Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

In Millennial Eyes 3: Abandoned Buildings, Left to Rot

Abandoned federal gold exchange bank, Part 1 (29 June 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

This post is the first of three - respectively on the economy, politics, and war - which describe how a negative Millennial history is emerging from disconnections between perception and reality. For today, see urbex explorer Josh wander through an abandoned bank, somewhere in America. It appears that this bank closed in the 1980s. To protect properties from vandals, Josh does not reveal names or locations of many of the places he visits. He does not remove anything from the sites, he only films and photographs them. You can see Josh and his friends explore dozens of abandoned sites in the USA and abroadhere.

Urban explorers are now poking through the wreckage of a transformed economy. That transformation depended on the 'virtualization' of property. Before 2007-2008, the economic value of property lay more in its assessed worth as a tangible historical object. During and after the Great Recession, the temporal perception of property changed to become a fleeting and mutable virtual investment, divorced from its actual physical condition and connection to society. The process started before that, but the recession was the hard turning point. In order to understand this change in terms of its long term consequences, it is important to separate the official story of the recession from the post-recession reality which urban explorers have uncovered.

Abandoned federal gold exchange bank, Part 2. Video Source: Youtube.

Although urbex is the new Millennium's historical pastime, the perspective is based on experience, unmediated by historical knowledge, except for a Google search or two. Information on abandoned properties is suppressed on the Internet to discourage vandals and scavengers. Urban explorers seek history out, independently of the way it has been presented to them in the system. Josh thanks all his viewers, "even the haters," who jeer at his lack of knowledge. While urban explorers may not always know the historical context through which they move, they discover many things their viewers do not yet know.

Urban exploration reveals how rapidly the present is becoming the past. For some, the late 20th century and early 21st century are too recent to be considered historical. Urbex videos indicate how time is accelerating in everyday life, and why the past is being discarded at an alarming rate. It is not a pretty picture. Urban explorers document a secret history of incredible losses, shameful waste, and a throwaway culture which appeared over the past thirty years. Abandoned buildings and infrastructure are monuments to materialism, property bubbles, recessions and bankruptcies. The economic shocks are one thing. But the wreckage also confirms a deeper anti-historical malaise. Urbex confirms the need to revitalize historical awareness.

This urbex video was made in January 2016. According to Josh, the house was built in 1901; items left by owners date its abandonment to the Great Recession. Video Source: Youtube.

