In a world of web-based instantaneous connection, politically correct outrage has become the norm. People have nothing new to say, but they are now much louder about it, using every channel at their disposal ! Anything remotely out of the norm has become an easy target for the political correctness police.
Thus, as a potentially dangerous activity (see here) hovering on the fringes of legality (see here), it is no surprise that Urbex is a big no-no for so many folks out there.
Don’t get me wrong. Some bullshit calling on the movement is definitely in order.
Certain critiques, on the other hand, surf on the above mentioned fashionable outrage and are just ludicrous.
The legality of Urbex (private ownership and property issues) and the activity’s safety concern (including endangering others) being the two biggest ethical-philosophical thorns, I’ll address both in independent, seprate articles (they can be found here and here).
So, what else do the righteous folks policing the internet have to wine about these days ?
Well, some arguments are certainly worth a good and thorough analysis.
Thus let’s take a look at the “never resolved issues” of privacy, and well, self admiration.
First, then, the more trivial issue: egomania.
To the outsider, Urbex is nothing else but a self grandizing nihilistic activity flourishing in an ego obsessed culture. The morons who engage in it seem more extreme every day, in their search for “likes” and online pseudo-recognition. People will take insane risks in the name of their God-given right to 15 minutes of fame. Urbexing then, is the equivalent of “duck face selfies” for the immature adventurer.
While it is true that the movement in now saturated with urbex pornographer (yea, you read that right!) who’d like to be sponsored by Red Bull and featured on Buzzfeed, one must bear in mind where the Urbex movement comes from. From its underground day, to today’s full media view, we Urbexers were always about “doing some epic shit“.
I can’t have much influence on the naive ego fetishist culture I live in. But I can be alert and understand that while Urbex is a movement that likes to brand itslef as “rebel” and “subversionist”, it is often nothing else then an adolescent trip to a paper-thin rebel-land.
So….What can WE do about it ?
I would like to believe that self-awareness is 90% of the answer. Think about it this way: you’re less likely to be a cunt, if you ask yourself “am I a douchebag ?” once in a while.
So that’s that then.
On the other hand, and this an actual real moral conundrum to me, there is the very touchy question of privacy in Urbex outings.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t give a crap about a site’s “rightful” owner and the suposed privileges confered to him by his property (see trespass). But I do care about the people actually living, squatting or passing through. I think life takes precedent on ownership titles. I am funny that way.
I don’t give a shit if people are there because they are homeless (wait…read on) or to shot up drugs. I don’t care if they are there to party, or to live. What I do care about, is the fact that I am on their turf. An uninvited guest at best.
A fucking parasite at worst.
There is often insensitivity to those people who are compelled to live their lives in a context of dereliction: homeless, drug addicts, gangster wannabees or even party animals attending an underground rave.
Again, what can WE do about this ?
I have found that politeness goes a long way. If people care to engage, acknowledge them…and reciprocate. Talk about stuff. Why you’re there, what you’re doing, why you care about the place…More often then not, they’ll respond in kind, telling you about themselves and sometimes even the place. At the end of the day, you might even get a free guided tour out of the deal.
Hence understand this; DO NOT show up in a known living space with your 12 buddies, armed with zillion lumen torchlights !!
If you still decide to do it anyhow, and someone takes a swing at you with a baseball bat, put it on instant karma, and move on with your life. You’ve probably deserved it.
In his book book Access all Areas, one of the founders of modern Urbex, American photographer Ninjalicious, had a short phrase to sum up his Urbex ethos : Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints and kill nothing but time.
It still holds true.