John Hardin / @ 7:25 a.m. / Op-Ed

HARDIN: I Offer A Cease-Fire to the Southern Humboldt Bourgeoisie


While I’ve greatly enjoyed venting my spleen at SoHum’s bourgeois, I realize that you don’t all fit so neatly into my broad, and broadly negative, characterizations. I know a lot of you personally, and I know that you like to think of yourselves as basically decent people. Hell, I like to think of you as basically decent people. Why else would I waste my time communicating with you? I also happen to know that the poor in SoHum are basically decent people, as well, as are nearly all of the of seasonal workers who descend on Southern Humboldt every year to harvest and trim your marijuana.

I didn’t start the class war in Southern Humboldt. I just answered it. I got really sick of seeing the way the middle class treat the poor and homeless around here, and I got sick of the propaganda campaign in the local media. If the poor and homeless of SoHum were black, you’d call it overt, institutional and brutally violent racism, but it just happens to be aimed at mostly white people. It’s just as ugly as racism, and just as hateful, but it’s something different. It’s a caste system, a community segregated by class.

Which strikes me as absolutely ridiculous, because nobody around here has any class. We can’t convince doctors to move here. Why? Not because of the climate, not because we don’t have plenty of natural scenic beauty, not because of traffic, noise or air pollution. Doctors don’t want to live here because no one around here has any class. This is the most low-brow community I’ve ever lived in, and this really ugly, scapegoating attitude towards the poor is just one example of our general vulgarity.

I understand your frustration. This town doesn’t look the way you would like it to look. You spend a lot of money to have a storefront on Redwood Drive and you want people to see your window display, not five hippies smoking a joint, but getting mad and calling the cops will not solve the problem. The people who hang out in town live here, work here, and pay taxes here. They have a right to dress as they see fit and carry whatever they like. They can also walk their dog, smoke their cigarette and/or stand on the sidewalk talking to their friends for as long as they like. None of these things constitute a crime, but now we all pay a special sales tax, Measure Z, so that local merchants can use law enforcement officers as bouncers and treat our public spaces like their own private club, and they’ve passed new laws to criminalize poverty. What an ugly waste of time and money! It’s time to face reality.

Reality isn’t pretty. The illegal marijuana industry isn’t nearly as benign as we’d like to believe. It creates tremendous economic disparity, and we see it on the streets of Garberville. This industry ruins many times more people than succeed at it. For decades, and still today, cops arrest nearly a million people a year for marijuana. They confiscate and destroy millions of pounds of marijuana every year, and every year thousands of people have their lives turned upside-down, lose their assets, spend time in jail, and/or have their good names besmirched with felony convictions, just to keep the price of marijuana high enough to make the dope yuppie lifestyle possible.

For every winner in this game, there are a lot of losers. You’ve got to figure that a lot of people end up on the street because of the marijuana industry, and you ought to accept that a lot of those people are here. It’s sad, but for a lot of people around here, marijuana is the only life they know. They’re like coal miners in West Virginia. This is all they know, so they come back to it again and again, never acquiring education, never paying into social security and never getting out of Humboldt. That’s one problem, but it’s not much better for honest working people.

Most jobs in town offer $9-12 an hour. You will never find a place to live in Southern Humboldt that you can afford at that wage, and who can blame people for not working their lives away, just to pay the rent on a room to sleep in. It isn’t a matter of choice. A lot of people have no good options. They are all doing the best that they can, and they all deserve a little dignity and respect.

In addition to our year-round population, we get a massive influx of seasonal workers every fall who need low-budget accommodations. We’re going to have hippies. They will bring guitars and drums and dogs and sell stuff on the sidewalk. They will take drugs, smoke weed and drink. This is reality. The vast majority of the people who buy marijuana, sell marijuana and make marijuana are poor. These are your customers, your distributors and your manufacturers. Without them, there would be no marijuana industry, and all of that money you’ve come to depend on comes from them.

We need to make space for people who are not middle-class, and we need services for people who are not middle-class. I do, genuinely, find the middle-class disgusting, revolting, obnoxious and belligerent. I don’t like seeing them on the streets, and I find them intimidating. I can’t stand the way they smell and I despise the air of entitlement they carry, but If I saw one meaningful action, something I, as a member of this community, could take some civic pride in, just one meaningful action that would make life a little easier for the people who are struggling economically and dealing with difficult situations in Southern Humboldt, I could put aside those petty differences, at least for a while, and talk about some of the very positive things going on here in Southern Humboldt. Ten bonus points if it happens before the trimmigrants get here.

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


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