Josh's videos focus on locations abandoned around America from the 1980s1990s, or the early 2000s. Other disintegrating buildings have been abandoned for as little as 2-10 years. One house Josh and his friends explored (shown in the video above) dated from the moment when the Great Recession hit. An evicted family left a foreclosed property. Claimed by the bank and creditors, the property was not sold. The bank did not bother to liquidate the house's valuable contents. An online search reveals that this is a common problem. In addition, many houses and buildings, owned outright, are empty real estate investments which their super-rich owners do not bother to maintain. In these respects, urban exploration confirms that the Great Recession is far from over; an older legal system cannot cope quickly enough with the economic virtualization of property and the rapid redefinition of property's temporal value:
  • Los Angeles Times (28 August 2007): Blight moves in after foreclosures
  • Above Top Secret (15 January 2009): Foreclosed homes left to rot while more and more people become homeless!
  • The University of Cincinnati Law Review (Vol. 78, No. 4, 2010; 5 October 2009): Foreclosure, Subprime Mortgage Lending, and the Mortgage Electronic Registration System
  • Federal Trade Commission, USA (July 2010): Repairing a Broken System: Protecting Consumers in Debt Collection Litigation
  • The Home Equity Theft Reporter (11 December 2010): Criminal Prosecutions Of Sale Leaseback Peddlers In Equity Stripping Foreclosure Rescue Deals
  • English Heritage (2011): Stopping the Rot: A Guide to Enforcement Action to Save Historic Buildings
  • AOL (18 March 2011): Why the Foreclosure Mess Settlement Proposal Can't Fix the Damage
  • Naked Capitalism (19 March 2011): On the Clouded Title Mess and the Difficulties of Cleaning It Up
  • Cardozo Law Review (Vol. 32, No. 4, 2011; 21 March 2011): The Case Against Allowing Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) to Initiate Foreclosure Proceedings
  • National Fair Housing Alliance (6 April 2011): Have I Got a Deal for You! An Undercover Investigation of Mortgage Loan Modification Scams
  • English Heritage (19 October 2011): Vacant Historic Buildings
  • The Toronto Star, Canada (20 October 2011): History deserted and left to rot. One of the cities oldest houses, on George St., has been left to rot over the past decades
  • Courier-Mail, Brisbane, Australia (7 November 2011): Demolition protections not enough to save historic homes left to rot
  • NBC 4 New York, NYC, USA (30 November 2011): Harlem Neighbors Claim Foreclosed Building Left to Rot
  • The Home Equity Theft Reporter, NYC, USA (3 December 2011): B[ank] of A[merica] At Center Of Another Public Nuisance; Burned Out, Dilapidated Pre-F[ore]closure Brownstone Sinks Quality Of Life On One Harlem Block
  • The Louisiana Weekly, USA (23 January 2012): Demolition by neglect: Historic homes left to rot by LSU-UMC
  • NPR, USA (4 February 2012): While Graceland Booms, Other Historic Homes Rot
  • William and Mary Business Law Review (Vol. 4, 2013; 21 February 2012): Property Title Trouble in Non-Judicial Foreclosure States: The Ibanez Time Bomb?
  • Loyola Consumer Law Review (Vol. 24, 2012; 13 June 2012): Toward a More Equitable Balance: Homeowner and Purchaser Tensions in Non-Judicial Foreclosure States
  • Realty Today (31 August 2012): Homes With Foreclosure Tag Left to Rot: "It's estimated that approximately 620,000 foreclosed properties in the United States are owned by lenders. But a majority of these properties have been abandoned and left to rot for more than two years, thereby reducing property prices and investment potential in these areas."
  • Reuters (10 January 2013): Special Report: The latest foreclosure horror: the zombie title
  • Evening Times, Glasgow, UK (10 January 2013): Why are so many of our buildings left to rot?
  • HuffPo (28 March 2013): Foreclosed ‘Zombie’ Homes Exceed 300,000 Properties: Study
  • HuffPo (3 April 2013): To Clean Up Foreclosure Mess, Banks Rely On Little-Known Industry Plagued By Fraud, Abuse
  • HuffPo (27 June 2013): Abandoned Homes Plague Florida, Even In Midst Of Housing Boom
  • Independent, Yorkshire, UK (17 September 2013): The 40-room Yorkshire home frozen in time: Eerie abandoned mansion left to rot for THREE decades
  • National Trust for Canada (30 October 2013): Bellevue House. 525 Dalhousie Street, Amherstburg, Ontario—AT RISK OF DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT: "Dating from 1816 and connected with the War of 1812, one of the few remaining examples of Georgian architecture in Ontario is being left to rot by its owner. Even the national celebrations of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 were not enough for the municipality to enforce its own Property Standards bylaw to deal with this scandalous case of demolition by neglect."
  • The Windsor Star, Ontario, Canada (30 October 2013): Tale of a grand building
  • Daily Mail, London, UK (13 February 2014): Rotting mansions of billionaires' row: How the rich get even richer letting their homes decay
  • Woodstock Institute, Cook County, Illinois, USA (January 2014): Unresolved Foreclosures: Patterns of Zombie Properties in Cook County; read the full report here
  • New York Post (25 May 2014): The beautiful, vacant, and broke cathedrals of NYC
  • HuffPo (4 June 2014): Passing the Zombie Kill Bill Is a No-Brainer
