Recently, journalist and political activist Mike Zint and some of his associates were recounting some of the best anecdotes about the good old days when the Occupy Movement was getting started. Then they started lamenting the fact that some of the oral history of all the protest movements are in danger of becoming lost. Shouldn’t someone (like those studying journalism or documentary film making at the University of California in Berkeley?) make a concerted effort to record some of the best stories on video while they still can? Simultaneously, some local merchants are busy trying to discourage and disavow Berkeley’s world wide fame for being in the forefront of the anti-Vietnam war protests.
Do large numbers of tourists go to Oxford England to see where famous scholars taught and did research? Is North Beach, the San Francisco neighborhood made famous by the Beat Poets, a bigger and better known draw for world travelers?
Sure Berkeley is full to capacity on the fall Saturdays when the UCLA football team comes to town, but what can be done to draw crowds during the summer months?
If an entity called “the Hippie Hall of Fame” is ever to be built, why not in Berkeley?
The list of famous artists, musicians, writers, and political protesters who were at one time or another part of the Berkeley community, is astounding and that, in turn, causes us to postulate the premise that if the Berkeley business community wants to increase tourism, they might want to consider the possibility of building a home for the Hippie Hall of Fame.
Is there an audience wanting to hear about the trials and tribulations of the Vietnam war protesters? Shouldn’t Berkeley be anxious to tell the world about various writers (such as Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guinn, Jack Kerouac, and Alan Ginsberg) who were Berkeley residents? The Hippie Hall of Fame might be a legitimate way to draw visitors to Berkeley. Isn’t Wavy Gravy (wavygravy dot net) a Berkeley resident?
Doesn’t a pioneer in the field of rock criticism call Berkeley his hometown?
Simultaneously while the business community’s hopes to bring more tourists to the area, they are also anxious to see the local homeless people go elsewhere.
Thursday, January 22, 2015, was a warm day filled with California sunshine and so when we walked into downtown Berkeley CA and noticed that the usual crew of homeless young folks was absent, we didn’t take much notice. The next morning KCBS news radio reported that the day before had been the day devoted to taking an annual census reading of the homeless. Such an odd pair of facts might be connected, we mused, and so we considered traveling to the secret location of the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory located in the near-by foothills for an expert analysis of the odd coincidence.
Then we realized that since one of the objectives we hope to achieve with our weekly exorcises in online punditry is to prod the audience into doing their own thinking and commentary we should just ask the readers if they see any possible connection.,
We asked Ninja Kitty on Friday where the kids were on Thursday. He said that the police had made a sweep of Shattuck on Thursday and chased many of the panhandlers away. Why would they do that on the day when the Homeless census was supposed to be conducted?
A Berkeley cynic noted that since the new semester at the University of California in Berkeley had just begun, it was traditional for the local authorities to do sweeps of the downtown area to remove the homeless so that parents delivering their daughter for the new semester would not become unduly alarmed by the sight of the panhandlers.
Could it be that politicians don’t want to solve the homeless problem because the capitalists want homelessness to be a very unpalatable existence and thus provide disgruntle workers with a strong motivation for putting up with inconveniences just to keep their jobs?
We have asked several of Berkeley’s homeless if they agreed with our contention that the problem of homelessness is not meant to be solved. Most concurred. If, during the Great Recession, workers could not be manipulated and intimidated by the possibility of becoming one of the panhandlers, then there would be no great fear of becoming a rolling stone. As it is, a married man with a wife, kids, car payments and a mortgage has enough to handle and the thought of coping with that menagerie while living in the car can be very effective sword of Damocles. Don’t most of the homeless perceive the poor schmuck as being played as a sucker? What single young man doesn’t fancy himself as the title character in a picaresque novel that tells the travels and adventures of the new Dean Moriarity?
Our fact-finding on the topic of homelessness has caused us to wonder why some top notch writer (think Tom Wolfe in the mid-sixties) doesn’t collect the life stories of the best known Berkeley homeless and put those stories into a book length form.
It seems curious that the business owners are very reluctant to even consider one idea that would help remove some of the panhandlers from Shattuck Ave. If a place could be found where lockers could be installed, that would give some of the kids a chance to go look for a job or even just go for a hike in the nearby foothills but the idea draws a considerably hostile reaction. No way, Jose!
If being homeless were suddenly to become a variation of the old rugged frontiersman’s existence, then the threat aspect of homelessness would disappear. Hence it behooves modern life to make the homeless an object lesson about the result of a lack of determination and hard work.
The hippies exemplified the concept of a happy-go-lucky existence that was not completely dependent on a weekly paycheck and thus it seems highly unlikely that a town where kids dig themselves deep into to student loan debt would ever build a Hall of Fame glorifying the idea that not being a cheerful wage-slave was a worthwhile endeavor.
Why then, doesn’t Berkeley CA become the future home of the Executive Hall of Fame?
Jack London would hardly qualify as a hippie, but wasn’t he a UCB drop-out? Could the famous world travel be considered a hippie prototype? Just because he never wore a tie-dye T-shirt doesn’t mean he didn’t share values with the hippie movement.
Were there enough success stories on the roster of college drop-outs to merit the possibility of establishing a Drop-out Hall of Fame?
What message are adults giving America’s youth? This week a major sports team seemed to concur with the philosophy of W. C. Fields: “If a thing is worth having, it’s worth cheating for.” Have ethics become extinct in the USA? We haven’t noticed any strong denunciations of the cheating aspects of this new controversy.
Now the disk jockey will play Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” Dean Martin’s “Bummin’ around,” and Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s “I ain’t got a home.” We have to go check the “First they came for the homeless” page on Facebook. Have a “Groovy” week.