Today my comments are more political than I usually express on this site, but those of you who know me will not be surprised at my views. In the midst of everything else, including cancer, some things must be said. All the religious talk in the world, and not even the specter of death, can spare us the obligation to look at what’s happening around us.
I read this morning two disturbing articles about where our society, at least here in California, has drifted over the past few decades. It is a well-known fact that California is awash in money but at the same time has some of the highest poverty and homelessness rates in the country—meaning that millions are living in poverty, and tens of thousands are homeless. Yes, the causes of all this are enormously complex, and I don’t want to paper over that fact. It is not a pretty situation.
But what is particularly disturbing is that the “haves” are beginning to demonstrate more out-spoken judgment of those who are less fortunate, and whose lives are not as “successful” as those who have carved out a piece of the California (and especially the San Francisco) pie for themselves.
For example, the San Francisco Chronicle has been running a series of updates on a group of well-to-do apartment dwellers who have hired a high-end pro-landlord lawyer to fight Mayor London Breed’s attempt to establish a navigation center nearby. They are spending tens of thousands of dollars to fight off the presence of the poor. This same NIMBY attitude is demonstrated in Sacramento, where Mayor Darrell Steinberg has challenged each district of the city to name a site for the location of a navigation center. So far, only two council reps have taken him up on the challenge, offering two or three potential sites. The others are sitting on their hands. Meanwhile, the city sponsors an annual dinner for the rich which takes over a public thoroughfare, the Tower Bridge, less than a mile away from homeless encampments along the river.
Today’s Sacramento Bee ran a full-length story on the harassment by citation of homeless (and disabled) people who have had to resort to camping along that city’s American River Parkway—punished for the crime of being poor and homeless while their council members refuse to lift a finger to help them, despite the mayor’s admirable efforts. (See https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/homeless/article228738554.html). And this morning’s New York Times ran a story on trash pickers in San Francisco—people (including a veteran) reduced to combing through the garbage of the super-rich in order to make ends meet. (See https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/07/us/trash-pickers-san-francisco-zuckerberg.html). Something is seriously wrong with a society where some, growing increasingly fatter and richer, do nothing to ameliorate the plight of the poor—and worse, judge them, arrest them, and wish them disappeared permanently from their perfect little playground.
Nowhere in California is this development worse than in San Francisco. Fueled by a Silicon Valley economic philosophy that has no real ethical compass beyond the negative carve-outs of libertarianism, San Francisco stands as a living representation of the moral bankruptcy of SV ideology. (I say this despite my long family history there, and despite so many good friends whose lives and views belie this larger reality). It is small wonder that many people with a conscience and a sense of justice are calling for radical solutions where the status quo refuses to budge. In this, too, California may be a harbinger of the future.