  • The Journal, Dublin, Ireland (15 November 2014): Left to ruin: A rare glimpse inside Dublin’s last, great Georgian mansion
  • Prevent Loan Scams (December 2014): Who Can You Trust? The Foreclosure Rescue Scam Crisis in New York
  • Common Dreams (12 December 2014): Hunger, Homelessness on the Rise in Cities Nationwide: Report
  • Weather.com (3 April 2015): Eerie Images of New York Buildings Left to Rot
  • Rochester First, New York, USA (19 May 2015): Rochester residents are fed up with 'Zombie Properties'
  • Newsday and News 12, New York, USA (June 2015): Zombie Houses. Abandoned houses stuck in foreclosure are a neighborhood blight and a burden on the municipalities that have to take care of them. With thousands existing from Hempstead to the Hamptons, Long Island is being called the ‘epicenter’ of the problem: Comprehensive report, with a searchable map of zombie houses in New York state, here
  • Calgary Sun, Canada (12 August 2015): Calgary loses a landmark after century-old Cecil Hotel left to rot
  • NJ.com (3 October 2015): Family blasts Rutgers for letting historic mansion 'rot'
  • Buffalo News (14 October 2015): Nearly 800 zombie homes haunt Erie County neighborhoods. When foreclosures drag on, properties sit neglected
  • ABA Journal (1 November 2015): Debt-buying industry and lax court review are burying defendants in defaults
  • New York Times (7 November 2015): Real Estate Shell Companies Scheme to Defraud Owners Out of Their Homes
  • Baltimore Slumlord Watch (13 November 2015): Keeping an Eye on one of Baltimore’s Historic Industrial Sites
  • CBC (23 November 2015): Vancouver Vanishes book laments demolition of character homes and the histories they contain. Collection of essays and photographs grew out of the popular Vancouver Vanishes Facebook page
  • The Straight Dope (13 December 2015): Why do banks leave forclosed houses to rot?: Question: "There has been a foreclosed house across the street from me for about 2 years. it's been just left to rot there has been no maintenance on it at all and I can see it falling apart. Why don't they either take care of the house or sell it? I cant imagin[e] them [m]aking money on it if it's just rotting with nobody living in it." Answer: "It could be an accounting sleight-of-hand. Suppose the mortgage was $200k, but the house is only worth $120k. Assuming the bank purchased the house for $200k at the foreclosure auction, if they sell it for $120k, they have to claim an $80k loss. If they don't sell the house, the[y] still carry it on their books for $200k."
  • Washington Examiner (22 December 2015): Report: Hunger, homelessness on the rise in major U.S. cities
  • Al Jazeera America (22 December 2015): Hunger, homelessness on the rise in major US cities, study finds
  • Zero Hedge (5 February 2016): These Vancouver Homes Sold For Millions In 2011 And Have Been Vacant And Rotting Since: Here's Why
  • The Toronto Star, Canada (15 February 2016): Exclusive: Family homelessness on the rise. A landmark report obtained exclusively by the Star reveals the devastating extent of child and family homelessness in Canada
  • The Inverness Courier, UK (18 February 2016): Anger over historic city sundial 'left to rot with the rubbish'
  • New Republic (18 February 2016): The Section 8 Voucher Trap. For Yonkers families, the search for affordable housing is long and weary
  • New York Times (20 February 2016): Market for Fixer-Uppers Traps Low-Income Buyers
  • The Yale Law Journal (Vol. 125, No. 4, February 2016): In Defense of 'Free Houses'
  • Financial Post, Canada (1 March 2016): Vancouver house left to deteriorate now on the market for $7.2 million
  • Zero Hedge (4 March 2016): "This Is A Ridiculous Joke" - An Abandoned, Rotting Vancouver House Is Listed For $7.2 Million
  • The Guardian (9 March 2016): 'Every day is a struggle': rough sleeping on the rise in London
  • The Guardian (23 March 2016): Rise in homelessness in England triggers calls to follow Welsh strategy
  • The Georgia Straight, British Columbia, Canada (30 March 2016): With B.C. homelessness on the rise, activist wants homeless definition changed
  • Rolling Stone (8 April 2016): Why the Banks Should Be Broken Up
  • Zero Hedge (16 April 2016): A Drone Flies Through A Rotting, Abandoned $17.5 Million Vancouver Mansion; This Is What It Saw
  • Times of Malta (18 June 2016): 'Historic' Msida houses await the wrecking ball despite scheduling recommendation
  • Rome Sentinel, New York, USA (5 July 2016): State dials in hotline for reporting of vacant ‘zombie’ properties
  • CNY, Syracuse, New York, USA (5 July 2016): Zombie Properties Act
  • News 12 Westchester, New York, USA (5 July 2016): Residents: Zombie home haunting Harrison street
  • The Plymouth Herald, UK (5 July 2016): Inside the historic Plymouth building left to rot for a decade - as it is finally rescued
  • Milngavie and Bearsden Herald, UK (6 July 2016): Milngavie’s historic waterworks left to rot
One may ask what the point to the whole economic meltdown was, beyond the mendacious narrative that the recession is long over, the economy was saved, and financial lessons were learned. The stories we were told about the recession were not true, and the evidence lies in zombified properties of the upper, middle and working classes. We were told that inflated real estate speculation led to mortgages being approved to the economically unfit. In the subsequent meltdown, one could blame the poor, the government, or the banks. None of these three options was entirely correct.

