Fear of splinters
Fear of splinters

Being out of the country for half a decade has its unexpected effect. Such interruption brings an entirely different perspective to one's view of things. If you see yourself in the mirror day by day you do not realize that you are changing. Imagine if you would avoid a mirror for a few years altogether. I bet that when you would finally look at yourself you would scream: "Who the fuck is that?" Exactly that is what I gained by being abroad. There is one major visible change that I noticed immediately: architecture. The American city has been uglified.

It must have started at around the mortgage crisis of 2008, but it is a sustained process. American cities are being uglified in a process to achieve what I call "normalized ick" - a mass-produced blight of ugliness. It is the aesthetics of the market economy at its worst. Mass produced objects are inhabiting not only the inside of the living space but also the outside and everything in between.

I am talking mainly about doors and windows.

It has become standard to replace the windows and doors of houses with the mass-produced, normalized product of subsidized oil.

Those old wooden windows and doors that were an organic part of the structure are mostly gone. In a race to produce "ultimate energy savings" and as a cost-cutting measure, we have managed to abandon the most abundant renewable resource there is - wood. Wood is consistently avoided because of the cost and the ease of manufacturing and greed. The byproduct is a hermetically sealed space that requires air conditioning (else mildew appears). The oil and energy companies rejoice.

The old wooden windows maybe leaked here and there, but they protected your house from other things and could be maintained. It just required people to not be lazy or greedy and to plan a little bit ahead.

We are replacing everything with the products of oil to churn up the economy through the repetitive business of plastic decay. As anybody who is familiar with the process of decay of plastic objects that were created in the 1950's and 1960's can tell you, this is a major headache in the making. It is not that there are no people who can make wooden windows and doors anymore -- but it is a dying trade.

Those years of neglect of our urban centers and the avoidance of essential upkeep transformed simple repairs into costly propositions of complete replacement. The investment of such scale is too much for today's landlords who aim at maximizing the profits -- so they get out of the housing market the moment their housing stock requires anything even remotely resembling an actual investment. Not that the people who simply own their own home are much better. Faced with the same decision, they automatically grab the plastic ick, too. Actually, the window company of today is either incapable of delivering old-time wooden windows or, even if they are, they will assume that one wants the cheapest option and will recommend the ick.

There are so few real craftsmen left that one mostly has to order even simple wooden storm windows about a year in advance. So once more, we have fallen into the trap of a mentality that created a system whereby car mechanics do not do (nor can they do) any repairs greater than simply pulling and replacing parts of vehicles that are not made to live any longer than a few years. The same goes for the new plastic windows and doors. If you have these and are lucky, it is simply vinyl-covered particle board today. And since nobody today seems to be thinking any further than two or maybe five years ahead, we are going to face a major window-replacement industry boom in about 10 to 20 years' time. So go and start a window company.

(c) dusan palka 2017