Since long before a place like Notting Hill became a brand, the brands were sniffing around for prime locations along the Portobello Road and within a few short years, all but the local market traders had been elbowed out. To this day, one still overhears tourists asking directions to the Blue Door, fantasizing they might steal a glimpse of Hugh Grant or Julia Roberts. The thriving community that gave the place it’s cool edge is still there but on the fringes, there’s been a commercial chasm carved right through the middle.
Booting out local small business was easier that one might think because London councils have the arm-twisting right to extract ‘business rates’, a sort of protection tax, which keeps a council’s revenue collector hand in everyone’s pocket at all times. Naturally, big business will always be preferable under such circumstances and even the pubs started changing hands for big money with players in the booze trade. The day of 5 pound pints of beer may be just around the corner but locals at least have one battle won in the relentless incursions, they’ve kept McDonalds at bay.
Will the same be said of Christiania one day? The Danish Supreme Court ruled against the residents of the counter-culture enclave in a; “you’ve done well-now piss off” sort of way and right behind them are the local leaders, commercial lobbyists. Somebody’s surely rubbing their hands with glee, in Copenhagen and even Rodeo Drive one would have to guess. The American Apparel store’s definitely pencilled in with the mega posters of Prozac fuelled, catatonic posers aplenty. But they’re not that far advanced on the public front yet, Copenhagen Council wants to have some rent payed, big dough from 900 plus permanent residents.
Christiania’s status as a prime tourist attraction they couldn’t plunder has bothered many in government who see the former naval base with the eyes of a flamboyant Irish property developer. Copenhagen’s recent confernce on the climate brought a surge of international interest from rich people who never knew the place exhisted and now they seem to have a plan. One man’s plan being another’s plot, the defence team is destined to negotiate terms with the government that invade the space of every independent soul in the area. As we’ve come to understand, all taxes start out small and reasonable and then badabing.
Every council in every ‘burg on the planet is a Mafia type family, a collection of people connected by interest in looking as though they serve the public good. There’s an energy in nepotism that propels their deeds to great heights of pomposity but no matter how ridiculous, they’re impervious to accountability because everything is always done; “for our own good!” Apart from a few basic administrative functions, this type of bureaucracy should never have been allowed to perpetuate because it can only sustain itself by feeding evermore on the people. No doubt Christiania has been on their menu for a long time.
This won’t push the new Algerian riots out of the headlines but it’s probably a lot more important than Europeans realise. Every society needs pressure relief valves and sometimes that means just taking a stroll where people have a different attitude to anyone trudging through a hectic finance district. When tourism suddenly becomes the driving force of existence, Christiania residents won’t be a happy sight. And they’ll be especially unhappy to find out the architects of this hostile takeover got most of their ideas and gee wiz cash projections by studying Colonial Williamsburg, where actors ‘pretend‘ to live in the past.
In business terms, it’s not killing the geese, they’re nailing a flock’s feet to the floor. Productive situations don’t suddenly materialise this way and neither do opportunities to point out the blatantly obvious, Copenhagen Council wants to fix something that already ‘works’. The crystal clear conclusion then is that it’s about control. Who can possibly be robbed if their pocket’s out of reach? What’s really hilarious is that the Danes don’t stand up to support Christiania’s independence and don’t recognise that sometimes in life, it’s better to check-out and take it easy for a while or someone really could end up in a tower with a rifle or worse, McDonalds for comfort fud.