First, Josh's urbex video above suggests that the mortgage crisis was complex and hit all corners of society. Homeowners still in the system might fall for an us-versus-them narrative: 'We are economically fit, whereas those who were not were granted mortgages when they did not deserve them. They almost destroyed the whole system, and thereby almost destroyed us. They deserve to be punished.' Racial and anti-immigration backlashes arose from this narrative.

It is a believable line, until you lost, or lose, your job and house. The housing crisis hit, and continues to hit, all classes in society. In the USA, some one million families initially lost their homes during the recession; in subsequent years, total foreclosures rose to approximately seven to eight million. Families who hung on to their properties became financially fragile; the average household in America lost 19 per cent of its wealth between 2007 and 2009. The impact from that loss of wealth compounds and continues. Because of constant reports that the recession is over, new foreclosures - much less 2016's political backlash - are greeted with surprise; and recovery varies according to location. In November 2015, seven and a half million homes in the USA not yet foreclosed upon were estimated to have mortgages on them that were greater than the current market value of those homes, keeping those families in negative equity. Before we even consider jobs, professional shifts due to technological change, credit and other non-housing debt, education costs, and inflation, we are talking about approximately 16 million families in America, hit directly by the housing meltdown in the past decade. That means that the number of American homeowners or former homeowners in crisis is equivalent to the entire population of Canada. That is one in every ten people in the United States.

Many homeowners became or are becoming renters, who easily did or could become homeless in an overheated rental market. In 2005, the Washington Times predicted that homelessness would rise in the western world due to real estate speculation. On 23 March 2016, International Business Times reported that homelessness has increased in England by 33 per cent over the past five years. Crowdfunding and cyberbegging to help desperate renters is a new trend. Brokelyn reports: "Brokesters, where do you stand on crowdfunding to pay rent? Would you support someone doing it? Would you ever try it yourself?"

Because homeless people are commonly perceived as the most ethnically or culturally vulnerable, disenfranchised, impoverished, uneducated, mentally ill, or disconnected groups in society, there is a failure to understand who they are. Many of the homeless now hail from the world's vanishing middle classes; some of them once made six-figure salaries - or more. Through rents and bank bailouts, they are effectively paying for their lost properties anyway, many times over. The story that all were lazy or economically unfit is misleading. Some readers may recall comedian Chris Farley's Saturday Night Live skits from 1993 to 1997 with the middle class, homeless motivational speaker, Matt Foley: "I am 35 years old. I am divorced. And I live in a van down by the river!!" Everyone found it hilarious, with Farley screaming in character, "How do we get back on the right track?!" because it was so weird and inconceivable. It is not a joke now.

The second recessionary claim came from the American government. The public bank bailout would protect those with solid credit and preserve the American Dream. But the bailed-out banks let most foreclosed properties degenerate. This is where the claim dissolves before hard reality. Abandoned buildings, left to rot, mean that the point to the bailout was not to safeguard the principle of property ownership. On Youtube, search 'abandoned foreclosure' and you will find hundreds of videos on foreclosures from the Great Recession, starting with news reports early in the meltdown; these older videos display houses in better repair. More recent videos feature urban explorers filming derelict properties. A few examples:
Urbex videos show the tip of the iceberg. According to the linked reports above, since 2008, the banks have sold many foreclosed properties to Wall Street investors, who became landlords. But the majority of foreclosed houses were not sold and left to rot. It is hard to tell how many homes the banks allowed to degenerate because no thorough investigation has been conducted and no accurate records kept. That is the point! The banks did not bother to liquidate house contents or sell them, but kept houses on the books; they avoided formal accounting of downgraded zombie properties with inflated values. Local governments have responded to citizens' complaints about rotting, foreclosed properties by fining banks for non-maintenance. On 23 June 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York state, USA, signed into law the Zombie Properties bill:
"The law signed Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatens banks with civil penalties up to $500 a day for failing to maintain residential properties once they’re aware of vacancies."
The banks have claimed bailouts for mortgage losses from the public via their governments. Most banks repaid their initial bailouts. Pro Publica keeps track of the original USD $700 billion bailout here, but the site does not track larger amounts which the government committed to propping up the financial industry. That grand total borrows against the future to pay for the mistakes and plunder of recent decades. In September 2010, PBS reported that the government had promised a total of USD $12.8 trillion to the banks. In July 2015, Forbes reported that bank bailouts for mortgage investment losses will be ongoing until they reach nearly USD $17 trillion - and that is only in the United States:
"Most people think that the big bank bailout was the $700 billion that the treasury department used to save the banks during the financial crash in September of 2008. But this is a long way from the truth because the bailout is still ongoing. The Special Inspector General for TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program] summary of the bailout says that the total commitment of government is $16.8 trillion dollars with the $4.6 trillion already paid out."
In December 2011, another study conducted at Bard College placed the bailout amount at USD $29 trillion. Reports on totals vary according to the date, focus, and range of study, indicating that the amounts are not fixed and the bailout process is a shell game. Forgetting the political arguments around the bailouts, these payments will gut what remains of the middle and working classes in coming years.

