London: the most grotesque city in the world
Even Dr Johnson would tire of modern London, where bigwigs welcome global scumbags and nobody else matters. […]
Say what you will about [London], there really is no place better for watching the gilded parade of international yuckery go by. In the past there was a sense that to get eyeballs on some of the real nasties, one had to travel overseas. But these days Londoners can just sit back and wait, safe in the knowledge that almost every global scumbag, or someone intimately connected to them, will pitch up in the capital sooner or later and find it quite the most accommodating place to spend time.
Marina Hyde may be right about the spinelessness of our government in allowing such a parade of despots to reside here… But part of me - let’s be honest - likes this about London. It makes the city seem like somewhere that still matters, that is still a global hub - it means we’re not Vienna or Prague, small and basically irrelevant.
It polarises the city yes, it makes it filthy and inequal - and, in rubbing up together, Leicester Square / Soho / Mayfair / Belgravia, the mass to the elite all converging on Selfridges… It makes the city now, it makes it emblematic of the global inequalities and borderless flows of wealth and commodities and political influence. It means I am living at the centre of something - and yes, as you see them drink coffee in their Arabic-numberplated cars outside Harvey Nicks or as we passed each other in the halls of the LSE there was a gulf between us that we might never ever wholly destroy…
But to be in the same place, the same time, the visual and cultural contacts and conflicts — the way their Vuitton handbags are an 18-month, £1800-lag on Dalston — multi-millionaires in niqabs — strange Qatari dotcom entrepreneur funding grants for journalistic free communications projects with a party on top of the Gherkin — poor little rich girls buying up the art scene…
It’s a weird and ugly hybrid, dystopic & cyberpunk to its last… But god this is more interesting than homogeneity, than a city full of nice middle-class safe little lives. The super-rich will never emigrate, it doesn’t matter how much we fucking tax them. What matters about London is that we’re not sodding Zurich, not safe and boring Conneticut. London is filthy and rotten and transformative and alive.