People often take it for granted that no one in cities like Phoenix could feel any connection to the local buildings because many of them are so recently constructed and thought to be from times when buildings had little to no spiritual or architectural significance other than for utilitarian commercial use or cookie cutter, tract housing.
“Would you fight and die for North Park Mall?” Richard Spencer asked jokingly (referring to a Dallas, TX shopping center that was presumably near an area where he grew up) during a recent Millennial Woes podcast titled, “The End of America.”
Well no..I wouldn’t, but mostly because I’m not from Dallas. However, I would fight and die for Paradise Valley Mall in Phoenix, not because I’m some kind of libertarian zealot or free market fanaticist (if anything I’m closer to a crypto-communist) but because the building and surrounding area was an integral part of my childhood and teenage experience. Admittedly, I grew up around the eastern side of town. Other 80’s kids on the west side would have spent their youth cavorting around iconic Metro Center mall (one of the film locations of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.) MetroCenter was the vastly superior establishment before it became overwhelmed with nonwhite gangsters and wiggers in the early to mid 90’s and was too ghetto for civilized people to hang out at.)
Believe it or not and disturbing as it may seem, people who grow up here actually do feel connected to many of these local landmarks. They’re a part of our identity and culture. Humans are territorial creatures of habit, often becoming attached to familiar haunts, no matter how superficially or artificially contrived those habitats are. It isn’t the mindless consumerism of these old malls that people identify with, but their place in our hearts as social and community hubs. I have more aesthetic affinity for a 1970’s futurist Phoenix mall or swanky mid century modern dwelling than I do for any of the 17th century churches or old office buildings in the northeastern US. Those particular eras and places do nothing for me compared to the unfulfilled space age promise of mid-century modernism, and I’m not the only one, as there are a great many advocates here who attempt to preserve structures that many outsiders would reflexively deem significant.
Whether it was The Wanderers or Monster Kody, street gangs have always fought over what outsiders no doubt perceived to be worthless territory, in the trivialest of turf wars. Would you fight for your home? What about your neighborhood? What about your home away from home?
Some self-proclaimed photographer “activists” have managed to convince themselves that the “death of malls” signifies some kind of broader decline of American capitalism, but the reality is that these malls were simply devoured by the very machine mechanisms of capitalism that helped spawn them in the first place. They’re in fact being replaced with an even more atomized form of capitalism, consisting of online shopping and big box stores, with “social media communities” and phone app browsing replacing local shopping and social communities, taking depersonalization to a new level entirely. Instead of gloating over an illusory victory, leftists should be preserving and re-purposing these malls into the futuristic communal living and socialization centers they were originally envisioned as. You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
Like Spencer, I don’t have any real attachment to the abstract values which comprise the contrived, constitutional “American” identity that conservatives fetishize and deify. And no, I probably wouldn’t actually fight and die for these local Phoenix malls, but only because they’re already ruined or nearly demolished. Much of this area is already overrun, and it’s too late. Some areas sadly have to be written off, because we just don’t have the numbers. Yet by necessity, the un-luxurious of us that remain (outnumbered) are compelled to gravitate toward a more biological identity, preserve the collective desire and genetic foundation that offers the greatest probability of creating the types of societies we wish to live in, somewhere. We’ll make a stand there. See you at the Orange Julius, Caesar!