In 2012, Al Jazeera reported on millions of foreclosures, which created homeless people, surrounded by empty homes: "It's at moments like this when the irrationality of the whole capitalist system becomes ... perfectly obvious. So you then start to say ... maybe we have to ... think about a completely different system." The report further asked: given the evident outcome of implemented solutions, would it not have been better for the government to bail out the people rather than bailing out the banks? In hindsight, if banks were going to let most foreclosed houses rot, would it not have been less traumatic and wasteful for the society as a whole to leave millions of original owners in those houses and allow the capital and resources in those properties to be defined and preserved in some new way?

This was the point made in the Yale Law Journal in February 2016, In Defense of 'Free Houses.' The article supported social compassion to maintain long term prosperity. More importantly, with the use of new technologies, banks could innovate and citizens could adapt to economic ups and downs. What should be studied now is the imaginative ways people coped with real fluctuations in wealth. How did they change their economic behaviour, roles, and small economies? Journalists and researchers barely bothered to find out, other than to offer a few human interest stories. In 2012, Occupy Homes activists repossessed foreclosed homes in Minnesota. In 2014, local artists turned foreclosed houses into art installations in Cleveland, Ohio. The real human interest story was the profound anguish and stress caused by removing housing, as a stable, temporally-grounded element from the socio-economic landscape.

Buildings have become virtual concepts in x-degrees of separation, to be moved around in computers and on balance sheets. This cryptic reconceptualization of property in a technologically-driven speculative financial system has diverged from the value of houses as concrete objects with temporal meaning. Zombie properties and the abandonment of historic sites reveal the hypocrisy, cynicism, and counter-factual madness of a system where a number in an accounting book is given more priority and is assigned greater perceptional economic value than waste, disintegration, and the squandering of historic legacies passed down, faithfully and intact, from previous generations.

The bailout shell game stops at zombie neighbourhoods. The mortgage and loans business exploited a traditional popular faith in property as a social foundation, based on durable history. That faith, now broken, was the origin of the 1870s' expression, "Safe as houses." In recent decades, mortgages and loans industries forged links to organized crime, corruption, money-laundering, and off-shore accounts. In the United States, the housing bubble betrayed the American Dream. Elsewhere, the arcane discovery that anti-historicism had and has artificial financial leverage has been no less devastating. This anti-historicism is not a sustainable basis for future development. Eventually, the economy has to connect to something real and physical with temporal or historical value. Each subsequent future collapse will progressively destroy those most persistently and deeply invested in anti-historicism as a developmental principle.

The third perceived story that diverged from reality was the total condemnation of the banks. This is controversial, because the financial industry was culpable, greedy and reckless. This fact has inflamed anti-Illuminati conspiracy theories, anti-statism, wild populism, and anarcho-libertarianism. Yet none of this explains how the banks got so far with their predatory practices. The financial sector ballooned in a society immersed in conspicuous consumption. For over three decades, 'greed is good' was the lifestyle mantra propagated by mass media and entertainment; consumption, rather than industry, became the measure of economic health. In many places, it still is. Consumerism is still encouraged among homeowners to the point of bankruptcy.

