Soundtrack by Czech band: Interpretace. Here’s a link:
Soundtrack by Czech band: Interpretace. Here’s a link:
This past Tuesday, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors took up the topic of whether or not to declare a shelter crisis in Humboldt County. At least 20 people came, mostly from the HSU Homeless Students Alliance to ask the Supervisors to recognize the well established fact that Humboldt County does not have nearly enough housing to accommodate its residents and workforce, and that emergency measures should be taken to address this problem.
The HSA is just the latest group to ask the Board of Supervisors to make this declaration. Concerned citizens and organized groups like AHHA have been pressing the county about this for years. The Humboldt County Human Rights Commission, after listening to dozens of hours of public testimony on the subject, has recommended that the Board of Supervisors declare a shelter crisis multiple times. The Board of Supervisors has repeatedly ignored them all.
The Board of supervisors didn’t have any problem taking swift and decisive action to address homelessness, when they thought they could do it by passing radical, draconian, and unconstitutional laws designed to criminalize poverty. Clearly the problem was serious enough that they thought it warranted infringing on all of our constitutional rights, but, alas, this punitive approach failed miserably, yet again.
When this policy of unbridled police state fascism failed, the county jumped on the “Mormon Miracle” called “Housing First,” but even the Housing First consultants, who the taxpayers pay to advise our Board of Supervisors, have told them that there isn’t enough housing in Humboldt County to make Housing First very effective. In reality, all Housing First does in Humboldt County is take housing away from working families, and give it to disabled individuals. We need housing for working families, and for disabled people, and we need it all to be affordable.
We have well established organizations with plans and working models, all home-grown, designed to solve our housing problem here in Humboldt County by creating affordable housing that works for the people who need it. They have made dozens of presentations and attended hundreds of meetings about it. This past Tuesday’s BOS meeting was just the latest. What did the Board of Supervisors decide to do about this serious problem at Tuesday’s meeting? They decided to form an ad hoc committee, which allows them to waste everyone’s time and money for another couple of years without doing anything constructive.
If they could have solved this problem by punishing people, this problem would have been solved years ago. We love to punish people here in Humboldt County, and our Board of Supervisors will eagerly implement our most sadistic impulses and write them into law, but we really hate to do anything that makes life easier on people. Most of us are too small-minded to see beyond our own petty resentments, insecurities and greed, and too well programmed by corporate propaganda to think for ourselves. We don’t mind working two low-wage jobs, just to pay the rent, so long as the people who don’t work that hard, sleep out in the rain. We’re literally just that stupid.
Even without a significant racial divide, Humboldt County gives Mississippi a run for the money in the field of bitter small-minded hatefulness. Honestly, I have never heard hatred and bigotry expressed more openly and frequently, against anyone, anywhere, in all my life as I hear it here in Humboldt County, against the poor and homeless. It is, by far, the ugliest thing about Humboldt County, and all of the media outlets here pander to that ugliness and promote it. It’s shameful.
Unfortunately, the American Genocide, extractive industries, and the War on Drugs have brought out the worst in people here in Humboldt County, and attracted the worst kind of people to Humboldt County for longer that anyone can remember. It shows. It shows in ugly attitudes, bitter resentment, and heartless insensitivity to the suffering of others.
We’re not getting anywhere by reasoning with these people. For them, reason is just a tool for getting their own way. They’ll say anything. Lying is second nature to them, and lying to themselves is first. They’ll make sure that the new ad hoc committee on homelessness does nothing but waste time and money for another year or two, while dozens of people die needlessly on the streets of Humboldt County.
We should stop wasting our time with them. Instead, I think we need to take a more revolutionary approach to homelessness. Instead of appealing to the better nature of people who clearly have no better nature, we should focus directly on providing the needy with the tools they need to secure for themselves, a home, and a brighter future here in Humboldt County.
Instead of appealing to the rich and insensitive to come together as a community, we should arm the poor and oppressed to enable their liberation. For $200 we can put a quality firearm in the hands of a needy homeless man. For $1 we can put a bullet in that gun. With a gun and some bullets, we can give homeless people the tools they need to claim their rightful home here in Humboldt County, the same way early settlers did when they first discovered this beautiful place. That is, by killing, and enslaving the people who already live here.
A lot of our homeless Vets have military training. Providing them with guns and ammunition would give them the opportunity to put that training to use here in the US, and they could train other homeless people how to work together to launch successful tactical assaults. Together, they could overcome any obstacle and rise above their current economic condition, even without the support of Humboldt County’s “Old Guard” or new rich.
