I’ve started picking up garbage at “The Field,” a big, disorganized encampment downtown (at Airport Way S & S Royal Brougham Way). The Field is unofficial, a place where people landed after the City closed down “The Jungle.” It’s what’s known as a “low-barrier” encampment, meaning that the people who live there may be doing drugs, or may have profound mental illness or other serious problems. They are not always capable of taking care of themselves or others, and one result is that trash accumulates in piles within the camp.
On the nature of being and other deep topics.
For several months before the election, this blog was about politics. Now, it’s about direct service. I’ve left the old material up for reference.
I was very much involved with local land-use policy, specifically the fight over dense development in single-family zones. At its root, that fight is about whether the benefits of growth will be fairly distributed among all residents of our city, or will instead be stolen by rich private businesses in collusion with ideologically-driven politicians. Sadly, the latter result is most likely.
Homelessness in Seattle is the result of corrupt and immoral politics. The influx of tech money and foreign money drives up the price of housing, people cannot afford the rent, and we see a 20% increase in homelessness, year-to-year. Support systems are gutted to pay for tax cuts for the rich, and our weakest and most vulnerable citizens are left to freeze, to starve, and to suffer without help.
I have turned away from politics, and to direct service. In these days, to care for our most vulnerable neighbors is an act of resistance. This blog will henceforth chronicle the struggle for survival that happens daily, right under our noses.
When I learned that Tr*mp would win, I was in the community tent at Camp Second Chance, an independent homeless encampment on unpermitted public land in West Seattle. I was happy that I was there, among vulnerable and dispossessed people – many people of color, women, and disabled – who have the most to lose.
Later, I made 20 cups of Sloppy Joes, which will be tortilla-wrapped sandwiches today for the residents of Camp United We Stand, another independent encampment, as they move their tents from Richmond Beach United Church of Christ to St. Dunstan’s Episcopal in Shoreline. I can feed people for about $1 each.
My new friend Polly Trout (who leads the support effort for Camp Second Chance) posted this earlier today: “May those of us with privilege use it as a community resource.” That is my position and this is what I am choosing to do. I am discovering that acts of service calm and focus me, even in the face of disaster. There is security in action.
I have spent the last couple of weeks preparing and delivering meals to homeless encampments and shelters. This is an education! Each encampment is different, with its own population, atmosphere, and support system.
I have delivered food to: Tent City 3 (77 people on N. 125th St.), Camp Second Chance (25 people on Myers Way), and Mary’s Place Family Shelter (women and children on N. 130th St.). I delivered a complete meal with beef stew and salad, prepared by a church; burritos prepared in my own kitchen; and pasta/bean soup prepared in the kitchen of a Zendo (Buddhist congregation).
At each destination, I found people who combined sadness with hope. These are folks who, at least, are not sleeping on the street, have other people around them for support and companionship, and who, upon my arrival, were receiving food from strangers. I did meet some people for whom desperation and chaos were obviously lurking just beneath the surface of their current, stable, circumstances, but where I’ve been so far, the systems are working.
What a week!
Seattle is nearly wiped off the map by a Pacific typhoon. Fascism grows like a cancer on the pancreas of the body politic. Hordes of drug-addled homeless people invade the parks, eating children and leaving booby-trapped piles of poisonous needles in their wake.
All we need now is war with Russia to make our anxieties complete.
It’s easy enough to see why some people are retreating into a fantasy of “the good old days” when America was a shining city on a hill, women were for keeping house and making babies, and everyone was white. We were safe, then, and the world was ours for the taking. Make America Great Again!
The storm-that-didn’t-happen disappointed everyone, I think. We need a little mini-apocalypse, just to relieve some of the tension!
YIMBYs hate us – “us” being, roughly, the baby-boomer generation – because we have betrayed their dreams. Instead of flying cars, we have drones armed with missiles. Instead of a world united in endless progress, we have melting ice-caps. Instead of a community of all humanity, we have homeless people shitting in the street and rising rents.
The Liberal generation has failed, generally speaking. The economy is fragile and poised to collapse. The world in riven by war. Black people are being gunned down in the street. The millions who marched in the streets against the Vietnam War and for Civil Rights have retired, with savings and medical care, leaving the young people to fend for themselves.
“The corporate state, no matter how many protests take place in American cities over the murder of unarmed citizens, will put no restraints on the police or the organs of security and surveillance. It will not protect the victims of state violence. It will continue to grant broader powers and greater resources to militarized police departments and internal security forces such as Homeland Security. Force, along with the systems of indoctrination and propaganda, is the last prop that keeps the corporate elites in power. These elites will do nothing to diminish the mechanisms necessary for their control.”
You think I’m gloomy? Read Hedges. As things get worse, we will see greater repression. Climate change will drive migrations and economic dislocations on a scale we have never seen before. The government has – I am convinced – been planning for military control of everything for decades now, in preparation for the breakdown of normal society in the easily-foreseeable upcoming times of trouble. And yet, as Hedges says, light brings light unto itself. Our acts of hope build hope in others. “Rebellion is not defined by what it achieves, but by who we become.”
Amazon is building giant glass balls at the base of its 38-floor tower in the Denny Triangle as part of its 3.3 million-square-foot office campus. These “biospheres” will house 300 plant species from 30 countries.This reminds us of: 1) the gardens at Versailles, and 2) the space bubbles in the 1972 sci-fi semi-classic Silent Running, wherein plants and trees were lofted from a dying earth to preserve them for an unspecified future salvation. As a show of opulent wealth, these grandiose constructions by Amazon are worthy of our new kings. As a method of preserving life on earth, we must reserve judgement. (There has been no public announcement of plans to install rocket motors on the spheres to launch them into space, nor for the provision of cute robots to tend the plants.)
Use of the spheres is restricted to Amazon employees; they will not be open to the public. There will, however, be “areas at the private building’s entrances allowing anyone to ‘experience the Spheres close up,'” according to the Seattle Times. The king is good!
Amazon’s giant Seattle biospheres come into focus with installation of first glass panels
by Todd Bishop at GeekWire – April 24, 2016
In his most frankly apocalyptic missive to date, Chris Hedges weaves together the decline of Athenian democracy – recounted by Plato in The Republic, and pictured above – with the modern-day devastation of Elizabeth, New Jersey which followed the closing of the Singer sewing-machine plant there in 1982. In the modern American experience, Hedges see the terminal symptoms of Empire reaching the end of its natural life:
Empire requires a centralized, authoritarian government that has no use for the demos. Greek democracy, always a patriarchy, was with the rise of empire extinguished. Corruption and a lust for power defined the new ruling elites. The citizen…became irrelevant. As the Athenian general Thucydides noted, the tyranny that Athens imposed on the outer reaches of empire, it eventually imposed on itself. Athens, like the United States centuries later, was hollowed out from the inside by the corrosive force of empire. The brutal tools of control used initially in distant parts of the empire—in our case militarized police, drones, suspension of civil liberties, wholesale surveillance and mass incarceration—migrated back to the homeland. This is how most empires die. They commit suicide.
He decries the evisceration of language and the rise of magical thinking. He warns of the emergence of “crisis cults,” dedicated to purging the society with violence and a return to a mythical past (cf. Trump, et al.). He abhors the illusions fostered by our all-embracing electronic culture.
The Wages of Sin
by Chris Hedges, at TruthDig – April 10, 2016
Jon Schwarz for The Intercept makes the case that colonialism is the key to understanding world history. Hitler, it turns out, was the ultimate expression of Western civilization, so called. Why am I not surprised?