Although consumerism is fixated on material acquisition, it is anti-historical. In April 2015, Zero Hedge quoted Chris Martenson on the narrative beneath anti-historicism:
"The old narrative rests upon an ideology of endless growth. It wants and requires more of everything. More cars sold, more houses built, more jobs created, and more goods and services of every description sold next year than last. Everything flows from that want for more. The defenders of the old ideology are therefore defenders of our astonishingly-wide wealth gap, rapid energy depletion, emptying aquifers, disappearing pollinators, ruined soils, and dying oceans."
Endless growth is a seductive idea, but again, the story we tell ourselves does not correspond to real ebbs and flows in wealth. No system can grow upwardly on an infinite arrow of novelty. When periods of stagnation or contraction occur, the current solution is to create artificial endless growth until real growth returns. The artificial endless growth remedy involves bailouts, low interest rates, consumer credit, and cheerful media reports that artificial growth is a sign of the return of real growth.

The insistence on continual expansion creates a throwaway culture. Possessions and buildings are now treated less and less as historic artefacts. Councils do not legally compel absentee owners or investors to maintain properties. Historic buildings are not protected. In 2010, I interviewed British urban explorer, Phill Davison (here), who commented that the abandonment of historic sites, and of properties in general, reflected a failure of civil stewardship:
"All I can say about lost grandeur in places like Mount St Mary's [abandoned church in Leeds, UK] is it's official vandalism. Someone, whether it be the council, or property owner is responsible for allowing these grand places to fall into disrepair. A building's listed status will often condemn the property. For example, the building will be limited to a specific use, or the cost factor of restoring it to its former glory is too high."
Property abandonment shows where priorities lie. It is not that there is no money in the whole economy for historical conservation and education; it is that there is no established interest in it and the money is diverted elsewhere. In a 2013 post, the Post-Postmodern Side of Local Government, I described a beautiful church in Gesté, France, demolished by the local council - against the wishes of the townsfolk - because the council deemed upkeep to be too expensive. Reuters reported on the reaction of helpless citizens: "As stones crashed to the ground, the crowd watched in silence." This is not just about the economy: the demolition of historic churches across France started in the new Millennium, before the Great Recession.

Who, then, is responsible? Those on 'Main Street' can blame the poor, the immigrants, the government, the banks, the local councils, or their political (or perceived cultural) opponents. But all these problems begin with how we understand the passage of time, no matter where we are on the socio-economic ladder, and whether we are within the halls of power or without. We are seduced by disposable products, disposable culture, disposable relationships, disposable technology. Even when our homes become disposable, and then we become disposable, we don't get the message. We do not stop seeking something new and better.

In Fight Club (novel 1996; film 1999), Tyler Durden and the Narrator take up residence in an abandoned Victorian mansion, called the Paper Street House, which Tyler rents on the Narrator's credit card without the Narrator's knowledge. In a metaphorical analogy hinting at the Narrator's psychological crisis, the house appears in two versions, as it truly is (above) and as the Narrator perceives it. See: Capitalism and the Crisis of Masculinity – The Instability of the 21st Century Urban Landscape in David Fincher’s Fight Club. Images Sources: Fight Club Wiki and Kiss My Bloody Axe.

In the current system, endless growth revolves around planning for the future, and believing in it blindly, no matter what the cost. Paradoxically, believing in the future leads to bankrupting the future, through "generational equity, or ... unduly benefiting current generations at the expense of future generations." Those who understand - really understand - that the conventional system's future was ruined in the 2000s and 2010s have already had their Tyler Durden moment. They grasped that a new system was required, and to build it, there are two temporal places left to go: the past and the present.

In the techno-economic sphere, Satoshi Nakamoto invented Bitcoin for those who choose to live in the present, as Chris Ellis remarked to me in Economy of the Eternal Now. Similarly, Brett Scott's The Future of Money Depends on Busting Fairy Tales About Its Past (30 March 2016), saw Scott argue that the focus on physical, tangible aspects of monetary development are a historical misperception:
"Ever wondered why historians and museums fixate upon coins? That’s because coins are made of durable metal and thus have a predictable tendency to show up in the archaeological record. The British Museum’s money room is full of physical objects, but that’s only because it’s impossible to display non-physical 'scorekeeping' systems (like ... reciprocity) in a public-viewing setting. It’s why generations of school children walk through hallowed museums, being taught that: In the past, money was all these beads and metals ...