Every cop we hire here in Humboldt County costs the taxpayers more than $100,000 a year, and hiring more cops has completely failed to address the problem of homelessness in Humboldt County. The Kevlar vests and semi-automatic weapons our cops carry cost a pittance by comparison. We could save a lot of money, and solve the problem of homelessness once and for all, if instead of hiring cops, we just gave the guns, ammunition and armor to to the people in the street who need them to secure their little piece of Humboldt County and participate in this proud Humboldt County tradition.
Even if we can’t raise the money locally, I’ll bet we can find foreign governments who would be happy to help us out. I know this isn’t a new idea, but I don’t think it has ever been given a fighting chance to succeed in the US before. We could be pioneers here in Humboldt County, with this new approach to solving the problem of poverty and homelessness. They’ll call it the Humboldt Revolution, and it will change the way the world sees poverty in America. It’s got to start somewhere. Why not here?
I know we need drug treatment options here in Humboldt County, and probably a corporate chain-store methadone clinic is better than nothing, but I can’t help but think that this new Aegis clinic is what they plan to give us instead of affordable housing. Not that long ago 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennell toured homeless encampments in Southern Humboldt with law enforcement. Afterwards, when she spoke to the press, she didn’t say, “Wow, look at all of these people living outside, I guess we really need more housing here in SoHum.” Instead, she said something like, “It sure seems like a lot of the people living outside in the rain and cold have drug problems, I guess we need more drug treatment.”
We got the same story from the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission. All year we asked the HRC to pressure the Board of Supervisors to declare a shelter emergency so that we could create some safe, affordable housing, and address the growing problem of vigilante violence against the poor and homeless here in SoHum. After more than a year of hounding willfully ignorant and purposefully dense politicians and political operatives about this, I finally got a call from HRC Commissioner Lance Morton to come talk about solutions.
So I make another special trip to town to meet with them, to talk about these alleged “solutions,” and the first words out of his mouth were, “We’re going to have drug treatment on demand!”
None of us had asked for drug treatment on demand. We went to all of those stupid meetings to demand that something be done about housing. We asked for affordable housing. We asked for tiny house villages. We asked for low-cost campgrounds and we asked for shelters. We also asked for respect for our human rights, and equal protection under the law, but instead, they bring us a methadone clinic.
None of my friends have problems with hard drugs. None of my friends can afford hard drugs. All of the heroin and Oxycontin addicts I know live in houses, and most of them own land, or their family owns land. My friends don’t need drug treatment; we all need affordable housing. None of us have very good housing options, and a lot of us have simply learned to do without.
Again and again we take our grievance to the Board of Supervisors and County Government. We explain the situation until we are blue in the face, and they look at us like they live on Mars and have no idea what we are talking about. After a couple of years of this, they come back and say, “Oh, we see what you mean, but you must be high on drugs if you think we give a fuck about your housing situation. Here’s a corporate chain-store methadone clinic for you.”
For us, Aegis will be just another shitty job that doesn’t pay a living wage. For the drug-addicted gentry of Humboldt County, however, who managed to support their hard drug habit for years, by growing cannabis and selling it on the black market, they can now get methadone treatment, close to home, at the taxpayers expense, through MediCal. Aegis will be an out-patient treatment center, and the only people likely to benefit from out-patient treatment are people who have homes to go home to, after treatment. How convenient! Politicians provide treatment options for addicted dope yuppies, while they heap the stigma of addiction on the poor and homeless. It doesn’t get much sleazier than that.
I found it both disingenuous and insulting to hear HRC Commissioner Lance Morton promote this new treatment center as a solution to the housing crisis. I’m sick and tired of of having my time and energy wasted by willfully ignorant politicians and political operatives who refuse to care about the real needs of poor and working people within this community. I’m even more sick of the heartless greed, punitive hostility and outright violence from the segment of our population who put those assholes on the Board of Supervisors in the first place.
The ugliness on display when someone throws a Molotov cocktail at a man sleeping in the doorway of a church, is a thousand times worse than the pitiful image of a poor man sleeping out in the cold. A poor person sleeping in the doorway of a church says “a man needs help.” Poor people sleeping outside, everywhere, says something else. It means there’s been a disaster, an earthquake, fire, flood, or economic upheaval. We had an economic upheaval. We’re beyond that now.
Today we have people sleeping everywhere, and we pay highly trained and heavily armed warriors to harass and evict them from anywhere they try to hide. Besides that, a segment of our population is not satisfied with the level of violence that our law enforcement officers meet out against them, so they form vigilante gangs that beat crippled old men to death, and set people on fire while they sleep. This is something else entirely.
