More than addressing the lives lost during this past winter, the City of Portland is most concerned about remaining unhindered in carrying out the business of the city, unencumbered by the plight and challenges of the homeless. Business as usual is unacceptable and despite this acknowledgment from the mayor; business as usual continues unfazed.
I like Portland. Unfortunately, history demonstrates an ongoing, concerted effort to impel to leave, those who do not fit the economic scheme desired by those in power. You see, Portland has become quite fair in complexion. It’s a city typically perceived as being hip and open-minded but these two things don’t necessarily coincide long. Gentrification ultimately swallows up the hip enclaves of urban communities, another casualty of capitalist behavior where open-mindedness takes a back seat to conformity. Profit before people is how the game is often played. Once homeless, the human is no longer a profit center to be exploited and is, therefore, expendable without sorrow.
Activists have shut down city council meetings because the mayor and the city continue to put city business concerns ahead of human lives. Now, in lieu of listening to the pleas of constituents, the mayor and city council are looking at ways to simply stop the disruptions. Working with the ACLU, they’re attempting to find legal wiggle room in order to continue business as usual.
Portland is a large city. When we look at the concept of a city, some things become painfully obvious. Cities need their goods imported. This obviously means the city is not self-sufficient so in order to survive it must maintain the importation of goods indefinitely. The problem is that this type of behavior is unsustainable. It ultimately leads to those of us who have and those who do not have. A city is a massive hierarchical structure where there is no top without a bottom. It’s a smaller version of civilization.
Cities are also businesses. The bottom line is, ultimately, all that matters. Eyesores like low-income housing or a homeless population don’t bode well for an image that’s trying to attract investors and tourists. Portland is therefore no different from any other city. The only difference is perception. Portland is perceived to have a progressive reputation. However, when examined closely, it begins to crumble.
The city is experimenting with Tiny Homes for its homeless population. The project is named, “A Place for You.” The idea is to place those without homes into tiny homes in the backyards of willing homeowners. Portland residents also passed a $260 million dollar housing bond but it will be years before the units are ready for occupancy. “Homeward Bound” is another project that provides bus tickets for those living on the streets so they can relocate to a destination where family support or a job awaits them. This is a common program in many cities including the likes of San Francisco, Oklahoma City, and San Diego.
So as we place folks in backyards or put them on buses headed out of town, the root of the homelessness continues to be avoided. Civilization and therefore cities simply produce inequality and injustice. The business of a city is to reinforce the methodology of the parent that birthed it; civilization. Civilization requires a bottom to support what lies above it. There is no privilege without oppression. There is no wealth without poverty. There is no top without a bottom.
Should the city of Portland be able to carry on its city business obligations without constantly being disrupted week in and week out? No. Even the ACLU and a federal judge agree on this point (see ACLU link above). The city considered barring repeat disruption offenders for a designated period of time but balked when examining the legal ramifications of such a policy. Still, what seems to be missing is a sense of priorities.
Until we as a global industrial culture decide that life (all life) is more important than profit then and only then will we begin to see clearly the root of our destructive living arrangement. We keep shuffling the deck in the hopes of a better hand. As George Carlin said, “The game is rigged.” Besides, life is not a game even though many believe it is.
So as those in our most prized cities go off to work in their”eco-friendly” cars, drinking their brand name coffees and dining at their trendy restaurants, people will continue to live out existences filled with humiliation and suffering at the hands of “progress.” It says a great deal that a city council meeting takes precedence over life itself. But hey, at least tiny houses are still considered cool.
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