From the July-August 2021 issue of News & Letters
In our time it seems humanity has sunk to its lowest point. I can see why youth are so worried about any future. All the things we value, our most basic humanity and relations with others, having a viable natural environment, seem like idle talk.
THE MISERY OF PRECARIOUS EXISTENCE
Everywhere one looks, there is misery. All existence is precarious. This monster, global capital, is out of control. Its most ardent defenders just feed it. Some of the defenders are even at the bottom. They want to secure their own next meal, nothing more. Capitalism has been able to keep many Black people in a vicious cycle of pursuing food, clothing and shelter. They can’t think about tomorrow because of the immediate need to survive today.
Where I work among the homeless on the street, I see the infinite degradation experienced by those discarded by capitalist society and barely surviving on its margins. The Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco has women who smell bad. I know there are places you can get clean, so I was wondering what that is about. I found out that the Tenderloin is known for sexual predators. Smelling bad is on purpose, hoping it will keep predators away.
This is as American as apple pie: the filth, the degradation of humanity has been a blight especially in urban areas. It is not new, but it is at a new low. Animalistic behavior is accepted as “human.” Selfishness is accepted as being an individual.
We, those who came out of prison, have an obligation to try to make sure re-entry programs work, that we can help people coming out of prison find their way. We want to help people become independent. Teach people to have patience.
The city of San Francisco does give you a hand up. There are programs to help in various ways. People are able to get together to ask the city for funds to establish such programs. Housing might be doable for a few: you can enter a lottery and if you win it, you’re set, paying only a few hundred dollars a month. Even so, the system is not working for most people.
‘AFFORDABLE HOUSING’ IS NONEXISTENT
For 50 years I have been hearing the phrase “affordable housing.” It means nothing, at least in San Francisco. A torn-up small house that had been vandalized, has holes in the walls, etc., still sold for a million dollars. Is this freedom? Why would you want to continue to be a slave to such a way of life?
This is the way of the world now. The Third World is here. It has always been here. There were always those who live on the edge. Karl Marx was describing the lack of transparency in social relations: what appears to be a free decision to sell your labor is nothing of the kind. Yet people stay away from thinking about how all labor, even paid labor, is forced labor.
Marx was right to say that no man fights against freedom, at most they fight against the freedom of others. But we don’t need to fight each other. There is enough for all if/when we can decide what to make and how much. It will take a revolutionary change in society, a change in our human relations, beginning with the self. People kill when they feel threatened. They are trying to hold on to illusions, while the reality passes them by.
The human tragedy is immense. You can really see what Marx meant that it will take a revolution to clear away all the muck. Our social relations can become conscious and free, where, as Marx put it, the free development of each becomes the basis for the free development of all.