Today, in Humboldt County, we’re looking at something like Apartheid, or an occupation, or Jim Crow. We’re looking at something much uglier than a natural disaster, and a thousand times uglier than a poor man who needs help. Here, the fascist business-class sends well financed, heavily armed warriors to beat-down and intimidate bedraggled, disorganized, traumatized, and addicted human beings who have committed no crimes, but have nowhere to hide and lack the strength to fight. These poor souls have no idea how to respond to the situation they find themselves in, and their only weapons against this oppression are the garbage and feces they leave behind and their own appearance.
That’s that’s all that’s left of humanity. That’s all that hasn’t been bought off or taken over by vicious, insatiable, fascistic greed. That’s what’s so ugly about what we see going on here in Humboldt County, and around the country, for that matter, and that’s why it’s so hard to look at it. Seeing desperate people on the streets reminds us of how much of our own humanity we’ve already sacrificed to participate in this whole exploitative system. This system kills us inside, but we can’t face what it’s doing to us, our planet, and our children’s future, so we take our resentments out on anyone who can’t, or won’t, get with the program.
We’ve constructed a perfectly exploitative culture that consumes our lives and destroys the planet, but instead of resisting, and standing up to it ourselves, we help the fascists wage war against humanity, profit from that war, and jeer at, beat down, and fire-bomb our broken brothers and sisters while the fascist system grinds them to dust. That’s a special kind of ugly, and it is definitely the ugliest thing about Humboldt County. Nobody wants to see that, and nobody wants their kids to see that, but here in Humboldt County, we have no shame.
I know, from the time I’ve spent looking for housing here, that if you have a dog, you are more likely to find a dead body, D B Cooper’s money, and bigfoot than you are to find a place to live in Humboldt County. If you’ve ever wondered why so many homeless people have dogs, that’s why. Unless you own your own home, in Humboldt County, you have a choice between having a landlord, and having a dog. Having had a few landlords, I can understand why a lot of people would prefer to have a dog.
Some people, however, NEED their dogs, and everyone needs a place to live. I got this letter from a homeless reader recently, and it should remind people of the kind of people our housing shortage really hurts.
Hi, my name is Lori and my wife Kate and I are new here in this area. Kate is a disabled veteran–she served two tours in Iraq as an Army medic. On her last tour, she was severely injured and then eventually medically discharged from the military. As she recovered back in the US, she dealt with PTSD and was unable to leave her house for months. She then got a Great Dane named Chief who would become her service dog and save her life.
With Chief, Kate was able to go back to school and finish her bachelors degree, then she went to nursing school and graduated with her RN. Chief passed away young, just before Kate graduated from nursing school. Luckily, Kate had Ozzy, our other Great Dane who became her next service dog. With Ozzy’s help, Kate was able to begin her career as an ICU nurse. In the meantime, we rescued another Great Dane named Gilbert, who would then start training to be her service dog (to take over for Ozzy when Ozzy was on break).
Kate blossomed with the help of these two amazing dogs. Kate was deemed disabled enough that she does not technically have to work, she could be collecting a check from taxpayers every month. Instead, she busted her butt and worked hard in a career field that would enable her to give back to society instead of being dependent. Almost 2 years ago, Kate decided to take a job as a travel nurse. We’ve been traveling the country since then with her two service dogs and we’ve had wonderful adventures with them. Kate worked in Crescent City last winter and we both fell in love with the North Coast. We decided we wanted to put down roots here, so when an opportunity came for Kate to work at Mad River Community Hospital, we were elated.
We decided to come to Humboldt County and were hopeful that we could get involved in the community here and stay for a long time. Kate loves her work at Mad River–from her supervisors to her coworkers to the folks she serves–Mad River has been her favorite place out of all the hospitals she’s traveled to. Sadly, we have been unable to find housing here in Humboldt due to Kate’s service dogs and we are officially HOMELESS as of this week.
We’ve stayed in an Airbnb and a VRBO, but we must be out of our VRBO (which is costing us just under $5,000/month) on Thursday as it’s booked with vacationers for the rest of the summer. We’ve spent weeks calling, emailing, answering every ad on Craigslist, even trying to find a clean used camper to live in while we are here. We have been turned down on the phone and in person by multiple landlords here because of the service dogs. Even when they meet us and see the Disabled Veteran license plates on our car, they’ve still illegally turned us down.
We’ve been turned down for housing because of “new carpet” and “new furniture” and just because landlords prefer not to rent to people with dogs—even a disabled veteran who depends on her dogs for functioning in daily life. Landlords here don’t seem to care that it’s illegal to turn away someone because of their service dog. We do understand that there are many people who try to pass off untrained animals as service animals, but we are not those people and we have proof. I’ve reached out to some veterans organizations in the area and I had a great conversation with Ryan from North Coast Veterans Resource Center, who says that this is a HUGE problem in Humboldt County and there are many disabled veterans suffering because local landlords are illegally refusing legitimate service dogs.
