"The streets were my refuge. And no man can understand the glamor of the streets until he is obliged to take refuge in them, until he has become a straw that is tossed here and there by every zephyr that blows."
- Henry Miller (Tropic Of Cancer)
...does big business thank the government for tax breaks, bailouts, rigged bids and protection from procescution?
Of course not, they're the customer; all that stuff was bought and paid for with women, money and goods...but that's how perception works, one can think big business runs the country, but the reality is different...they're like gamblers who think they have a winning system, or an effective rabbits foot, like in Phillip K. Dick's "Solar Lottery," where luck was considered ability.
Same with the police and the homeless...society pictures law enforcement relentlessly hunting down the homeless, to ensure that the rituals of four dollar coffee drinking and enjoying the tech boom while it lasts, isn't alloyed by the sight of a subhuman whizzing on the sidewalk...notwithstanding the fact that no cop is ever going to make detective by busting tramps, most police enforcement of laws prohibiting overnight parking and vagrancy tends to run counter to the black and white outlook of the contemptuous who talk about police action the same way janitors are ordered to clean up a spill.
In cities that have major problems like murders, rapes, and drug trafficking, the officer on the beat has to prioritize time and a car with a homeless person in it isn't worth the paperwork if there's a crime wave going on.
If anything, that sleeping person is an easy mark for a mugger, and it's better to know where that person is than to move him along, possibly deeper into a crime zone (or to a respectable neighborhood where there'd be an immediate call to arrest the poor guy).
I'm not saying that the police tolerate homelessness, but there's clearly a sympathy that exists with most officers we encounter. They don't view themselves as society's hatchet men, that's a 1%er stereotype...they tend to grow into pragmatists and protectors with experience and while there's always exceptions, the sight of a patrol car generally reassures me...though there'll always be the thought in the back of my mind that I could win the lottery and get a cop that wants to put my entrails on a stick, it's only happened once in seven months, and even then, it was catch and release after a severe chewing out about the evils of living in a rest stop.
The police and the homeless do have one thing in common; both are viewed as outliers by many people and in particular, the wealthy and privileged tend to treat police like hired help. Yes, they will crack down on a homeless camp if ordered to...if not, they'd rather be out after bigger fish.
The lot of the homeless would be a lot worse if the police were in lockstep with the people who view transients as vermin...luckily the average officer on the street views his or her job as making sure everyone, both high and low, are safe.
There was a time when smoking a joint could get you ten years in prison, but that changed with time...there'll be a time when society will look back on how the homeless problem was treated and realize that it was punishing or neglecting a symptom of a larger problem.
I've heard homeless praise the police many times, none have ever praised a CEO...
...nomads and the concept of property...
The conflict between the propertied and nomads isn't a recent development...as far as back as you care to go, there's always been tension between those who believe in private or state ownership of land and nomadic tribes...often settled by genocide and war, and dates back to the first instance where someone felt that property was worth a man's life...in all fairness, the early nomads were sometimes trying to kill or rob the settler. In America, this clash tended to be portrayed as barbarians trying to halt the advance of civilization...but it was really just run of the mill imperialism with the usual propaganda about a bloodthirsty subhuman enemy to justify subjugation and genocide.
Past wars are often started over the commercial concerns of the wealthy, with buy in from the Church and other allies, and often end up with the coerced or paid participation of the common man...the concept of individual willing to buy into the program ran and win a mini-kingdom in the form of a house or farm, with the right to kill an intruder was a powerful motivation for a settler, which ensured that the war against native Americans stayed vigorous to the end...
...squatting as original sin...
One of the biggest sins in early American history was squatting, which would quickly bring out the authorities, or if necessary, the militia or army, even if the settlement originated from squatters on Native American land...the point is, the concept of state and private property evolved in this country in a way that had the buy-in of even those who could at least dream of property ownership.
If you read the media stories about community concerns and complaints about the homeless, it's obvious that local governments and police forces are more often than not, reluctant to take the kind of action that the community demands...business and property owners are generally the angry ones, and expect authorities to at least move the problem elsewhere, calling on the cavalry to drive off the lowdown and dirty from their delicate eyes and preserve the resale value of their investments.
...gentrification is really a two sided issue...
It's a one sided view to think that gentrification is an improvement simply because the place gets more expensive, as nothing happens in a vacuum...if the middle class gentrifies a poor neighborhood, they view it as "raising the value" of an area, which previously did have an equal value to society as a place where the lower income workers, who make the middle class lifestyle possible, can live and grow.
Instead, the takeover is more like a bad treaty with some Native American tribe, complete with promises to assist the poor in moving which mainly pay the bureaucratic support system, create low income housing that will be built, if at all, too late and with insufficient capacity to help, and with the primary intent to just keep people talking and stalling till the fait accompli of a gentrified neighborhood is well under way.
Like a big corporation that pays wages at the poverty level, gentrification and other developments that radically shift the poor into other areas already crowded with the poor, is an environment ripe to create more homelessness via displacement, particularly in an area with overheated property values, and foists the social costs onto the taxpayers, most of whom have no stake in the matter.
There should be no doubt that major elements of the conflict between the propertied and homeless is rooted in a class system that goes back centuries, and the perceptions not far removed from the concept that a settler could take up a musket and shoot an intruder on sight.
...money simply clouds the issue, it's what people think a life is worth...and there is always a hidden cost to aspects of American prosperity...
That's not a self defense concept, it's a perception of what a person's life is worth if they own property or not...the idea that in a natural disaster, the National Guard should be wasting their time shooting looters is an achronism in a age where the real issue should be access to government relief funds or insurance if one's store or home is robbed.
