ARE WE BECOMING MORE ISOLATED AS A SOCIETY?
By Alistair Law
As the world goes on, we become more interconnected - it’s a fact. Over the past centuries, humans have striven to become more connected with each other; faster ships, which became trains, which became planes; letters which became telegraphs to telephones to mobile and smart phones. All these technologies push people together, and the world now feels smaller than ever. However, people also crave independence. A lot of the time, we clearly do not like to be ruled by other people. Revolutions against aristocracy in history prove this, but now, we want to become independent, and not have to rely on other humans, and hence become more isolated as a society.
The West has seen a significant rise in right-wing support, examples include Marine Le Pen heading the French nationalist party ‘Rassemblement National’, Trump being elected into the Oval Office, Corinna Miazga leading the German ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ and the Brexit vote here in the UK. One key aspect of nationalist resurgence is ‘taking back our borders’. This phrase was reiterated throughout the Brexit campaign, and was a key issue for Trump. Right wing policies often include limiting immigration by reducing the number of people entering and leaving the country. The rise in popularity for these right-wing parties signifies a clear shift in society that shows that, especially in the West, we feel the need to almost separate ourselves from ‘the outside’. This idea is very much key in explaining the idea behind gated communities.
A famous quote: ‘I would build a great wall’.
Walls are significant, they are what divides humans, and this is what gives us privacy, and allows us to feel secure and safe. This concept has been used to build whole communities and put them behind walls. Why? Because safety, a close community, a better lifestyle, more privacy and higher property values. These are what’s known as gated communities, whole neighbourhoods which are put behind walls, with security at a few checkpoints, so there is no through traffic, but only access for those that live there, or people who have permission to visit. Gated communities are very widespread in the US in particular, with over 20,000 being built by 1997, with some popping up in Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan, South China, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
The advantages of gated communities can seem alluring. No council tax thanks to private development and instead, you pay towards a corporation that manages services in the community, with some of the larger ones in America even potentially having police, a fire brigade and road surfacing and maintenance, only accessible by the residents. The greater security offered by walls and security give an illusion that you are extremely safe there, and only people like you are living there, so crime is low. Amenities are often provided such as swimming pools, tennis courts, marinas, golf courses, gyms, spas and on-site dining; all services that cater for the higher-income earners who live in these areas. Also the house prices of theses gated communities are much higher as well. A house, coupled with good location, can set one back easily by $1 million at least.
There are many criticisms of gated communities. For one, they marginalise the poor. By excluding the poor from these areas, a sense of distance is created due to a lack of inter-societal relations, and animosity builds on both sides. This can lead to crime and violence between the two classes. Also, people are given the influence that they are safer, when in reality, they are not because realistically, a wall can be climbed over, dug under, and often walls are no more than just bushes. This means that criminals, who know that areas are rich neighbourhoods, can easily get into the gated community. The shooting at ‘The Retreat at Twin Lakes’ in 2012 highlighted the fact that gated communities are not as safe as people perceive, and in fact, a study found that gated communities have as much crime as that seen in similar ungated communities. Hence, the whole façade of safety is no more than just an illusion, to draw in people’s money.
However, 6 to 9 million believe these gates are worth the price and that living behind bars will protect them from those whom they wish were behind bars.
The rise in gated communities signifies that we are progressing towards a point where people feel like they need to isolate themselves from others, especially from those of different classes. Maybe this could lead to another form of social hierarchy, which may then be overthrown again, and communism will rise from the ashes. Or increasing international tensions will climax and we’ll all be nuked, and the walls built won’t protect anyone from radiation. Or nothing happens. How fun.