Favela Chic

(favela-brightener: kitset from : Dezeen/Cooper-Hewitt)

Exhibit #1 : The Future’s so Dark

Bruce Stirling at Reboot 11 in Copenhagen

“me shiny tech-boy jackdaw” LOL

I love this guy – he’s like an old armchair that sits in the corner and complains constantly… something I feel at liberty to say because (as I say) I love this guy and I too am an old complaining armchair sitting in the corner.

I think it’s doubly funny that he’s presenting this whole tapestry of bleak nihilism to an audience of Scandanavians, and they think it’s funny. I love these people. I wish I was there.

Anyway, Bruce is usually right and usually wrong – and I think he’s right about Favela Chic and I think he’s wrong because he makes it sound awful, and I don’t think it necessarily will be.

I’ve been trying to think about this subject for a couple of days – and it’s really too big a subject to contain in a single post, or even book… so I’ll do what I always do and throw up (favela like) a bunch of exhibits that act like windows – giving different views onto the same scene.

So here we go.

Exhibit #2 : Squatocracies

squat1from Michelle Power

There was an article in The Guardian recently about the artistic vibrancy of the Berlin Squat scene… and I can well imagine. I came out of a squat-scene myself – Camden in the 90s was when music was finally wrested from the grip of “Pay to Play” and turned into something fairly happening and exciting – innovation between the cracks again – but the cracks are wider, and there’s so much time to play with.

I’ve done some research on where people’s money goes – there are various numbers, but they tend to look something like this:

Unless you’re already rich, you spend about 1/3 of your working life (what is that? 20 years?) as a slave to a bank or a landlord. British people don’t spend that much (or anything) on insurance or health… transport? Not if you live in Camden and can walk to everything that interests you. We basically reduced our cost of living to the price of chips and beer, and out of that a culture blossomed.


This is not a sustainable way to live, but if you’re young, it’s fucking great.

Does your landlord allow pets? In my Islington squat, we didn’t have rules-from-above, so the guy downstairs had sealed off his entire living room and had stingrays living in it. Freedom isn’t freedom until you can get out of all systems involving money.

The best years of my life were Favela Chic years. You’re free from the machine, and it’s great.

Exhibit #3 : Collapsanomics

I think collapse of Western Economics could look a little different from the collapse of the Soviet Union say. Our infrastructure and expectations are different – we do some things better, some things worse… but our infrastructure might just be better for setting up as micro-businesses (and Favelas are all about micro-businesses). Most of the people I know already are micro-businesses – as a matter of choice.

This is an interesting talk by Douglas Rushkoff – in fact this is more than an interesting talk, I think it’s kindof vital… as a starting point for understanding that this latest crash (in a series of crashes) may not be a bad thing, and may be inevitable in the very best of ways… and it may just provide us with some direction as well.And maybe this is what the future looks like:


rather than boarded up windows and burnt out cars. This photo comes from an interesting article about The New American Post-Industrial Microenterprise.

We need to (and will) find a way of open-sourcing money. We need to get rid of the banks.

Random thought #1 : Violence

I think the biggest, and possibly most difficult thing to handle in the encroaching arena of Favela Chic is the management and control of violence. It can’t be for hire. Violence needs to be democratically controlled, or things get really ugly. People need to be paid to carry out violence on behalf of the citizenry – to a degree of capability that it acts as a deterrent, and this needs to be acknowledged as legitimate by the citizenry – I don’t think there’s a way around this… and it probably needs to be organised at a national or regional level.

It’s taken us a long time to get away from local crime/war-lords, lynch-mobs, internecine blood-feuds. The worst thing about Favela Chic is the danger of going back to these states. We need laws because human stupidity will always be with us.

Random thought #2 : Reprap technologies are only useful in the 3rd World

I’m becoming increasingly inclined to think that Repraps don’t solve a manufacturing problem, they solve a distribution problem. In the West, we have pretty good distribution (and manufacturing) so the only thing that Repraps are going to be used for with any degree of economic viability, is making other repraps… and people are already selling them off the shelf, so maybe even that’s a bit iffy.

In places where distribution isn’t that great however, being able to print out physical things could be a real game-changer.

Random thought #3 : Meeting imposed-poverty half-way by going off-grid

And to go off-grid we need land-reform: a different relationship to the space that we live on and grow stuff on – because as things stand the parasitism of banks, and landlords perpetuates a scarcity economy. As long as you pay rent or interest at current levels (average being 33%) you’re in a state of indentured servitude.

If you were a gardener would you put up with slugs eating 1/3rd of your crop? Well if you’re a normal westerner, bankers and landlords are taking a 1/3rd of your crop – for reasons that are entirely historical. A reality based upon… “closed-source code, written long ago, by people who had agendas that had nothing to do with us… and who have long since left the building” – Douglas Rushkoff.

PS: Bruce? Some people like growing tomatoes.