...some Americans think beef comes from the grocery store, others think oil comes from a gas pump, and yet others think homeless just come to their area from elsewhere...
Many Americans probably couldn't pass high school history and geography if a snap quiz was given to them...as a result, many events and developments seem to come out of nowhere when covered by the media, and they accept propaganda at face value with a faith stronger than any Holy Roller or political party...
Like the war on terror...yes, it's a real war, with real people who would like to kill every American, and spend every waking hour thinking up ways to do so...but terrorists are killing people all over the world, but the ones we're bombing and doing drone R&D on threaten our oil supply, and while the average American doesn't make the connection at the pump, that gas has a real human cost in blood and treasure.
It's easier to think that our government wants to protect us from fanatics who cut off heads on TV, than to realize that our lifestyle has a human cost.
That goes for homelessness, which isn't a growing problem because people are lazy, drug addled, or want to be; it's one of many symptoms of a societal change that's being driven by new technologies and of course, the people getting rich from it.
Most Americans are a long way from truly understanding homelessness, and comprehending an era that historians will see was as much about change as the advent of the automobile or steam, and like those eras, the transformation of a multitude of livelihoods and subcultures into irrelevant skills and lives.
...the mythology and reality of "homeless camps"...
A homeless camp is a label that's become the standard term for a gathering of transients, and like most generalizations, misses important details and can even be misleading.
Using the term "camp" glosses over the fact that it's really a third world type slum, and generally forms and develops along the same lines. The community and media's motives for using the term is self serving, as is redefining the same type of poverty in cities as an "inner city" area; it's really modern society ignoring or being in self denial about poverty in a nation that presents itself as the apex of freedom and prosperity.
America is very much like the Industrial Age British Empire, with a huge gap between the rich and poor, and a lifestyle built on the labor of coolies and in our case, the well paid labor of an elite that has access to the emerging technologies that will obsolete many of the jobs that exist today...as that process developes, the gap will create larger and largerbpockets of poverty that will rival the infamous old London slums.
Homeless camps or tent cities like in SF) are pockets of poor people who find a seam in the system that in Silicon Valley requires an extortionate rate to live under a roof, and will be tolerated for at least a while as many of the inhabitants are part of the underpaid service sector force. That's true for other cities also.
There's nothing complex about a homeless camp. A few people find a place, often by a river or stream, like the Guadalupe and Coyote Creek camps were, and the word gets out that it's a safe place to live (which it often isn't for women, etc), and the area becomes populated.
As the numbers grow, so do the percentage of drug users, chronic transients, mentally ill, and for lack of a better term, slobs.
At that point the ills of a third world slum begin to manifest due to lack of basic services...garbage and raw sewage pile up, conflicts and crime increase (at least in surrounding areas), and finally the media notices and gives the homeless there the one thing that they and even local authorities dread; coverage in the news.
That sets off the usual firestorm of concern, outrage, action by various special interest groups and a combination of essentially cosmetic civil assistance and police action severe enough to satisfy the public that the scourge has been cleaned up.
What actually happens is that a small percentage will be assisted in finding affordable housing, most that want that help will be put on a waiting list and are on their own again, and clean up crews sent in to clean up the mess.
The local press will trumpet the efforts by local authorities to restore the area back to it's pristine state for joggers and bikers, and the homeless will scatter to try and find a new place to at least sleep.
America doesn't tolerate slums unless it's making somebody a lot of money. Slum buildings are among the most profitable businesses, as there's only the initial cost of buying the building and virtually no operating costs, just rent income coming in.
When it's time to get out of the business, there's perhaps a convenient fire that recoups the original investment in insurance money or the government taking over the place at market value, or any amount really, as it's just all icing on an enormously profitable cake.
The poor need a place to live, and in our current society, have been made an integral part of the cost structure...you can't eliminate or push them out of reach or there'll be no labor force to perform all the low paid jobs that can't be outsourced to five dollar a day workers in another country.
Homelessness is a symptom, not a lifestyle chosen by derilicts, druggies, loafers and losers. It's one of many human crisises created by a country that has transformed capitalism from a profit motive sensibility for businesses into a philosophical outlook on life that has winners and losers; like Ancient Greece that became a Balkanized bunch of elites ruling over women, the unenfranchised poor and slaves, till Alexander The Great came along and conquered them.
Homelessness is really just of the many facets of poverty.
America has become a country with a rich elite that's becoming richer, a shrinking middle class, and a dream that says most can still buy into it, and that anyone can win the lottery of life and join the privileged.
What do the winners, the 1%ers think?
Property values in New Zealand, which is considered to be a haven from the coming world crisises, are skyrocketing, offshore banks are thriving, millionaires are building bunkers and safe rooms, and the bodyguard and private security business is booming.
The rich know where this country is heading, and have chosen to protect their fortunes instead of reforming the system. As long as society buys the line that unrestrained big business is good for the country, there'll be homeless, and eventually a lot worse.
Starting with the next blog entry, I'll be changing the format of the Delta Snake Review, restoring the "sequential" features that will be uploaded throughout the month in brtween the Monday Al and Ivy feature, which will be written in a slightly different style...after a great start in the last few weeks, for which I thank all the readers, it was a good time to evaluate the Review, and make some adjustments to make it better and better.
The Ivy Corner: in which she provides compelling glimpses of life on the road.
Today's Topic: Staying hydrated
Ivy understands the importance of staying hydrated for the sake of the grass and plants she helps keep nourished, and keeps her power water bowl nearby at all times.