I think this would make a good story and speaking out about these issues might help others in the same situation. Maybe drawing some attention to our plight would help us find some housing as well. Kate earns a solid middle-class income, so we shouldn’t be HOMELESS, but we sure are, thanks to the slumlords of Humboldt County.
Sincerely, Lori Ann
Thank you Kate for your service, and for bringing your talents to the Lost Coast. Thank you Lori Ann for sharing your story, and thanks to Ozzy and Gilbert for making it all possible. To be a good story, it needs a happy ending. As it stands, it’s an important story, that reminds us of the continuing crisis that our Board of Supervisors refuses to address because greedy landlords pull their strings. I wonder how many of those landlord’s lives Kate has saved since she started working at Mad River Hospital. Welcome to the Lost Coast, Kate, Lori Ann Ozzy and Gilbert. I hope you find your “Happily ever after” home, soon.
Someone who left a comment in LoCO’s “Thunderdome” last week thought I showed poor judgment in who I associate with because I have friends who are “homeless.” I realize that “homeless” is a bigoted term, as is the term “dope yuppies” which I also used to describe other friends of mine. I don’t usually talk about my friends in such pejorative terms, but in the context of the piece, those terms brought their legal, economic, and political status into focus. I used the term “homeless” to emphasize the level of disenfranchisement and prejudice my friends endure.
I didn’t use the term because I think they are bad people, quite the opposite. Most of the good, decent and interesting people in Southern Humboldt lack adequate housing, or are subject to the fickle whims of SoHum’s notorious slumlords. On the other hand, the real monsters in this community all seem to have nice, comfortable, stable homes. Gary Lee Bullock is a good example of the kind of people who live in nice homes, and come from respected SoHum families.
Gary Lee Bullock was high on meth, as usual, and started terrorizing his neighbors, who called the cops. He fought with the cops, who arrested him and took him to jail in Eureka. In Eureka, they charged him, booked him, and released him on his own recognizance. After that, while aimlessly wandering the streets of Eureka in the middle of the night, Bullock broke into the rectory of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, and then tortured and killed Father Eric Freed, the Priest who lived there, before stealing Father Freed’s car and driving it back to his cozy SoHum home.
Zachary Brown makes a fine example as well, last Fall, Zachary, and a teenage accomplice beat an old man they did not know, almost to death, in the Garberville Town Square, with baseball bats. Zachary then walked back to his comfortable Garberville abode, leaving a trail of his victim’s blood all the way to the front door.
Then there’s Estelle Fennell, who works tirelessly to undermine the rights of poor people with new laws that criminalize poverty, ignores violent crime, as long as it is directed against poor people, and who appointed an unqualified Public Defender to make it even easier to railroad poor people into false convictions. These are the kind of people who have homes in Southern Humboldt. How could the people without homes be any worse?
I know that we have a few decent people living indoors here in Southern Humboldt, and a lot more who think they are decent people, and probably would be decent people, if they lived somewhere that encouraged them in that way, but if you are looking for genuinely decent, interesting people, you have a better chance of finding them among the people who pay rent, or can’t find a place to rent, than you do among the landed gentry.
That’s why I advocate for affordable housing and better treatment of the poor. I don’t do it out of charity. I do it because we need better people in SoHum. We need better people in SoHum, not richer people, or greedier people. We need better people, and better people have better things to do than squeeze bloody profits out of political corruption. Better people aren’t afraid of honest work, but they don’t want to work themselves to death either. Better people have better things to do. Nonetheless, better people deserve to be treated like human beings, and they deserve an affordable place to live.
The more we do to make life easier for people at the bottom end of the economic spectrum, the easier we make life for everyone, and the more attractive we make it for better people, and that’s how we build a better community. The problem is: the people at the top of the economic scale don’t see it that way.
Greed is a character flaw. It’s a kind of blindness connected to an inferiority complex. Greed creates a yawning chasm of need that enslaves greedy people who always want more. It comes across as pitifully coarse and shallow. Greed is insatiable, and it makes greedy people insufferable, and that’s a large part of the problem around here.
Greed takes a further toll when greedy bosses inevitably try to squeeze more work out of their employees. Overworked, poorly treated workers become bitter and resentful. Instead of resenting their greedy bosses, who they continue to suck-up to, they resent anyone who doesn’t work as hard as they do. Overwork tends to make people dull, and bitterness and resentment are not exactly attractive.
