Your recent letters pages have carried a series of writers debating capitalism and its balance sheet. I have spoken — when a candidate for City Hall — about the need to stop the growth of Nelson, a most un-capitalist attitude. Capitalism thrives in our town, yet our image of ourselves is somehow that we live in a bubble of quasi-socialist community.
Capitalism and gentrification are natural bedfellows, and Nelson is being gentrified. It is curious to see that our gentry — who are upper-middle class and know nothing of the struggle of poor working people in this or any other town — have adopted the pose of progressives. They are bourgeois but they seem to themselves to be “bohemian” in politics. They are environmentalist, feminist, “spiritual-not-religious,” relaxed about cannabis, loving artists and disliking corporate chainstores (Walmart, McDonalds, Tim Hortons). They are caught between capitalism and socialism, since the former has made their bodies affluent but the latter exerts an emotional and spiritual gravity on their souls. Buddha is cool, Christ not, for this hipsterpreneurial class. (“Cultural creatives” is R. Florida’s complimentary label for them.)
Gentrification in Vancouver is causing social conflict where gentry boutiques and development move into old less-affluent neighbourhoods. Vancouver is a desirable place to live; the well-off are buying homes there, but this pushes prices up and the poor out. Hence this observation by a Vancouver writer: “Vancouver is an urban resort whose value mostly resides in its real estate and not much else… you’re going to encounter the types of situations that we see now, with some buying condos as …an investment decision.” (Gary Mason, Globe and Mail).
Nelson is not so different in its development issues.
Mason says Vancouver is seen by “the filthy rich” and the “cosmocrats” as “the gorgeous playground that it actually is.” Ditto for Nelson. This is where the meaning of capitalist economy is felt in Nelson.