Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.

Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.
Image by Cameron Lyall, GNU license Wikimedia

23 June 2011

Industrial from the Law--Post Industrial from the bus

So very early in our time in Dundee, I climbed the Law. Part of it was because I really miss mountains and part was because it was there, but I felt it was an important first individual task. So up I climbed.

In class I have mentioned that I would have put a tower on the Law because it would have afforded a great vantage point for defense. When I reached the top, I surveyed the world around me--I really would have put a tower there. If nothing more than for the view. However, as I took in the cityscape below, I saw a group of building that screamed 'industrial' to me. They were not the mills--they screamed "I am really old and cool"--but it was a group of clearly low-income housing high-rises. From the Law, those three or four buildings scarred cityscape with a defiant crude gesture of lower-class muscle being crammed together to prevent their dedication and hard work from infecting the rest of Dundee.

For the first week, when I thought of the working folks, I thought of those buildings. I saw the bridges, and I thought of the workers trudging home to broken elevators and infested flats. I could envision family meetings around a press-board table, determining which child went to the better schools, which child got new clothes first, and which day everyone ate. Yes, that is an oddly idealized--or at least quasi-romantic--understanding and view of the working class, but that is what those building screamed to me.

In a more confusing twist of fate, I rode past those same buildings on my way to purchase a laptop accessory. It is not lost on me that the money I would spend on the laptop--much less the money for the laptop and this trip and going to college--was two or three days of food for a family of four, but I was not aware when I boarded the bus that I was going to pass through the shadows of those very buildings that screamed to me.

Those buildings are empty. They are slated for demo, and demo company is carefully working on bringing them down. I assume they will use explosives, judging by the preparations being made, but I was left with a slightly hollow feeling when I saw the edifices that epitomized industrialization to me were actually in the process of being destroyed. It is not often that the very symbol of an entire class of people is methodically demolished. I am sad that I cannot see them come down, perhaps from the Law. I could toast the work of their previous tenants, the lives created within, and see them come down in a perversion of the very technology used to build them.

But my bus ride was not over. It was not until my ride back, with my pack of accessories and food, that I noticed the rows of townhouses along my route. They were not clearly built for any class of folks, not like the high-rises. They were economically neutral. Glimpses into the stamp-sized lawns were the only way to guess at who lived there, what they might value, what they might do. I imagine that the same family meetings occur, but now it is not in a clearly marked block of town. Now even the working class can hide behind the facade of middle class. The workers can live next to the technicians next to the engineers next to the bankers.

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