Finally, greed creates poverty. The needfulness of the greedy drives them to exploit the underclass, mercilessly, and the bitter resentment of overworked workers gets expressed in punitive attitudes and overt hostility towards the poor. Greedy people are too stingy to share, and resentful people like to see other people suffer, Together they they maximize the destructive power of poverty and inequality to destroy the lives of good people. Then they complain about all of the traumatized, and addicted people lying around who have no respect for this community.
You see how greed can really undermine the quality of the people, and the quality of life, in any community, but the black market in marijuana adds a whole new dimension to the sick, death-spiral of greed here in Southern Humboldt. As long as we remain focused on squeezing every last dollar out of each other, things are just going to get worse around here. On the other hand, everything we do to make this community more livable for people who don’t enslave themselves to greed, or work themselves to death, makes this community a better place to live, and tends to attract better people.
The other day, I saw a guy wearing a T-shirt from one of our local grow shops. Nothing unusual about that. On any given day, half the guys you see in Garberville will be wearing an advertisement for one of our local grow shops. I didn’t see which shop sponsored the shirt, because I didn’t see the front of the shirt, but the message I saw on the back left me dumbfounded. “Grow Big or Go Homeless” the black shirt loudly proclaimed in bold white letters.
Whoever came up with that slogan knows how to sell grow supplies. “Grow Big or Go Homeless” taps into growers’ fear. Everyone fears running out of money, especially growers. Growers tend to have pretty thin resumes, and the longer they grow, the less employable they become, so this slogan taps into the sense of desperation driving the current expansion in the marijuana industry.
People don’t think well when they’re frightened. Some people don’t think well at anytime. A lot of growers use money to insulate themselves from their own idiocy. They don’t like to think too much, but they know that having a lot of money makes life easier. The more money they make, the more silly ways they find to spend it, and soon, their lives become a death-spiral of greed and consumption that destroys natural habitat here in Humboldt County, wastes resources around the world, and contributes to global warming, while they poison themselves with their own stupidity. Just having to think frightens them, and thinking about money and the future frightens them even more.
A few growers have been paying attention, and preparing for the inevitable, others are getting out while the getting is good. As the marijuana industry becomes more professional and competitive, most Humboldt growers feel trapped. They know that they’ll never make it in the legal market, and they only have a few years left of the black market. So, like any compulsive gambler, they bet it all on this year’s crop, and made it a big one. If they can do it again next year, they’ll find a way to grow even more.
People bought a shitload of soil and garden supplies this year, at least twice as much as last year, and then trucked all of that stuff back to a rash of seeping scars on our hillsides, where they worked like dogs in the hot sun, breathing dust and exhaust fumes all day, just so that they can double-down on last year. Why? You can only grow so much weed, and the more weed you grow, the harder you work, and the less you make per pound. You don’t have to worry about getting caught. You’ve been caught. They’re draining the pond around you, so becoming a bigger fish won’t help. We need to evolve if we want to survive in this changing environment, and turning our backs on the world and burying ourselves in weed won’t help us one bit.
Pretty soon, everyone will have plenty of weed, and growing it will be just another shitty low-paying job. Like the rest of our shitty low-paying jobs, nobody around here will work them unless they can find an affordable place to live. In turn, even the marijuana industry will be forced to move elsewhere because they won’t be able to assemble the reliable workforce they need, here. We’re not preparing for the future, we’re digging a pit, and the deeper we dig, the longer it will take us to climb out of it.
Business owners already complain about how hard it is to find reliable help, and they complain about all of the homeless people hanging around town too, but instead of creating affordable housing that would make money, inspire people to take those shitty jobs and give them money to patronize local businesses, they’d rather grow more weed, and pay higher taxes, so that they can pay cops to chase poor people away from their phony downtown businesses. It’s ridiculous, and it’s cruel, and it’s just one facet of the ridiculous, and cruel, War on Drugs, but there it was, distilled down to a slogan you could put on a T-shirt, “Grow Big, or Go Homeless.” Have we lost our minds?
Marijuana used to mellow people out, but today it has got them acting crazy. I realize that the answer to every problem we’ve faced in the past has been, “grow more marijuana,” but the future demands something else from us this time, and the sooner we realize it, the better. It speaks to the failure of our government, that it waged a War on Drugs against it’s own people, and it speaks to the bankruptcy of our economic system that we rely so heavily on the violence, corruption and human suffering wrought by the War on Drugs, but ultimately, how we handle this situation, here, together, as a community, will determine our fate. We have got to do better than “Grow Big or Go Homeless,” if we want to build any kind of a future here in Southern Humboldt.
I read recently that HumCPR has agreed to purchase a number of shipping containers that they intend to convert into emergency temporary housing, and that a HumCPR member has agreed to host this emergency housing facility on his property in Eureka. It’s about time Humboldt County landowners stepped up to the plate on this issue, and even though this is a baby step, it seems like a baby step in the right direction, for a change.
