Ok, I’ve had a lot of fun with the whole situation in Garberville, and I think the levity was completely in order, but a lot of people are very frustrated with the situation, and they want SOLUTIONS. So, I’m here to help, seriously, but we don’t get to solutions without doing some analysis first, and that includes taking responsibility for the disastrous consequences of our consumptive middle-class lifestyle, and it means taking responsibility for economic policies that have kept wages low, while housing, health-care, fuel and other costs soared. I don’t care whether you voted for Reagan or not, if you want solutions, take responsibility, otherwise we can just play the blame game till we’re blue in the face.
The middle-class really needs to get over their Boomer era Populuxe expectations, especially the expectation that they will be surrounded by only middle-class people. We can’t all be middle-class, and really, not that many of us should be middle-class, ecologically speaking. It takes a lot of working-class people to support a single middle-class person, so we should expect to have many more working-class people than middle-class people. Get used to it folks, there are a lot of poor people around.
On the other hand, it shouldn’t suck so much to be poor. Ever since Reagan, we’ve had this attitude that we should punish and humiliate the poor as much as possible, so that we might thereby motivate them to work harder to become middle-class. In reality, punishing the poor drives down wages and keeps housing prices high for everyone. Seeing desperately poor people on the street makes middle-class people feel less secure, and the super-rich exploit that insecurity.
This is why grown adults with full-time jobs need a roommate to afford an apartment. This is why so many salaried employees put in 60 hour weeks to meet their work load. This is why fewer Americans than ever can afford their own home. This is why so many healthy able-bodied adults have decided that the jobs they can get don’t pay enough to be worth their time. That’s how the super-rich uses the dirt poor against the middle-class.
Look at where punishing the poor has gotten us. Still we have plenty of resentment to go around. We punish the crazy, because we don’t want halfway houses in our neighborhoods. We don’t want to see them and we don’t want to pay for them. We punish the addicted for their weakness. We punish the young and adventurous because they remind us of our lost youth and we punish the lost and confused because we just don’t have time for other people. We punish them all because we see them as blemishes on our middle-class dreams, but the ones we resent the most don’t have any excuse, do they?
I’m talking about the healthy young people who have decided that the jobs they can get, don’t pay well enough to be worth their time, and that their time is better spent learning to live without a job and without a home. More and more people are making that decision, not because it looks like an attractive option, but because it looks like a better option than any of their alternatives. They would rather sleep outside in the rain and scrounge for food then work themselves to death, and kiss ass all day for a rented room, a TV and enough beer to ease the pain. These people have resentments too. Just sayin’
We all like having someone to punish. It makes us feel better about how much we punish ourselves in this stupid economy. We punish the poor, because we want poor people to suffer more than we do in our struggle to be middle-class. The struggle to be middle-class sucks so much because being middle-class is a totally unsustainable lifestyle. It has nothing to do with the poor, except that every person now struggling to be middle-class makes the whole world poorer, and helps the super-rich enslave us all. That’s what middle-class people do. It’s nothing to be proud of.
Thanks to three decades of trickle-down economics, welfare reform, and the Great Recession our population of punishable people mushroomed. Despite the economic pressure, despite the social stigma and open hostility, they have learned to live outside of mainstream society, and there are now enough of them that they have their own society. The more they talk to each other, the more they identify with each other. The more they identify with each other, the more they support each other, and the more they support each other, the more insulated from, and immune to the punishments of, the mainstream culture they become. So, we become like the Israelis and the Palestinians, or like Black and White America, two segregated societies that hate each other, living in the same place.
This problem is not going away, and it’s never going to get better without compromise, leadership, foresight and understanding. Knowing this community as I do, that means it ain’t gonna happen, and instead, things will go from bad to worse. The whole situation is very revealing. Poor people can’t afford to conceal their ugliness, and having ugly poor people around brings out the ugliness of the middle-class. We now see just how ugly and dysfunctional American society has become. The situation is so pathetic that probably the best that will come from it was the small amount of humor, and insightful analysis I was able to glean from it for this blog.
But just imagine for a moment… What if we had some thoughtful, enlightened, cultural creatives among our local gentry? What could they do to make the situation better for everyone, and to make Garberville a much better place to live?
Right now the number one need in this community is housing. We need housing more than we need ball fields, schools, parks, roads or anything else. By ignoring that need, in favor of perks for the middle-class, like ball fields, concert venues or the town square, we provide adequate reason for the homeless to despise the gentry. Everything we do to relieve that pressure, will also reduce that hostility, and pay off in better life for everyone in Garberville.
SoHum prides itself as the heart of the “back to the land” movement, where once upon a time, people bought cheap land, and built their own homes without permits. The Boomers now make sure that no one ever gets a deal on land like they got, but a lot of people would still like to build their own tiny cabin, somewhere where a landlord won’t evict them, and the cops will not come tear it down.
