• "God invented war so Americans could learn geography" -- Mark Twain.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The One Percent Holocaust

Silicon billionaire Thomas J. Perkins has criticized the "persecution" of the rich by the radical poor as a "Progressive Kristallnacht." 

Perceiving "a rising tide of hatred" against  "the successful one percent," he likened the Occupy movement to brownshirts and noted "the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to [sic] its war on its 'one percent,' namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'"

Oh,  it's simply intolerable the way those progressive poor shatter the complacent well-being of their betters.

Of course, Perkins' "parallel" between the suffering of the rich and the victims of Nazi ethnic cleansing is outrageous in and of itself.  Even Marie Antoinette, never claimed she was persecuted for eating a brioche.

If Perkins' remark were just a matter of "historical insensitivity" it could be chalked up to the unsurprising and typical psychosis of wealth.  But there is an important and notable civic disease that lurks in this One Percent Attitude.

Perkins' indignation was triggered by San Francisco neighborhood protests against the Google Bus.  The Silicon Valley behemoth has decided to privately bus its young, six-figure techie work-force from their dom-pods in San Francisco to their hermetic work-stations in Googleland.  The wifi (and no doubt latté) equipped buses allow google-drones to commute in expense- and hassle- free comfort while concentrating on "productivity." 

The problem with this perk is that it promotes the relentless metamorphosis of San Francisco from an economically and culturally diverse city into a mono-cultural, corporate enclave. 

The Bus encourages the "relocation" of young upwardly mobile, six-figure salaried employees into the city and this (surprise!) results in upwardly mobile rental and real estate prices.  The cost of living in San Francisco has gone through the roof and (surprise) those who can't "keep up" have "fallen through" rather large cracks in the floor. 

So what's wrong with that?  That's what "free enterprise" is all about isn't it?  In fact, yes.  That's what's wrong with free-enterprise as an unregulated catastrophe.

What is the "value" of the old San Francisco?  Economically nothing.  No one profits from a city which was not very efficient, profit-wise. Or, put a little more precisely, whose character reflected a now out-dated profit mechanism.

But what made San Francisco unique in the American landscape was that it was a city where rich and poor lived in astonishingly close proximity.  It was not simply an ethnically diverse city -- although it was that; it was economically diverse as well.  Because it was also a  small city, constrained within geographical boundaries, the diversity mingled. San Francisco was not only a place where old Italian men, young stockbrokers, Chinese women with bags full of chicken feet and Swedish carpenters or longshoremen might find themselves hanging shoulder to shoulder on a cable car, it was a place where these different people concoursed in varied venues of shared interests from boating to opera to bordellos to cafés and eateries.

People said that San Francisco was the "most European" city in the United States.  In a way that was a misnomer. San Francisco was far too ethnically diverse to be European.  What made it seem European was its economic diversity.  It was a civic place comprised of different classes working more or less in rough and tumble but "civilized" harmony.  

The politically correct harping on the virtues of ethnicity has blinded people to the fact that multiculturalism is more a question of economic and occupational diversity than it is of "color". People monotonously doing the same things (as in sitting, sipping and staring) accepting the same cultural premises (the value of ever innovative technology) are not diverse no matter how many shades they come in.

Just as the Romans "created a desert and called it peace" the Google Bus creates a homogeny and calls it harmony.  Yes, San Francisco remains "ethnically" diverse.  Google Drones come in all colors and eye shapes but they are all the same.   That's what the Madwoman of Chaillot understood.

It is incorrect to think, as Perkins does, that opponents of the Google Bus are protesting against economic disparity maliciously envious of his obscene wealth.  They are in fact protesting for economic disparity -- for a place where disparities of wealth share commonality of space.

To say that the neighborhood protestors are being "priced out" by waves of richer immigrants incorrectly likens a city -- the polis -- to a pair of shoes; to something you can afford and get as opposed to an environment you live and participate in.  San Francisco is not San Ferragamo

Moreover, to sneer that the less-rich are being priced-out ignores the legal-violence that accompanies out-pricing.  Not being able to afford a commodity reflects the loss of some possibility; not being able to afford the rent is accompanied by evictions, dislocations and a raft of adverse consequences and hardships including loss of job, loss of time due to increased commute times, loss of educational and cultural opportunities for children and so on.  The out-pricing in fact results in what might be called dispersion camps -- outlying zones to which the economically weak are deported and kept at hand as needed for menial tasks.

Café Trieste

The real Nazi in this puddle is Perkins, for what he really wants is poor-free enclave for economic Aryans