Until now, I’ve seen landowners take a mostly punitive approach to poverty and homelessness. They’ve used their political power to pass a regressive sales tax (Measure Z) which unfairly burdens poor and working families, and then made sure that the county uses that Measure Z money to harass Humboldt County’s poorest citizens. Eureka’s new, grossly unconstitutional, panhandling ordinance is another example of local landowners pressuring county government to directly and intentionally violate the human rights of people who lack the resources to defend themselves within the system.
Landowners should remember that the right to free speech, which includes the right to ask for help, the right to assemble, the right to protest, and to seek redress for their grievances, are inalienable human rights. These rights, among others, are not bestowed by any government. Human rights precede the Constitution, and they supersede all government regulation. Every human being on Earth was born with these rights, and every human being has a right to fight for and to claim these rights using any means necessary.
Property rights, on the other hand, are a contrivance of government and have no meaning outside of it. Your right to own property only exists so long as the government which grants those contrivances enforces them. Government enforcement costs money, and it costs substantially more money when large portions of the population do not consent to be governed and actively resist government control.
It costs a lot of money to send a cop out into the street to harass poor people. It costs even more to arrest, book and charge someone for violating an unconstitutional city ordinance. On the other hand, any poor person can take revenge for these violations armed with nothing more than a rock, a pack of matches or even their own excrement, and are completely within their rights as a human being to do so.
As long as landowners use government to oppress the poor and deny them their basic human rights, landowners should expect the poor to make war against them. In fighting this guerrilla war against oppression, all private property becomes a fair target and violence is completely justified. As long as Humboldt County landowners pursue a punitive approach to poverty, this guerrilla war will continue to escalate. As the government sends more cops to violate people’s rights, more people withdraw their consent to be governed, and instead seek to undermine government control, destroy private property and claim their inalienable rights by any means necessary.
Landowners cannot win this war. That should be obvious, by now, to anyone with their eyes open, but the sooner they recognize this, the better. Landowners can only lose this war. Every time someone calls the cops on people for hanging-out, talking to their friends, sharing food, smoking, imbibing, asking for help, trying to sleep, or any other ordinary activity of normal life, for which poor people endure endless harassment, they create enemies. Every time they create an enemy, they escalate the war. Every time they escalate the war, it costs them more money to protect themselves and their precious private property.
As this war escalates, frustrations rise on both sides. The more landowners and merchants express this frustration, in conversation and in public forums, the more they lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the community. It’s nearly impossible to complain about poor people without sounding like a complete boor, and few people who attempt it, pull it off gracefully. Nobody with any class wants to hear you complain about poor people, any more than they want to hear you complain about (insert racial epithet here). This kind of talk does no good whatsoever, and it turns people off. On the other hand, it’s hard to criticize someone for helping the poor, even a little bit.
So, I won’t even try. Instead, I’ll take it as a rare sign of intelligence. Maybe local landowners have finally come to their senses, and realized that it makes more sense to solve the problem than it does to fight the war. Here’s hoping we see more steps in this direction in the future.
Now that the weather has turned cold and rainy, I worry about my friends here in SoHum who lack adequate housing. I know it looks like we have a bunch of houses and a few trailer courts around here, but most of those structures have been at least partially, if not entirely, converted to indoor cannabis cultivation. Nobody lives there. Because of that, a lot of the people who work at the restaurants, stores and hotels in town, and on the pot farms in the hills, live in their cars, or camp in the woods.
They really don’t have a choice. There’s just not enough housing available for the number of people who work here, so people make do. The cannabis industry, by nature, does not create a lot of steady, reliable jobs. Instead, it suckers people in with the promise of big profits, which rarely turn out as planned. It’s a gamblers game, and everyone has their ups and downs.
Our corrupt Sheriff sees thousands and thousands of illegal, habitat destroying, salmon killing dope farms on “google earth,” but sends his deputies out to harass poor people for talking to their friends on the sidewalk in Garberville. We have dozens of unsolved murders, countless other violent crimes occur here daily, and multiple global organized crime networks operate here with impunity, but Sheriff Downey sends his Deputies down here to act as bouncers for the merchants in the Garberville business district, and to evict people from their makeshift shelters.
A lot of people see no problem with this. They think the sheriff shouldn’t worry so much about crime, and should instead focus on sweeping poor people out of town. Really, we don’t care about crime. We like crime. We are crime. We take pride in our outlaw status, but we prefer to cater to more upscale felons, and we expect the Sheriff’s Department to rid us of the riff-raff, whether they’ve committed any crime or not.
