• Jim Costa

Jim's Rant. Looking Forward: Homeless to Aliens; Factories, Missed Mark; Dr. Carl Sagan.

Homeless to Aliens Yesterday I attended a workshop regarding lack of affordable housing for persons with disabilities and the homeless. As I sat there I noticed that half of the participants were professionals employed as social workers, attorneys specializing in discrimination litigation, etc. and the rest were referred to as their “consumers”. I listened as they all agreed that there just were not any affordable homes available, period. Just this week the city of Pensacola, by its actions, implied that affordable housing was new homes in the $175,000 - $200,000 range. It appeared that nothing at all was accomplished by the workshop except for a little venting and a few consumers learned to fight harder for one of the remaining affordable houses. During the workshop Albert Einstein’s statement “The enormous problems we face today cannot be solved from the same frame of mind that created them” kept going through my head. Maybe we are looking at the problem too closely. I wondered how an alien, unfamiliar with our culture and economics, would have assessed yesterday’s workshop and address the housing problem? I think possibly the following:

  • This is a long term problem that has been occurring for many, many years. If the goal is to make the problem permanently disappear, it is futile to solve the long-term problem with a short-term solution.

  • Based on ten thousand years of history it is obvious that governments have no intent of permanently resolving this problem. Therefore it might be concluded that in the scheme of our social economic system the “problem” is beneficial in some way and is not a problem to the whole. Or perhaps it is just a small flaw of our system that we tolerate.

  • The problem may have been sliced and analyzed too thinly. Litigators view it from a litigation viewpoint only. They are paid to do that so they must close their eyes to other viewpoints. Social workers do the same. Landlords do the same. These persons are not paid to resolve the problem from the whole.

  • If the problem could be permanently resolved in one day would the above mentioned persons elect to do so? Probably not - they themselves would be without a job and subject to homelessness. This is the culture we live in.

  • A short-term solution is to put an economic underachiever in a home and then leave them. In our suburbia culture, lacking transportation, medical assistance, community support and livable wage jobs, most of these placed persons will rejoin the homeless.

  • It is falsely assumed that because most of these persons cannot locate a 40 hour a week job in the want ads that they are unemployable and thus will always be non-productive to community.

  • There are two money problems in our culture: the lack of money and too much money. The problem with too much money is that we use it for security and if you lose your money there goes your security. Oddly, the more money you have the more insecure you become!

  • Earlier in our history it appears that we systematically destroyed tribal communities. Perhaps this was done so that we could control them with money. Until our arrival the tribe was a member’s security so he had no need for money.

  • It appears that the current culture dictates that any activity undertaken must be taxed by supplying a living to others around it. This need not be so.

Possible Solution: ​ Perhaps it is time that we establish villages or communities small and large enough to house both moneyless and the wealthy, providing security for all. Only affordable housing costing around $40,000 each would be constructed. The community would not be dependent on transportation as most jobs would be provided to all who wish to work there. This would be a place that would be internally sustainable forever. This would be a place where the professionals who would work themselves out of a job would rather be at anyway. From start to finish, no one would make a profit on the venture. Fighting over the few remaining affordable houses is not the long-term solution. Building a surplus of affordable houses is. Factories Just because the village is small doesn’t mean that all created jobs would be low-tech. The village might construct a factory or lease one off site, employing both residents and non-residents with the resident employees being bused. ​ The factory might manufacture a non-steady demand product such as composting toilets. Or it might be a seasonal business that capitalizes on its ability to lay off its workforce without harming it and then to rehire it when demand is up. Two or more villages might cooperate in establishing a small clinic / hospital in the region, supplying some of the labor. Missed Mark The first few Co-Op villages constructed may miss the mark in some areas of environmental sustainability. Why? Tremendous effort has to be focused on that first giant step: creating community. It entails getting five hundred people to “check their guns at the door” and take on 499 other persons as their main concern. This is a huge undertaking for people. It could safely be said that building a caring, committed community represents 70% of what it takes to get a Co-op Village going. Being environmentally responsive is the other 30%. ​ Therefore, trying to do both at the outset may be too much. In the minds of many prospective new members, we could be seen as “environmental nuts,” extremists who eat rice cakes and live in homes made of Budweiser bottles. It might be better, therefore, in the planning stages, to focus initially on the 70% (community building) by shooting for less extreme environmental goals: a smaller environmental footprint, less materialism, less waste and less consumption. Then, with further education and by consensus, gradually more comprehensive, responsive sustainability goals could be implemented. However, I can see some excellent potential members being offended by this suggestion. ​ What we are undertaking is similar to building a railroad spur. In our endeavor to divert the train off the main line we will be offering the option to turn. If the turn is too abrupt or steep the train will derail. To be successful, the turn has to be a comfortable inviting one. Once the turn is made, our train can continue in any direction we, the members, choose, but over time. Dr. Carl Sagan “I had an experience I can’t prove. I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells that it was real. I was part of something wonderful, something that changed me forever, a vision of the universe that tells us undeniably how tiny, and insignificant, and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not, that none of us, are alone. I wish that I could share that, I wish that everyone, even for one moment, could feel that awe, the humility and the hope . . .” ​ -- Ellie Arroway in Dr. Carl Sagan’s novel Contact.

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