"Costly self-abnegation"

Tiny homes (Mikayla Whitmore/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

One of the ironies of the 21st century is that many people are too poor to be Woke.  Some would if they could afford it.  With nearly 85% of voters registered Democratic, San Francisco is arguably one of the bluest cities in America.  But only a few people can afford to live there.  "The California Association of Realtors (CAR) released its most recent Housing Affordability Index this week and estimated that only 12 percent of San Francisco households could afford a median-priced single family home in the city at the end of 2017, the worst rating in the state."

San Francisco is losing more residents than any other city in the US, so many in fact there's a shortage of U-Hauls leaving town. "It costs $US2,000 to rent a truck from San Jose to Las Vegas โ€“ but only costs $US100 the other way around, according to local news reporter Michelle Robertson from SFGate."

Having experienced at first hand the deleterious effect of gentrification, poor people elsewhere are redoubling their efforts to turn back the tide of trendy socialism.  Some activists now regard the upscale, socially enlightened demographic with the same trepidation as the  plague.  "A coalition of scorched-earth young activists from the surrounding neighborhood โ€” the heart of Mexican-American L.A. โ€” who have rejected the old, peaceful forms of resistance (discussion, dialogue, policy proposals) ... [have] decided" to go all out against gentrification. They've decided "that the only sensible response is to attack and hopefully frighten off the sorts of art galleries, craft breweries and single-origin coffee shops that tend to pave the way for more powerful invaders: the real estate agents, developers and bankers whose arrival typically mark a neighborhoodโ€™s point of no return."

In their desire to be sensitive the socially aware are making an effort to fit in so that gentrification no means posh but the willingness to pay more for less.  Recently the NYT described the rise of the $3,500 a month San Francisco dormitory. "'I was looking for more meaning," said one.  "The idea of sharing a bathroom was initially alarming, but the pictures of the house looked nice and Ms. Shiver wanted to meet new friends. For $2,200 a month, she now rents a Starcity room with a queen-size bed, a bedside table and a chair."  If it is squalor at premium prices, it is of the expensive and voluntary sort.

Of course this may perplex the actual poor who actually want to live in better houses.  Will Staley writing in the NYT magazine explores the strange tensions which arise when the affluent have differences of opinion with the locals on the virtues of poverty.  Through a process he describes as "costly abnegation", the rich are willing to pay through the nose for the privilege of being miserable.  Or at least obtaining the de luxe and politically correct version of misery.  "Last winter, midway through my hourlong commute into Midtown Manhattan โ€” having traversed part of Queens and all of chic north Brooklyn โ€” I found myself reading about how a dish called a โ€œchopped cheese,โ€ a sort of cheese steak made with hamburger meat, had been gentrified. Once a specialty of uptown bodegas, the sandwich had caught the attention of novelty-seeking foodies: Whole Foods was selling them for twice what they cost in the Bronx, where they went for $4 and still do."