It’s a strange attitude, considering how much Southern Humboldt relies on, and takes advantage of poor people. Poor working people grow, process and sell almost all of the millions of pounds of cannabis grown in SoHum. Besides doing most of the hard labor and taking most of the risks, they pay most of the hotel bed tax. Poor working people, who can’t find a place to live, often rent hotel rooms to avoid inclement weather, shower, do laundry, charge cell phones etc. Poor local homeless people keep our SoHum’s hotels in business, and clean the rooms every day, besides.
Last year, the county passed another tax, specifically targeting the poorest taxpayers in Humboldt County, Measure Z. The new sales tax, targets the poor in more ways than one. First, it taxes the poor when they buy necessities, like clothing and toiletries. Then it gives that money to the sheriff, who uses it to harass them, evict them from their makeshift shelters, and drive them out of town. I know Measure Z is a county-wide tax, but folks in SoHum loved the idea and pushed it hard. I’ve never known people to work harder to screw poor people than they do here in SoHum.
You will hear a lot of rhetorical references to “community” in Southern Humboldt. We have the world famous Mateel “Community” Center, the equally famous Redwood “Community” Radio, and we talk about “this community” a lot, but we use the term euphemistically. What happens here in SoHum is something else entirely.
SoHum has become a “Mecca” for greedy, self-absorbed drug-dealers who make their money by destroying communities all over America. Ordinarily, drug dealers lead secret lives, alienated from the community around them by the clandestine nature of their occupation. They tell lies to avoid arousing suspicion and keep a low profile, while they undermine community values and enrich themselves.
Drug dealers parasitize communities the way ticks parasitize dogs. Here, however, we have thousands upon thousands of ticks, piled on top of each other, posing as a dog. From a distance, it looks like a dog, but when you get close enough to touch it, you’ll find nothing but a mass of blood-suckers eager to feast on you.
Sure, drug dealers feel a camaraderie with each other, here, that they don’t often find elsewhere, and they are always eager to make connections, especially profitable ones, but that doesn’t make them a community. Instead, think of them as card players in a poker game. On the surface, they maintain a “poker face,” and appear friendly and cordial, but beneath the calm exterior, they are all scheming to take advantage of each other.
That’s not really what you call “community.” Communities work together to take care of each other. That’s not what goes on here in SoHum. People come here to play “the game” and make money. They’re not interested in any “seventh generation” bullshit, and they don’t give a damn about the “common good.”
“The game”, of course, is the cannabis industry. Some people win at this game, but a lot of people lose. Merchants and non-profits create lots of opportunities for “high-rollers” to get drunk and blow their winnings, and, of course, we kick the penniless losers out on the street. Doesn’t that sound like a casino to you? If you ignore all of the hollow talk about “community” and think of SoHum as a gambling casino it becomes easier to understand the dynamics of this place.
We don’t do charity here. No one wants to help the less fortunate. Everyone here wants more for themselves, and the people who have the most, want more still. Instead of charity, we have “community non-profits” where the richest people in this community decide what ridiculously expensive luxury they would enjoy most, and then convince everyone else to donate time, money and energy to make it happen.
You might have noticed that we have a top-shelf concert hall, a high-powered radio station, a fancy new town square, and a huge new community park with an organic farm and soon an athletic field infested with soccer moms. Imagine those things as crystal chandeliers suspended over the gaming floor of a huge casino. You know how casinos are. Casinos overdo the luxuries, until everything reeks of too much money and not enough taste. Casinos spend money on extravagant luxuries, like crystal chandeliers, in a futile attempt to conceal the general sleaziness of the place. We do the same thing here in SoHum.
Those chandeliers do nothing to dignify the activity going on beneath them, but that’s why so many people around here can find money for a new “chandelier,” but have nothing but contempt for the people who do most of the work around here, pay most of the taxes, and still have no place to live. Clearly, the people who live here, have the resources to solve SoHum’s housing crisis, but in the casino we call “SoHum” people obviously have other priorities.
People talk about homelessness as though it were a choice. How many times have you heard someone say, “If that’s how they choose to live…” when talking about homeless people? What a ludicrous idea! Homelessness happens to people. They don’t aspire to it. They don’t plan it, and few are well prepared for it when it happens to them. People don’t choose homelessness. Homelessness is what happens to people who run out of options.
On the other hand, people do choose to become middle-class. The aspiration to become middle-class is so pervasive that it has acquired a nickname. We call it the American Dream. Yes, people choose to become middle-class. They aspire to join the middle-class. They work to achieve middle-class status, and even after they’ve established themselves within the middle-class, they never quite feel middle-class enough.
