Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Brooklyn Nativists

I just finished Alain Finkielkraut's fabulous Le Juif imaginaire, and so am thinking about authenticity. (I also cannot stop sneezing, but I think I might have allergies, and at any rate, it's totally irrelevant here.) Erin Geld's article in the Cornell Daily Sun about post-college life in Brooklyn has led to a backlash against the hipsters. Although it's not quite the hipsters, but really anyone who graduated from any American college within the last however many years who lives in Brooklyn but did not (alas!) grow up here. Gawker even posted Facebook photos of a party hosted by the particular group Geld referred to in her story. The photos look like typical party pics of early 20-something urbanites--two of those photographed appear to be wearing white t-shirts and jeans of no especially hipsteresque tightness--and yet Gawker commentors are up in arms. Why? Because Geld made the tragic mistake of calling East Williamsburg "West Bushwick." Why, it's like calling the Upper East Side "Southwest Yorkville," it's simply not done.

My question: What's the big deal? In turning all groups of unwanted arrivals as colonialsts/imperialists, the post-hipster Left hopes to mock people out of their perfectly legitimate residences. Why do people move to Brooklyn after college? Because many entry-level jobs (or, uh, graduate programs) pay less than many yearly rents in Manhattan, yet are interesting and necessary enough career-wise to take on. For all the fuss about the "rich kids" taking over Brooklyn, what of the fact that many would happily trade outer-Williamsburg or not-quite-Park-Slope for a charming West Village townhouse with "WBF" if they (um, I) could. A lifetime Brooklyn resident making 20k a year at 40 is likely in a very different life situation than a just-passing-through making the same amount at 21, but neither can afford Murray Hill.

Natives to any land are bound to feel a certain attachment to it. I was born and raised in the city, and so I cringe a little whenever someone tells me that the city's an awesome place to spend your early twenties, but one you have to leave before raising a family, as though there should be commercials, as there now are about the dangers of second-hand smoke, with innocent-looking toddlers discussing the perils of growing up near Zabars. But many of the just-visiting contingent are my friends, and regardless of where they raise their children, they have every bit the same right to live here as I do. That's what NYC is supposed to be about--if you're running away from one thing or towards another, you live here, no questions asked.


Petey said...

"In turning all groups of unwanted arrivals as colonialsts/imperialists, the post-hipster Left hopes to mock people out of their perfectly legitimate residences."

Sing it Phoebe. Ain't no difference at all between yuppies in Brooklyn and this kind of stuff.

Anonymous said...

I find the anti-hipster or anti-Park Slope mother, etc comments pretty obnoxious.
Good percent of NYC is not even USA born, and that has been going on forever.
So why all this picking on these young (mostly white) kids?
NYers and Brooklynites are very noticeable all over US (just have to keep your ear open) - hope they don't run into same nativist rhetoric in these places.
PS - although orig. from upstate I've lived here longer than most of these whiners have been alive.