Gentrification at the SoHum Community Park
I got a lot of feedback on my most recent letter to the editor regarding the Southern Humboldt Community Park, almost all of it positive, so I decided to “double-dip” on the SoHum Community Park issue this week.
I found it especially gratifying that Dennis Huber mentioned my letter on his KMUD radio show, Monday Morning Magazine. I’ve got nothing against Dennis. In fact, I like him, or at least I want to like him, and I enjoy listening to his radio show. I mean, I’ve never met him, and I’m not sure I would recognize him if I saw him, but he does put together a good show, and he obviously puts a lot of work into it.
I think Monday Morning Magazine is one of the best shows on KMUD, and it provides us with a good example of what community radio should be. I don’t always agree with Dennis, but I know he means well, and that he undertakes his work for the Community Park with the same spirit of generosity and civic duty as he does his radio show. I just think that in this case, his generosity is misplaced.
On the other hand, my motivations for writing a letter to the editor in defense of wild blackberries at the park are entirely selfish. I love wild blackberries, and I especially love the blackberry patch that is targeted for replacement with AstroTurf ball fields. Those blackberries are especially delicious. They ripen later in the season than other local blackberries, providing an abundant source of sweet fruit well into September. Convenient parking, easy access and a nearby port-a-potty also contribute to making that blackberry patch an especially attractive community asset, and one that I personally utilize quite a bit.
My self-interest aside, I think the community park board’s alleged concern for the well being of this community’s young people is disingenuous. I think they are using young people as a cover for their plans, just like they used local craft artists as a cover for their plans to move Summer Arts and Music Festival to the park. Moving Summer Arts and Music Festival to the community park won’t help local craft artists at all. It might help the Mateel turn the only decent craft show in SoHum, into a music and marijuana festival subsidized by local craft artists, like they’ve been doing ever since the Reggae Wars, but it won’t help craft artists one bit. The park board would have known this, had they bothered to ask any local craft artists about it.
As I pointed out in my letter, Wilhelm Reich would argue, and I agree, not having a baseball field and not playing Little-League baseball would actually be a blessing to SoHum’s young people. Reich pointed out, I think correctly, that the serious global problems we face, like fascism, technological warfare, slavery, oppression and the environmental crisis, are symptoms of a sick culture, not a flaw in human nature, and that those problems can only be solved by changing our culture, not by the development of new technology, or the expenditure of capital.
Thus far, we have completely failed, as a culture, to address the underlying causes of the environmental crisis. If your generation couldn’t stop the conversion of the natural world into garbage, pollution and disease, and instead only accelerated it, what makes you think your kids will be able to solve those problems, especially if you saddle them with the same suicidal culture that you were born into?
I know that here in SoHum, we like to pretend that we’re not part of the dominant culture. We think that because we smoke marijuana instead of drinking martinis, and watch John Stewart instead of Bill O’Reilly, we’re part of an “alternative culture”, but those are just two sides of the same coin, minted from the same bankrupt currency. Just because competitive team sports play a big role in the culture that wrecked the natural world, that doesn’t mean that competitive team sports have any role in a culture capable of saving the natural world.
When it comes right down to it, all we really have to offer kids is a bad example and a degraded, overpopulated planet. Considering the enormous challenges we have foisted upon the younger generation, not having a baseball field is the least of their problems.
No, people don’t build ball fields to help children. Instead, parents remember ball fields from their childhood, and build them for themselves. Then they teach their kids to play baseball, buy them bats, balls, gloves and uniforms, and drive their kids to Little League, whether they want to go or not, because it makes them feel like superior parents, and gives them the opportunity to live vicariously through their children. Really, in a world dominated by the effects of Global Climate Change, the last thing we need is another excuse for rural parents to drive their kids around.
Besides being culturally regressive, ball fields at the community park would be bad for the environment, bad for kids, and bad for blackberry enthusiasts like me, but who would benefit from developing the park in this way? Obviously, this project would put money in the pockets of contractors, manufacturers of AstroTurf, retailers of sporting goods and uniforms, and big oil companies who will happily sell rural parents even more planet destroying fossil fuels to drive their doomed offspring all over creation. Besides that, plenty of people around here think like big oil companies, and expect to profit from this project in the long run.
These people don’t care that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. They don’t give a fuck about building a sustainable culture from the ground up, and they don’t care about your kid’s future either. All they care about is money, and getting as much of it out of the land around here as they can. Those are the people who expect to reap the most profits from developing the community park.
Real-estate agents, developers and bankers have plenty of reasons to encourage destructive, unsustainable development in SoHum. Investors and businessmen, like the ones who have denuded our hillsides, diverted our creeks and killed off our wildlife with pesticides for their mega-grows also have plenty of reasons to support expensive, man-made, middle-class amenities at the community park, and all of those reasons contain a dollar sign and a decimal point.
There’s a name for the kind of development going on at the community park, and it happens all over America. They call it gentrification. Gentrification doesn’t build community, it undermines community. Gentrification doesn’t make a place a better place to live, gentrification makes it a more expensive place to live. Gentrification doesn’t help young people, it makes the place too expensive for young people to afford, and gentrification doesn’t attract artists or cultural creatives, it drives them out. To replace them, gentrification attracts vapid, greedy, status-conscious yuppies who haven’t had an original thought in their entire lives.
That’s what the Southern Humboldt Community Park is all about: driving poor people and young people, as well as the last of the artists and cultural creatives, out of the community, and replacing them with stupid, bloodsucking yuppies who will consume what’s left of our natural beauty, leaving nothing but garbage, pollution and ugliness in their wake. Yes, the Southern Humboldt Community Park Board seeks to uproot the thorny, unmanageable, self-reliant, generous and sweet individuals who currently thrive here, and replace them with a phony, toxic, and expensive imitation of suburban middle-class affluence in order to help the richest and greediest among us acquire more money.