Saturday, October 6

Living in Omelas

Today I rode to the top of Twin Peaks at sunset and, wheezing, enjoyed the stunning view up there. Then, after darkness came, I wandered through my peaceful neighborhood, past the painted Victorian houses, to Dolores Park and met up with folks for a free outdoor movie. In the distance, we could see fireworks over the bay. The day left me struck by what an incredibly beautiful and rich city I've found myself in.

The other thing that strikes you about San Fancisco, is its vast, intractible, stinky and widespread homelessness problem. The disconnect reminded me of the classic Usula K. Le Guin story The One's Who Walk Away From Omelas, which I recommend to anyone who hasn't read it.

[Whether the Omelas analogy is truly apt is another issue.]


Blogger Steve Peterson said...

I'd imagine that the reason SF has the problem is because the city government doesn't make a practice of actively persecuting and driving the homeless away -- unlike other places.

So, really it's more like homelessness is America's problem, and a few places take it on themselves not to sweep the issue under the rug -- which strikes me as very different from Omelas.

11:29 AM  
Blogger dan said...

I agree - the similarity is more a 'vibe' thing driven by the city's contrasts.

SF is a 'destination city' for homeless folks from other places. I think it's not so much because of better treatment here or services (which have declined a lot in recent years) but the company of thousands of other street dwelling addicts. It reinforces the behavior (by making it seem normal) and makes rehabilitation less likely. Read the article I've linked to via the word 'intractible' for a good portrait of this community.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's an extraordinary documentary called "Jesus and the Old Man' about homeless people in Caracas, which is well worth tracking down (especially if you can speak Spanish).

It was made by homeless people. It's one of the most spiritual and inspiring things I've ever seen.


9:23 PM  

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