Someone who left a comment in the Thunderdome last week thought I showed poor judgment in who I associate with because I have friends who are “homeless.” I realize that “homeless” is a bigoted term, as is the term “dope yuppies” which I also used to describe other friends of mine. I don’t usually talk about my friends in such pejorative terms, but in the context of the piece, those terms brought their legal, economic and political status into focus. I used the term “homeless” to emphasize the level of disenfranchisement and prejudice my friends endure.

I didn’t use the term because I think they are bad people. Quite the opposite. Most of the good, decent and interesting people in Southern Humboldt lack adequate housing, or are subject to the fickle whims of SoHum’s notorious slumlords. On the other hand, the real monsters in this community all seem to have nice, comfortable, stable homes. Gary Lee Bullock is a good example of the kind of people who live in nice homes, and come from respected SoHum families.

Gary Lee Bullock was high on meth, as usual, and started terrorizing his neighbors, who called the cops. He fought with the cops, who arrested him and took him to jail in Eureka. In Eureka, they charged him, booked him, and released him on his own recognizance. After that, while aimlessly wandering the streets of Eureka in the middle of the night, Bullock broke into the rectory of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, and then tortured and killed Father Eric Freed, the Priest who lived there, before stealing Father Freed’s car and driving it back to his cozy SoHum home.

Zachary Brown makes a fine example as well. Last fall, Zachary and a teenage accomplice were accused of beating an old man they did not know almost to death in the Garberville Town Square with baseball bats. Zachary then walked back to his comfortable Garberville abode, police said, leaving a trail of his victim’s blood all the way to the front door. Then there’s Estelle Fennell, who works tirelessly to undermine the rights of poor people with new laws that criminalize poverty, ignores violent crime as long as it is directed against poor people, and who appointed an unqualified public defender to make it even easier to railroad poor people into false convictions. These are the kind of people who have homes in Southern Humboldt. How could the people without homes be any worse?

I know that we have a few decent people living indoors here in Southern Humboldt, and a lot more who think they are decent people, and probably would be decent people, if they lived somewhere that encouraged them in that way, but if you are looking for genuinely decent, interesting people, you have a better chance of finding them among the people who pay rent, or can’t find a place to rent, than you do among the landed gentry.

That’s why I advocate for affordable housing and better treatment of the poor. I don’t do it out of charity. I do it because we need better people in SoHum. We need better people in SoHum, not richer people or greedier people. We need better people, and better people have better things to do than squeeze bloody profits out of political corruption. Better people aren’t afraid of honest work, but they don’t want to work themselves to death either. Better people have better things to do. Nonetheless, better people deserve to be treated like human beings, and they deserve an affordable place to live.

The more we do to make life easier for people at the bottom end of the economic spectrum, the easier we make life for everyone and the more attractive we make it for better people, and that’s how we build a better community. The problem is: The people at the top of the economic scale don’t see it that way.

Greed is a character flaw. It’s a kind of blindness connected to an inferiority complex. Greed creates a yawning chasm of need that enslaves greedy people who always want more. It comes across as pitifully coarse and shallow. Greed is insatiable, and it makes greedy people insufferable, and that’s a large part of the problem around here.

Greed takes a further toll when greedy bosses inevitably try to squeeze more work out of their employees. Overworked, poorly treated workers become bitter and resentful. Instead of resenting their greedy bosses, who they continue to suck up to, they resent anyone who doesn’t work as hard as they do. Overwork tends to make people dull, and bitterness and resentment are not exactly attractive.

Finally, greed creates poverty. The needfulness of the greedy drives them to exploit the underclass mercilessly, and the bitter resentment of overworked workers gets expressed in punitive attitudes and overt hostility towards the poor. Greedy people are too stingy to share, and resentful people like to see other people suffer, Together they they maximize the destructive power of poverty and inequality to destroy the lives of good people. Then they complain about all of the traumatized and addicted people laying around who have no respect for this community.

You see how greed can really undermine the quality of the people, and the quality of life, in any community, but the black market in marijuana adds a whole new dimension to the sick, death-spiral of greed here in Southern Humboldt. As long as we remain focused on squeezing every last dollar out of each other, things are just going to get worse around here. On the other hand, everything we do to make this community more livable for people who don’t enslave themselves to greed, or work themselves to death, makes this community a better place to live, and tends to attract better people.


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