Age of Romanticism in Echo Park
The Age of Romanticism sounds like flowers and wine, lofty ideals, and fluttering hearts -- well, in part, that is true. Romanticism was a return to simpler times when nature reigns supreme, the goodness of humanity was the goal, and the community was the heart and soul of a village. Sensations transcend economics with an assault against industrialism and rationalism.
It's hard for the modern mind to imagine these ideas, especially in a Capitalist System. But, one brilliant student, Mason Mancilla, reminded the class of Charles Baudelaire's flâneur concept. A flâneur was a person who strolled the streets of Paris, longing for days past. The flâneur often used as a derogatory term for lazy or walkabout people with no care in the world, but Mancilla reminds the class this is not the case. The Industrial Revolution of Victorian England brought with the spenders of convenience, heat, power, and resources to a struggling country but at a steep price. Physically abused women and children were exposed to harsh factory environments, pollution riddled London's skies, and the cities were cramped and overrun with disease and crime.
Escaping this horrid nightmare is incomparable to anything the majority of modern Americans face. Yet, a small population down on their luck, running from abuse, or losing their jobs or homes, found themselves further displaced due to the COVID crisis. Disposal and alone, many turned to the streets, similar to the crowded Victorian London alleyways. Flâneur naturally emegerd from such dissolation and dispair. In the crime-ridden streets and alleyways, there was a mutual recognition that we are in this together, and only when we come together will we survive. In that sense, something is humbling about the Romantics. To get an idea of that feeling of natural hope, determination, and community power over the tyrants, I'm reminded of a video posted by Invisible People, 'Story of Echo Park Lake's Homeless Community: 'Where Are We Going to Go'. The producer states, "The concept of community and love doesn't die when you're houseless. It's not an economic thing. People still need the love that comes from the community."
The video expresses the heart of the Romantics - power that stems from the love of the individual. Romantics see people before commerce and strive to return to a community that provides shelter, food, love, and economy. A power that offers a place for essential help and builds relationships with each other. Love for your fellow brothers and sisters in arms.
"People are still people. We need that love that comes from the community." Ayman Ahmed
"We are all human, and I'm happy to do this together," Paige
It's easy to divide the people when you isolate them from love and compassion.
Echo Park's situation shows the hope of 200 people displaced and in crisis but overcoming the odds with the community's power. These people echoed the sentiment, " I feel therefore I am." They came together to figure out a problem and were successful!
Sadly, as of Apr 1, 2021, Project Roomkey, a task force spearheaded by the local California government officials, cleared all displaced people, relocating them to hotels across the state. LA Times Columnist Erika Smith reports the fate of Echo Park community members as lost to the beast, "[they've] lost something [they'll] likely never to get back."
The Age of Romantics seldom survives in a cold, impartial world for too long. For one simple reason - the world allows the destruction of compassion over the industry.