Friday, July 6, 2012

When Safety Nets Capture

"The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people. "
Cesar Chavez

I feel an agrarian revolution is not only required but is imminent. I love reading Forbes Magazine for the self-satisfied interviews of bright people who molded themselves perfectly into the insulated, blind, fool on hill paradigm of Modern America and make six and seven figure salaries basically shuffling decks of digital cards so other people (web site owners) can read the information and decide what works on their dog sweater website. So, basically you can make a million dollars by being several steps removed from actual tangible skills and products. (some might say, that's the only way to make a million dollars.)  These are not jobs, they are gimmicks that will exist for a blink of an eye before we realize they have no value. These phony CEOs go to the store, buy 3 mangoes for a dollar and probably complain when the milk goes up a dime for every gallon. Those days are going to be short lived and I don't need to hire a financial forecaster to tell me that because common sense would tell you that spreadsheets are not as tangible as cotton. (Yeah, economists will argue differently because their job is on the line but I'm not fooled) The trick has always been a moral slight of hand that decreases the value of a mango farmer and elevates the value of internet commerce analysis (I really hope I live to see the day this hoax is exposed). I've really pondered why that is true and it basically comes down to the fact that most people don't actually want to live honestly by their own means and so they rationalize their own superficial careers to justify an exploitation of farmers and farm workers, honest people of the earth who produce tangible and required products, whose common sense prevents their entry into flim flam currency trading or the hedge fund black hole. (That sense isn't a flaw, it's an asset that think tank employees have defined as a flaw in propaganda.) That rationalization snowballs into a mass movement of exploitation and then into a vortex of cause and effect that produces systemic poverty (that requires billion dollar doctoral research groups to understand) and so on until the basic cause (lazy smart people) is completely buried in a pile of research papers and decades of accusations until the poor mango farmer is the "lazy dumb person" in the eyes of society. And that's the natural progression of an astounding lie: the Board of Irony defines the opposite as true and defends it with glossy think tank lies.
Take the violation notice I found on my van yesterday when I returned after my trip to the library. You would think going to the library would be safe, but for someone who lives in his van it means leaving the van unattended for a few hours at a city park. The van is an eyesore, as anyone in St. Louis will tell you, so the neighbors complain and the police come out and want to tow it. But it's parked facing in and that means they have to drag it out first and that's a hassle. Now, this is a city park on the map with picnic tables and I parked there because it was close to me and I took my moped to the library to save gas (like an idiot hippie). Now, I was so pissed off that I sat in my van for hours and fumed at society while reading my paper, cooking ramen noodles, playing guitar. They want an eyesore? I lit up the wood stove and had some hot dogs! It's 4th of July! Yippee! Smoke and sparks pouring into the brittle dry underbrush near an abandoned building. Fuck them.
But look at the notice! 
"This vehicle is in violation of (circle one). Either it's abandoned or violating a municipal ordinance. 
Which is it? Comrade Ayula doesn't circle either and even though he has a pen in his hand he doesn't write what the fuck I'm doing wrong. It simply says that the clock is ticking on my losing 100% of my property to the city. Why? Because they said so. What could I possible do to defend myself? What court would hear my plight that this is everything I own and I parked in a city park for three hours so I could go to the library and suddenly I'm at risk of being left with only the shirt on my back? 
"But, your honor, the notice doesn't say what I'm doing wrong!"
"Next case."

I'm glad I sat in the van for a few hours because eventually a woman came out with makeup dripping off her baggy, hateful face.
"'Scuse me? Sir? Sir?"
"Oh! (Fake sincerity and hospitality) Hello (Oggy puts his juggling pins down) Won't you come in for some hot lemonade? Excuse the mess; I had to fire the maid. Har har! Here, I'll sing you some Cat Stevens songs on my kazoo. Careful of the wood stove, baby, it's still hot because it gets so damn cooooolllllld down heah in Texas! Brrrrrr."
"Ok, honey, my naymuh is blah blah, and this is privit propertee."
"Is that right? I like it. Is it for sale? Nice view of the beach. How much you want for it? I'll give you a hundred bucks. But only if you include oil rights, har har har!"
"(nervously wringing hands) Honey, it ain't for sale, see, it's a private tennis club...see?"
"Tennis club? Well, that would explain all that fine pussy I see bouncing around in them short skirts! (rubs belly, licks lips)"

I was so pissed, but it turned out that I was parked in some high class, detailed Escalades and Porche 911 tennis club for the hot shot rich oil wives with fake sun tans and fake tits popping out of $200 tennis outfits (I watched them with lecherous eyes but grew limp when their pathetic serves fell short of the net). Of course the tennis club parking lot is right between two public parking lots and the only sign that would tell me that is like 15 feet above the ground and faded to total invisibility by the punishing western sun and pulverizing wind. So, I'm the asshole. Or am I? Why the fuck couldn't the cop write "Private parking Area" on the violation notice? Because that would mean he wasn't a programmed machine. And the reason I parked there in the first place is because the temperatures were like 101 degrees and NO ONE WAS PLAYING TENNIS! So the lot was empty. I mean it was deserted and only later in the day did some fancy cars drive through and give me the evil Texas eye from air conditioned comfort as I tossed a tennis ball in the air. Talk about bitter irony, I actually play tennis and have my racquet and balls and was delighted when I saw the courts until I was treated like a cunt.