The standard economics story describes ancient coins as spontaneous eruptions of economic necessity, but it’s equally plausible that they were political creations related to war ... . And those paper notes we use? People often associate them with states, but paper money was often privately issued by wealthy merchant traders and banks as promises that eventually came to circulate in trade. It was only when financial and political elites got together to establish central banks that paper money issuance was centralized in states. ...

[Y]ou need to challenge the sacred idea that money is a store of value, or that is ever has been. It is much more useful to conceive of money as a socially and politically constructed claim-upon-value. ... Money derives all its value from the things it enables you to get. It does not hold the value, but rather enables access to that value."
Thus, in Scott's view, money is a political or mercantile opportunity for you to do something. Without exploring the philosophical aspects of the argument, Scott implied that money is a way of being, a state of mind, a moment in existence, offering a continually-immediate potential. He did not think money should be viewed as a historical object, although he acknowledged that money can connect people to objects which may be grounded in history. This is where presentist distruptors may wish to meditate further, because in the housing market, currency met capital in a way that was supposed to relate citizens to the material and communal past and present and future. The Great Recession disconnected citizens from time.

As for the past, we are fascinated and shocked by how something so recently intact has become a grotesquerie, exploited and cast aside. Popular historical interest has not yet inspired institutions and communities to sponsor broad historical education and activism so that we may recover from the anti-historical malaise. There is a need to reappraise conventional notions of durability, preservation, conservation and sustainability, to create new ways through which those values can be expressed.

Urban explorers live in a society which has dismissed the value of history as one of education's 'worthless subjects.' The question is not a measure of the true value of history, but of the value the society places on history. Withdrawn in seclusion, the Ivory Tower frowns on public history; reaching out to the public is not considered serious research and therefore is not a priority. But Josh and his friends run several urbex Youtube channels, with tens of thousands of followers. This means that there is a popular interest in public history that is not properly addressed by higher education and academia. Those who profit and thrive in an anti-historical atmosphere have capitalized on professional historians' difficulties with popular history.

Urban explorers work at amateur history's and public history's most contemporary, cutting edge. They uncover temporal truths, in patterns no one else bothers to see. The way we record history and discuss it is changing. Urbex shows the impact of technology on the modalities of history: explorers' excursions are their research; their videos are their historical assessments. Social media sites provide forums for debate. The problem is that explorers' lack of formal historical training means that urban exploration videos become a form of entertainment. Even if explorers do not remove anything from buildings, viewers are left to wonder if explorers add anything to sensationalize their films, like fake blood spatters on house walls, or diabolical pentagrams (as below). The viewer cannot know whether these are marks of real or fake mayhem. History merges with social media fiction.

There is a need to improve memory. The situation demands a deeper connection with history, not as a repository of all that is outmoded, backward, regressive, and atavistic, but of unrealized potentials. The awareness of past context allows one to review long-asked questions, in a way that is continually open to new answers. The past is not gone and dead. If you could talk to people from the past, they would tell you that their work was not done and nothing in their world made the current state of affairs an absolute certainty. The regeneration of Millennial values depends on whether we change our perceptions of the past and present, and in so doing, find new hopes for the future.

At 12:50, Josh's friend Steve reflects on urbex and history. Video Source: Youtube.

As for values as they now stand, blighted properties are also sometimes abandoned due to natural disasterscrime, or scandals. That negative aura spreads to 'regular' foreclosed houses. Urban explorers constantly encounter signs of occult and black magic rituals in these lost buildings. Do they stage these findings? Whether they do or not, they are immersed in the temporal problem. It is tempting to think of a moral battle for temporal space, such that even before the urbex historians arrive with their cameras to document the degeneration of 20th century edifices for their 21st century social media accounts, the Satanists get there first. In the urbex video of the millionaire's mansion above, the cultists scrawled on the wall: We are the future.

ADDENDUM (October 2017): When this post was first published, the urban explorer in Florida removed his video, presumably because he did not want to be identified. I left the embedded reference up, even though it is now a dead video, because it still confirms the point I was making.

See all my posts on Urban Exploration.
See all my posts on Millennial views of past events.


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