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.