Monday, April 09, 2007

Sounds familiar? Change as loss

"As the manufacturing districts vanished, shrines full of exotic mechandise were erected at their heart: the shopping centres ... were consolations offered for our obliterated function and ruined our sense of purpose. At the same time, the streets where we lived were no longer full of neighbours, relatives, workmates, friends but thugs, vandals, ... The people we had called Auntie or Uncle were transformed, little by little, into strangers... The lesson that people cannot be trusted, but that money and what it will buy will never fail you, tends to prise apart the most precious and tender of human bondings and associations, undermines ancient consolations of kindred and friendship. Is it by accident that we discover our aloneness in the healing presence of the inexhaustible plenitude of a buy-in culture?"

This is an except from Jeremy Seabrook's essay 'An English Exile'. He's talking about his home town Northampton and its transformation in the 1970s when the local factories were shut down and the old housing demolished and replaced by new high-density housing blocks. Although this is about a very different time and place it still feels close to the experience of many in China today as state-run factories close and old communities are moved on to make space for the new urban reality. As a China blogger puts it, "We filled our lives, but we lost our souls" (chinese version here) and this is also a theme for Haolun Shu's 'Nostalgia' ( as mentioned before)

Picture: Shanghai

No comments: