Spring In The Silicon Favela

11 thoughts on “Spring In The Silicon Favela”

  1. «So sad and disheartening that with so much wealth up there, human beings are camping out along railroad tracks.»

    When our blogger says “favelas” he is being I guess deliberate. The social model that the USA middle classes have been voting for during the past several decades is the Mexico/Brazil/India/Filipino one, a “plantation economy” of a few shining mansions on the hill for the rentier winners and large slums everywhere else for the working losers.

    In countries like Brazil, India, etc. the middle classes complain that when they walk around town they have to step over the bodies of the beggars who have died in the street during the night, and the town services don’t remove them quickly enough. In London in the 19th century every spring the parks were cleared by cart of the thin corpses of the poor who had gone there to die not being able to afford food and heating.

    Story from New Delhi:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/19/world/asia/delhi-sleep-economy.html
    «The police report collecting more than 3,000 unidentifiable bodies from the streets every year, typically men whose health broke down after years living outdoors.»

    I wonder what’s the number in New York or Chicago.

    «I don’t even think I saw photos from the Great Depression where people lived like that.»

    Hoovervilles they were called. Now they are called loservilles.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hooverville

  2. I’m not sure what the answer is, though. If we “build more housing” it will STILL be too expensive. If we allow all building codes to just disappear, thousands will die in the inevitable next big one. If we eliminate all planning, does that mean we sacrifice all of the remaining open space and farmland in, say, Napa Valley?

    I have no easy answers. I am just a semi-failed minor level municipal planner who is (sometimes) even part of the problem, but the problem goes far beyond “regulations”.

    Another problem is more and more people will be “surplus” to the needs of The Owners. Who are the only people who matter. White collar jobs can be turned into “gigs” or off shored via the internet. Service jobs will never pay enough.

  3. My adopted younger brother was homeless in SF for a time. After high school, he burned bridges with my dad and went to live with his birth relatives in SF. No Job. No Plan B. Something happened there and he ended up on the street, too proud to accept our help. Drugs and crazy talk ensued shortly thereafter or maybe that’s why they kicked him out. We don’t know exactly.

    Point of the story is that in any other city, a little bit of cash, counseling and a burger job would be enough to get him out of the shelter. But in the land of $1000 couch rentals, he didn’t stand a chance. We try to reach out from time to time. He got into some kind of assisted housing last we heard. Life really sucks sometimes..

    1. When I was a kid in the early 1970’s my family was homeless for a time. No drugs. Nothing too weird. Just lack of funds. We lived in a car for a time. Things eventually got better for my parents. Slowly. I left home when I was fifteen. Partly because I didn’t fit in – I was a profoundly weird kid. Partly because my family was dysfunctional. I did many of the usual things that fifteen year old runaways do to survive. (What exactly was my quid pro quo under the circumstances? Hmmmmm?) I was lucky. I survived the 80’s. Not everyone did. Life is so strange sometimes.

      1. That’s pretty harsh. Man, 15 years old… Well you played that hand well. I was very much a weirdo/loner myself but my home life was very stable. Union wages, full pensions and such. Dad was the “Last of the Mohicans” as he was fond of saying. He was right about that, no doubt.

    1. That would be the World War II part yet to come. These events are relatively short lived (four years on average) but… unpleasant. Then we get to reset all our institutions and expectations around a new reality.

  4. So sad and disheartening that with so much wealth up there, human beings are camping out along railroad tracks. I don’t even think I saw photos from the Great Depression where people lived like that. Am I wrong?

    1. History runs in cycles. The 1930’s was the last low point. The 1960’s marked the top of the last high part of the cycle. We’re at the bottom of another low. The cycle will swing up again. Eventually. It takes the length of a long human life – about 80 years – for these cycles to complete a full circuit. The nature of the situation is that old institutions, policies, and social norms become dysfunctional, but too many entrenched habits make voluntary change impossible. The thing that swept away the old systems and ushered in the new ones in the last few cycles were: World War II, the Civil War, and the Revolutionary War. Tick tock. On the bright side, after the dust settles things get much better – for whoever’s still around.

      1. 9/11 was supposed to be that event, but it turned out that aside from more invasive security at the airport and for sporting events, little has changed for the average American.

        1. No. 9/11 was a warm up to whatever much larger set of events will reset society. The difference is that we’re no longer the young upstart country that was rising toward world power status as in WWII. Now we’re the old, bloated, heavily indebted stretched-too-thing superpower. The next big war will exhaust us economically and leave us much worse for wear. We may very well “win” the next war with advanced weapons systems, but the true winners will likely be the other emerging powers in the world who will be well positioned to rise once we’re done.

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