Here's a challenge for y'all. You know the Jim Crow Laws? Separate water fountains/back of the bus/segregation and such? Well, I want a modern day equivalent title for laws affecting poor people like myself. But I want it to be cool. The source of Jim Crow came from some song and dance routine from 1838. I guess I could just call them "Oggy Bleacher Laws" and try to bring some fame to my affliction. But do you have a better name for these laws:
No large backpacks in library
no washing sleeping bags
No push carts on bus
No sleeping in car
No sleeping in library
No free parking
Limit on parking in visitor lots
Park Curfews
No loitering in park
no eating on sidewalk
no serving food on sidewalk
no sleeping in public
driving while poor
sleeping while poor

These are the laws I saw in Santa Cruz and these are the laws I see in Texas and they were here long before I arrived so don't blame me for starting them. They criminalize poverty and exacerbate poverty and they are not humane and actually don't serve any purpose except to humiliate and herd poor people around. They control and demean and hurt poor people. That's all these laws do but that allows the police to keep their boots on the homeless man's neck. I remember one argument against sleeping in the forest around Santa Cruz was that "The bums leave trash" Well, littering is against the law. So, are you going to fine someone for a pre-littering act? 
"He was sleeping, so he was about to litter."
You can defend these laws all you want and you'll join a long line of KKK members and cotton plantation owners who defended the Jim Crow laws from 1840 to 1964. 
Remember: In 1900 there was a reason blacks couldn't drink from the same fountain as whites in Mississippi. 
Georgia: All persons licensed to conduct a restaurant, shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room or serve the two races anywhere under the same license.
Florida: All marriages between a white person and a Negro, or between a white person and a person of Negro descent to the fourth generation inclusive, are hereby forever prohibited.
Arkansas: 1947: Public accommodation
This required separate washrooms for whites and workers of a differing race in all mines.
California: 1945: Miscegenation [Statute] Prohibited marriage between whites and "Negroes, mulattos, Mongolians and Malays."
Kentucky:1956: Employment. Provided that all persons, firms, or corporations create separate bathroom facilities for members of the white and African American races employed by them or allowed to come into the business. In addition, separate rooms to eat in as well as separate eating and drinking utensils were required to be provided for members of the white and African American races. Not following this law gave to offender a misdemeanor, a fine of $100 to $1,000, or 60 days to one year in prison.
I realize that arguing for the rights of poor people in America is like getting in line for free blow jobs at the Clinton residence, but I still feel compelled to say something if only to keep the tradition alive of Thoreau and Robert Kennedy. I'm reading a book, So Rich, So Poor by Peter Edelman. He's kind of an example of what is good and bad about the war on poverty.  He's been working on the issue for 40+ year and he admits it's only gotten worse. In 2011: 1 in 7 people were getting food stamps. 1 in 4 children. 46 million people. 20,000 new recipients added every day. 2 percent of the population or 1 in 50 have food stamps as their only income. It's grim statistics like this that make me believe a political solution is not something to look forward to. It's precisely because of the political machinations that lull the mango farmer or the cotton picker or the lettuce wrapper or chicken slicer into thinking "someone is working on my behalf." No. No one is working on your behalf. Peter Edelman's bills are paid by his anti-poverty work. He is invested in his work because it provides for him. He risks nothing by doing his work and he risks nothing if his work fails. He does the work that he is good at which is analyzing the conditions, causes and solutions to poverty, but he is a political individual and he is not a leader and he is not working on your behalf. A solution will never come from the top down and Peter Edelman is, like it or not, at the top...or at least not at the bottom. Martin Luther King on the other hand was a man of the people. He risked everything and was eventually killed for it and it's his work, his words, his actions that changed the Jim Crow laws. King could not risk defeat. Peter Edelman will never be assassinated for his work because he operates behind the safe velvet curtain of politics where failure or success never determine your reward. Yes, he investigates poor people but that isn't what poor people need. I admire Peter because he is doing what he can. Not everyone can be a Sir Wilfred Grenfell or Gandhi or Cesar Chavez or Che Guevara. Some people are Sergeant Shriver and they solve everything on paper. But when I see Think Tank workers analyze porn site visitations and make $300,000 a year and a lettuce picker makes $30 a day for three months a year then it's just common sense that something can't last. 
I feel it's only when I'm at risk do I see the situation as it stands and not as the PHS sociology teachers would try to explain it or how the insulated infants in their AC closets imagine life is. If you aren't having your teeth knocked out by the climate then you will believe you are safe. Good luck with that strategy. It's only when you hear the tow truck backing up to take your van to the impound lot that you understand how much control the authorities have over your life...and that risk is like a shot of crystal meth into my veins and it gives me power to speak the truth, to tell Walmart employees to go on strike, to tell farm workers that their work will always be more important and more valuable than nasty gal resellers and kissmetric click analysts...but they must seize their own value by saying no to poverty. It's a global strike and it will take courage to watch white collar PPC analysts starve to death because their algorithms can't grow food but they are a poisonous snake that civilization can not sustain. Maybe they'll qualify for food stamps but I will not personally pick their food for them and my goal in life is to unite the honest laborers in a global boycott of the amoral urban exploiter. We don't need their $150 Neil Diamond concert t shirts or their digital analysis of e-commerce traffic. They need our mangoes. Who will blink first?

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.