A group of artists, intellectuals and concerned citizens have issued a ‘Not In Our Name’ statement to the city development authorities demanding that the ‘planned’ city and its extensive ‘gentrification’ be immediately stopped and that it not be used to create socially and class segregated ‘ghettos’ that privilege the few over the culture, social space and life of the city and it many diverse communities.

The original statement in Germany can be read here Not In Our Name, Marke Hamburg and an English translation is available here Not In Our Name.

Some key paragraphs that highlight the ideas of the manifesto:

  • In Hamburg’s case, the competition now means that city politics are increasingly subordinated to an “Image City”. The idea is to send out a very specific image of the city into the world: the image of the “pulsating capital”, which offers a “stimulating atmosphere and the best opportunities for creatives of all stripes”. A local marketing company feeds this image to the media as “the brand Hamburg“. It is flooding the republic with brochures that turn Hamburg into a consistent, socially passified fantasyland with Elbe Philharmonic and table dancing, Blankenese and Schanzenviertel, agency life and art scenes, local Harley Days, gay parades in St. Georg, alternative art spectacles in the “HafenCity“, Reeperbahn festivals, fan miles and Cruise Days. Hardly a week goes by without some tourist mega-event carrying out its “brand-strengthening function.”
  • Stop this shit. We won’t be taken for fools. Dear location politicians: we refuse to talk about this city in marketing categories. We don’t want to “position” local neighborhoods as “colorful, brash, eclectic” parts of town, nor will we think of Hamburg in terms of “water, cosmopolitanism, internationality,” or any other “success modules of the brand Hamburg” that you chose to concoct..We hereby state, that in the western city center it is almost impossible to rent a room in a shared flat for less than 450 Euro per month, or a flat for under 10 Euro per square meter. That the amount of social housing will be slashed by half within ten years. That the poor, elderly and immigrant inhabitants are being driven to the edge of town by Hartz IV (welfare money) and city housing-distribution policies. We think that your “growing city” is actually a segregated city of the 19th century: promenades for the wealthy, tenements for the rabble.
  • We, the music DJs, art, film and theater people, the groovy-little-shop owners and anyone who represents a different quality of life, are supposed to function as a counterpoint to the “city of subterranean parking” (Süddeutsche Zeitung). We are meant to take care of the atmosphere, the aura and leisure quality, without which an urban location has little chance in the global competition. We are welcome. In a way. On the one hand. On the other, the blanket development of urban space means that we – the decoys – are moving out in droves, because it is getting increasingly impossible to afford space here.
  • We say: A city is not a brand. A city is not a corporation. A city is a community. We ask the social question which, in cities today, is also about a battle for territory. This is about taking over and defending places that make life worth living in this city, which don’t belong to the target group of the “growing city”. We claim our right to the city – together with all the residents of Hamburg who refuse to be a location factor.

Suddenly, I like Hamburg.

The gentrification of the life of cities is taking place all across Europe. Stockholm is suffering this disease, rapidly creating little ‘middle class’ ghetto estates that lack any sense of human existence and reflect the complete degradation of human life to that of work and rest before returning to work. Cold glass and concrete buildings that look increasingly like fashionable prison cells are being sold on the market, with streets devoid of commerce, society or even a real natural settings to take pleasure in. And the public square, where people can gather, mingle, savor a cup of coffee, has been completely erased! Stockholm has no public squares! But it has a lot of the same second-rate shopping boutiques and very similar, cookie-cutter yuppie drones walking around wearing the same faux-designer clothing!

The conformity of modernity is suffocating and it is being manufactured by some lowly educated machine tool bureaucrat with no imagination of sense of the human, diligently working his way to the pensioned life s/he has been dreaming of since graduating from some technical college.

This is especially personal because I lived through the years when the life, society, diversity, uniqueness, quirkyness and sheer magnificent madness of New York was pillaged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The rape of Times Square that transforemed this squalid but human, complex, diverse, challenging and provocative space into a anesthetized, lobotomized, corporatized, disneyfied infantile playpen was perhaps the symbolic act of those years.

So thank you Hamburg!

It is time to stop this shit!