It’s got nothing to do with the Union Square garden proposal which seems nice. It’s everything else that should make us uneasy.
I think the design for the new corporate garden for Aberdeen is nice. I like it. It is creative and interesting and in many circumstances I’d be very much in favour. In the same way that a bullied child may well like cakes while preferring not to have them pushed aggressively into their faces by the bigger boys. It’s not the garden, its the gardeners.
The whole Aberdeen saga profoundly depresses me. Just as in the case of the Trump fiascos it just proves one thing yet again – the rich always get what they want in the end. Be a millionaire, wake up in the morning, decide you want a giant vanity project. Don’t try to build support or create a genuine community buy-in. Just announce that you will be giving a large sum of money to the project but only if we all do as we’re told. Then put financial pressure on anyone who has not bought into your shining vision. When you’re losing, spend more. Run a competition. Show the recalcitrants pretty pictures. Make sure that any scheme is very expensive. Pay economic consultants to convince people they have no choice but to acquiesce. Hold as many referendums as is necessary to get the right result. Do so by outspending your opponents and pulling in all those favours you have built up over the years. Once you win, make sure the public sector takes your fairly small contribution and from that point make sure that you do not carry any of the risk.
The world remains like a giant Monopoly board for the rich. The rest of us simply wander through a landscape defined and owned by a corporate culture that primarily wants us to obey. That might sound a bit strong, but really it isn’t. Our cities are designed primarily for the benefit of commercial interests and they are designed in ways to part us from our money. They call it ‘economic impact’ where in fact it is just like creating a sort of mouse maze designed to direct us all into the entrances of shopping malls or a series of boxes designed not to live in but to sell.
I fear that the Aberdeen garden might be lovely. I fear that in the future people may think ‘I’m glad that millionaire pushed us around’. And I fear that few of them will realise that subservience was not the only option and that a lovely development of and for the people was just as possible. And, above all, I simply fear for democracy.