"Because it's becoming gentrified! Independent vegan co-ops are moving out and chain stores are moving in. The community is being broken up"
I think this is the pervading sentiment among the mohawk set these days. It's also a sentiment I can't stand.
It's ironic than in trying to defend its geographical coherence the Newtown alternative community contradicts what it is supposed to stand for. By arguing that it has a right, above other communities, to inhabit a particular space renders it far more a shadow of the mainstream than an enlightened alternative. And not just a shadow of the mainstream, but a shadow that is worse and more bigoted because it refuses to conceive that it may possess those qualities.
But what really annoys me is the sense of entitlement. I might be more willing to give the community some slack if it has done something in the past to stake a claim on the space. As the situation stands, it seems that people are defending their right to live amongst others with similar fashion choices, rather than the right of for their community to exist. Because really, how much of a community is it, if it refuses definition except in the most banal terms. It's a community that seems to only exist to compare itself (favourably) with the "mainstream" (whatever that is); it's alternative, different, queer.
But how coherent is a community that can only define itself by reference to something else? Has Newtown really come together properly in living memory around, oh, I don't know, a single political policy? It's a community that hangs its identity in a series of signals - fashion, swagger, aesthetic - that are likely empty signifiers to be coloured with whatever substance the onlooker desires to read. And those whose bodies don't project the right (empty) signifiers are rendered outsders. Let's be honest: the courthouse on a thursday night shares far more in common (in the openness of its community) with a North Shore bowling club than a meeting place for eccentrics. it's more Dresden than Rive Gauche.
And the influx of different people? I say, in the words of PJ O'rourke, "let them in". Open the flaking, 1920's terrace doors to anyone who wants. If it leads to a community that doesn't place so much important on clothing and swagger, then that's great. If not, then I struggle to see in concrete terms what has really been lost.
This pretty much only leaves the economic factor. The classical arguments against gentrification point to the replacement of 1) poor people and 2) people of colour with the white upper middle class. The problem with applying this argument to newtown is that 1) Newtown has always been inhabited by uni students with rich parents and 2) newtown is, and always has been, overwhelmingly white. And honestly I struggle to see much sympathy in Newtown for the working class. Half the people here have never been west of Marrickville. If the community really does possess the qualities of solidarity with the economically and socially disadvantaged, then moving out of Newtown would finally give them an opportunity to express it.