A lot of people choose to live a middle-class lifestyle, and it’s a choice most people make without giving it a lot of thought. It’s an expensive choice. The middle-class lifestyle consumes people’s lives as greedily as it consumes the earth’s resources. The middle-class lifestyle doesn’t happen by accident. It takes dedication and lifelong commitment to join the ranks of the middle-class.
At the same time, the middle-class lifestyle has a very poor record of making people happy. As anyone raised in a middle-class home can tell you, the middle-class lifestyle ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Still, people throw themselves at the middle-class, like proverbial lemmings over a cliff. Even real lemmings aren’t that stupid. What gives?
You see, most people don’t choose a middle-class lifestyle because it looks particularly attractive. Most people choose to become middle-class because the prospect of homelessness frightens them so much. In this way, the middle-class are a lot like Christians, who abstain from earthly pleasures, not so much because they dream of someday flying through the clouds playing a harp, but because they fear the fires of Hell.
This kind of fear grows into resentment. In the same way that deeply frustrated Christians vent their resentment at gay people and women seeking abortions, the middle-class vent their resentment at the poor and homeless. In both cases it’s a gross display of stupidity, gullibility and cowardice aimed at the most vulnerable. Like Christians, the middle-class have been frightened into believing a fairy tale that controls their lives and makes them resentful of non-believers.
No one forces them to become middle-class. I’m sure they feel a lot of pressure from family and friends, not to mention the media, and society at large. Even the government tries to enforce a middle-class lifestyle through policy, sanction, and ordinance. However, the decision to pursue a middle-class lifestyle remains a personal choice, and one that can only be realized through dedication and hard work. Still, it’s a choice most people make without much serious thought.
We know that most of the serious crises we face today, like global climate change, habitat loss and the extinction crisis, result directly from too many people choosing a conventional American middle-class lifestyle. From a scientific perspective, it seems clear that the single biggest threat to our long-term survival, is our global infatuation with becoming middle-class. If we actually thought about it, we’d realize what a destructive, high-maintenance, low-satisfaction lifestyle the middle-class have chosen. Few of us would eagerly repeat their mistakes. But instead of thinking, we blindly perpetuate a culture of fear and oppression that serves only the super-rich, while it pushes us all relentlessly towards extinction.
Who do we blame for this? Invariably, we blame the poor. We blame the poor for not pulling their weight. We blame the poor for frightening children, driving off tourists, blocking sidewalks, and especially for not going away. Then, when they finally crack, under the pressure of poverty, lack of sleep, poor diet, constant harassment and social isolation, we blame their poverty on mental illness. How does this make sense?
If you ask me, I say, “Blame the middle-class.” Blame the sniveling cowards who turned their backs on humanity and stuck their tongues deep into the rectum of the super-rich, just for the chance to spend the future, today. Blame the middle-class for their greed, stupidity, and cowardice. Blame them for their choices, because the choices were all theirs to make.
Whether it was their lack of imagination, their gullibility, or their infatuation with bright shiny objects that lead middle-class people to make the dreadful decisions that define their lives and shape our world, ultimately, blaming people doesn’t solve the problem. To solve this problem, people have to learn to live differently.
I realize that you’ve heard this before. “Create a sustainable lifestyle” has been a mantra of environmental organizations for decades, environmental groups that rely mainly on the middle-class
for their support. Still, if we manage to survive this century as a species, it won’t be because we developed some new clean energy source, it will be because we learned to live differently.
Do you remember that part of our Humboldt County heritage? You’ve seen the experimental houses, the strawbale, cobb, ferro-cement, and wattle-and-daub buildings, the yurts, tepees, wikiups, and benders, the domes, tree-houses, house-trees, and the thousands of funky, idiosyncratic little wooden dwellings that grace our Humboldt County hillsides. Those houses exist because a lot of people came to Humboldt County to experiment with different ways of living, not to become middle-class yuppies by growing dope.
We’ve seen how these experiments pay off economically. The Solar Living Center in Hopland, and the Schottz energy lab in Arcata come to mind immediately, as examples of how a modest cultural experiment can catalyze change and create real economic opportunities.
We have a long history of experimental, owner-built housing in Humboldt County. We need housing now more than ever, and we need housing that works for people, rather than vice-versa. We need to learn to live differently, and few things reflect the way we live more than the homes we live in.
Here in Humboldt County, we have the opportunity to take a humane approach to our housing shortage, and open a door to the future, or not. People need a place to live. We can continue to deny our neighbors the dignity of privacy and a place to escape the elements, or we can create the kind of cultural incubator that solves problems, sets trends, and creates the economic opportunities of the future.
Class War against the poor will never succeed, and the middle-class will never be happy with what they have. We need to find another way to live, and if we want to know what that looks like, we need to allow the people who need it the most, an opportunity to build it for themselves.
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.