John Hardin / @ 6:52 a.m. / Op-Ed

HARDIN: The HumCPR Shipping Container Village is a Step in the Right Direction


I read recently that HumCPR has agreed to purchase a number of shipping containers that they intend to convert into emergency temporary housing, and that a HumCPR member has agreed to host this emergency housing facility on his property in Eureka. It’s about time Humboldt County landowners stepped up to the plate on this issue, and even though this is a baby step it seems like a baby step in the right direction, for a change.

Until now, I’ve seen landowners take a mostly punitive approach to poverty and homelessness. They’ve used their political power to pass a regressive sales tax (Measure Z) which unfairly burdens poor and working families, and then made sure that the county uses that Measure Z money to harass Humboldt County’s poorest citizens. Eureka’s new, grossly unconstitutional panhandling ordinance is another example of local landowners pressuring county government to directly and intentionally violate the human rights of people who lack the resources to defend themselves within the system.

Landowners should remember that the right to free speech, which includes the right to ask for help, the right to assemble, the right to protest and to seek redress for their grievances are inalienable human rights. These rights, among others, are not bestowed by any government. Human rights precede the Constitution, and they supersede all government regulation. Every human being on Earth was born with these rights, and every human being has a right to fight for and to claim these rights using any means necessary.

Property rights, on the other hand, are a contrivance of government and have no meaning outside of it. Your right to own property only exists so long as the government which grants those contrivances enforces them. Government enforcement costs money, and it costs substantially more money when large portions of the population do not consent to be governed and actively resist government control.

It costs a lot of money to send a cop out into the street to harass poor people. It costs even more to arrest, book and charge someone for violating an unconstitutional city ordinance. On the other hand, any poor person can take revenge for these violations armed with nothing more than a rock, a pack of matches or even their own excrement, and are completely within their rights as human beings to do so.

As long as landowners use government to oppress the poor and deny them basic human rights, landowners should expect the poor to make war against them. In fighting this guerrilla war against oppression, all private property becomes a fair target and violence is completely justified. As long as Humboldt County landowners pursue a punitive approach to poverty, this guerrilla war will continue to escalate. As the government sends more cops to violate people’s rights, more people withdraw their consent to be governed, and instead seek to undermine government control, destroy private property and claim their inalienable rights by any means necessary.

Landowners cannot win this war. That should be obvious, by now, to anyone with their eyes open, but the sooner they recognize this, the better. Landowners can only lose this war. Every time someone calls the cops on people for hanging-out, talking to their friends, sharing food, smoking, imbibing, asking for help, trying to sleep, or any other ordinary activity of normal life, for which poor people endure endless harassment, they create enemies. Every time they create an enemy, they escalate the war. Every time they escalate the war, it costs them more money to protect themselves and their precious private property.

As this war escalates, frustrations rise on both sides. The more landowners and merchants express this frustration, in conversation and in public forums, the more they lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the community. It’s nearly impossible to complain about poor people without sounding like a complete boor, and few people who attempt it pull it off gracefully. Nobody with any class wants to hear you complain about poor people, any more than they want to hear you complain about (insert racial epithet here). This kind of talk does no good whatsoever, and it turns people off. On the other hand, it’s hard to criticize someone for helping the poor, even a little bit.

So, I won’t even try. Instead, I’ll take this move as a rare sign of intelligence. Maybe local landowners have finally come to their senses, and realized that it makes more sense to solve the problem than it does to fight the war. Here’s hoping we see more steps in this direction in the future.

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.


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