strive for creative control over the canvas that once was an undeveloped, blank-slate of land. Was there less political division, we might see more centralized urban planning, with cohesive styles consigned to specific districts. With less cultural clash, we might see greater segregation to maintain cultural distinctiveness and less extreme deviation from the basic norms and customs that were required build such a city up. With less ethnic division, we might see that the domestic majority actually owned more property in their own country than foreign minorities.
Now Toronto is being sustained by foreign immigration, foreign investment, and foreign enterprise. What we see is a clash between foreign culture and domestic culture, and in addition to that, we see a clash between the religious and secular, the upper and lower classes, and the older and younger generations, and while these tensions exist, they don’t neatly conform to a singular standard on one definable group vs. another. There are many groups that can be defined in a number of ways, some which are subject to certain tensions and others which aren’t. These tensions build up, and the result is a wide range of different types of resentment and reaction.
There is an irony to this situation however, insofar as Toronto built itself up in a fairly monocultural manner with a fairly homogenous stock until the late 20th century. In other words, that was the predominant identifier that foreign immigrants and investors associated with Toronto when they initially invested themselves in it. The irony of this situation lies in the fact that the more these people have invested themselves in Toronto, the less it has become what they wanted to invest in to begin with. At this rate, the foreign investment that sustains this gentrification push of high price housing can only last for so long before it becomes disillusioned with trying to supply a first world demand in a city increasingly dominated by third worlders. With rent regulations being imposed, this will only discourage foreign investors more, and the housing market will start to reflect the domestic demographic condition, with units being parceled into sub-units for lower income minorities, and ultimately, the domestic majority will have to go along for the ride, having never really given consent or known what was happening to begin with.
This has been the state of many other great cities that have built themselves up, only to reach a point where they can begin to afford to consider alternative models other than those which fundamentally and essentially got them ahead. But just because they can consider an alternative doesn’t always mean they should pursue it. Detroit and Chicago were once industrial capitals of the world, dominated by a largely homogenous and monocultural stock. But eventually, they began to fall prey to those who wanted to exploit the capital those cities generated for their own nefarious purposes. And so degenerate culture was encouraged and cheap labour was imported until people exploited all they could and white flight began to occur. Just as this occurring in Toronto, we should expect that it will occur in many other cities. And as foreign investment sustains increasing prices, and as the Chinese continue to print currency (backed in a export-led economy whose productivity occurs at the expense of our primary sector) and buy up our real estate, we will find that we are becoming a foreign occupied, cheap work station for large populations of low income foreign minorities that are increasingly coming to replace the majority.
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