Friday, June 24, 2005

home on the mange

"There were 3 million owner-occupied homes in gated communities." US Census Bureau News
It's difficult to say whether one's sense of an implicit general mood is actually there, or simply in the mind, let alone to accede to some reliable idea of what stands behind the glow.

A wild guess: The general smugness of some of the people you meet has something to do with the recent phenomenon of amateur real estate speculating. That glint began to throb like Sauron's eye as the awareness dawned that the largest asset many people own has doubled, tripled, or become n times more valuable than what was paid for it.
"Housing is often our biggest expense -- and an important reflection of how we see ourselves." The American Housing Survey.
The cheesy calm of the landed gentry is nothing new in the USian middle class. What may be new is how this sense of well being, or at least well owning, has broadened out to include a very broad swath of the more than 72 million homeowners in the US. Some of them are likely on thin ice. Others may be giddily fortunate.

The fathappiness of this economic tumor could well help explain how it can be that it's all good here. Despite how it all is.

But the thing that strikes me about this goes back to a comment Rossellini made, on the difference between society and community cited before on this blog:
People today only know how to live in society, not in community. The soul of society is the law. The soul of community is love.
In society, beneficiaries of asset enhancement (and the media who assuage their simple needs) add an inch to their waistbands, tell themselves it's a zero-sum game because their next manor will cost more, and attend to gossip about housing market bubbles.

In community, people know that the very gain in property value that benefits many is baleful damage to those who don't happen to hold title to their subdivision of the rock. Every increase in property value for owners results in a commensurate dimming of the prospects and hopes of ever owning a home for renters and other housing-challenged USians.

To register this would be to representationally experience economic events simultaneously as personal boon and communal blow. Do you know of any places in USian media where this dimension of our social experience has been "covered"? Love to see a few pointers.
[Here's an example of the usual sort of thing, found through Dan Gillmor's Bayosphere. Here's hoping initiatives like Dan's will take us beyond it.]


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