If you’ve been to Oregon Country Fair you’ve no doubt noticed how harmoniously hippie architecture can blend into a natural environment. It doesn’t happen by accident. OCF has volunteer building inspectors that look for genuinely dangerous or particularly ugly structures, and cites them, but mostly, people can build what they want. A lot of people would really appreciate an opportunity to build their own little home, and would have a lot of motivation to make it work. Half Habitat for Humanity, half Oregon Country Fair, part campground, part tree-fort residential subdivision, entirely innovative, entirely SoHum, we could make it happen if only someone with some land around here actually gave a fuck.
Even without building a single other structure, we could probably solve our housing problem another way.
Right now, about half of this county’s available residential housing has been converted to indoor marijuana farms. Why are half of our residential houses full of marijuana plants, while thousands of people sleep outside? That’s insane. Every grow house is a crime against humanity, and a crime against nature, and if there is any role for the cops it should be to bust every indoor grow scene in Humboldt County.
Frankly, I don’t think the cops will be much help. Cops aren’t going to solve this problem. This is a “crumbling society” problem, not a “law and order” problem. If our social problems could be solved by a pin-headed red-neck with a gun, they’d have all been solved a long time ago. These problems were created by pin-headed red-necks with guns. We need unarmed hippie solutions, the kind we used to have when pot was cheap and it all came from Mexico, before we got greedy and decided we wanted to be middle-class.
The pressure should come from the community. We should hear PSAs on KMUD about how to recognize a grow house, how much damage to the environment comes from growing marijuana indoors, and especially about how many families go homeless because greedy drug dealers have taken over our residential neighborhoods. Homes are for people! Get the pot farms out of our residential neighborhoods. This isn’t just common sense, it’s common decency.
Another common sense, absolute desperate necessity is a reasonably priced campground with bathrooms and a coin-operated shower. State campgrounds charge $35 a night for camping, which is highway robbery (Fuck You, State of California!). That’s why you only find rich retirees camping at them anymore. The county charges $15 dollars a night for their campgrounds. That’s closer to reasonable. Reasonable does not mean, “competitive,” reasonable means a price that people will actually pay, rather than take their chances finding a place where they can crash for free.
We get a lot of budget conscious tourists who are resourceful enough that they don’t ever have to pay tourist prices for camping. Currently, the only people who welcome them are the homeless. If the townsfolk welcomed them with the kinds of services they need at a price they’re willing to spend, these tourists would not so quickly identify with, and become a part of the local subculture, and local entrepreneurs would make money from them. Again, this is just common sense.
Here’s something a little more ambitious, but desperately needed, an affordable, cannabis-therapy-based treatment and recovery camp. We all know people who have beat serious addictions to alcohol, narcotics, tobacco,cocaine or speed, by using cannabis. Decades of prohibition have deeply enmeshed cannabis users and growers alike into the black-market drug trade. A large part of the money that comes into this county, comes from individuals and organizations that deal in other, more addictive substances, along with Humboldt’s finest cannabis.
Addiction is a huge problem both among SoHum’s housed community as well as the unhoused. A very rustic, drug-free, cult-like, cannabis intensive retreat, built around a culture of recovery, mutual support, mutual-sufficiency and community service has enormous potential around here. We have the rustic. We have the addicts. All we need is one good Pot Doc with cult-leader aspirations. At the very least, it would help a lot of people quit hard drugs, take a lot of pressure off of the community, and do a lot of research on cannabis and addiction.
And while we’re dreaming…. Here’s another good idea: Economic diversity, and by that I mean, make space for tiny businesses, and local artists. Support them. Celebrate them, don’t just exploit them, or force them out of town.
Eureka and Arcata both have rocking Arts Alive nights every month. Garberville could do it too, but it would take planning, and some commitment to make it happen.
Now, I expect most of the people who own land around here to think: “Why should I do anything for them?” Here’s why: Doing all of these things helps to shrink that “problem population,” and it creates the illusion that people actually give a fuck about their fellow human beings. That makes it harder for people like me to make fun of the situation, and it gives people more options, which makes it harder to take sides. In reality, it’s a diabolical strategy designed to subdue insurgents. They call it Psy-Ops.
Every time you put someone in a home, you cut the homeless population by one. Every time you get an addict off of drugs and into a cult, your problem shrinks. Every time a tourist sees an entrepreneur bending over backwards to accommodate them, the less likely it is that they will camp with the homeless, get to know them and and decide to stick around. And of course, every artist who can count on reliable local work because someone at the C of C makes Arts Alive a priority, means one sarcastic critic with a sharp pen, has something better to do.