December 12, 2013

IT'S A PURITAN NATION:

Techies Are the New Puritans : Silicon Valley's ugly treatment of homeless people has a long history. (NOREEN MALONE, 12/11/13, New Republic)

One of his Facebook friends, Li Jiang, replied, "why is this the showcase of the center of San Francisco. We're supposed to be a gleaming utopia of what a city could be. Why should we have homeless shelters, method one [sic] shelters, strip clubs all in the center of town."

Emphasis added by me, because Jiang's "gleaming utopia"--which is a vision of San Francisco I think many in the tech world share--echoes the famous "city on a hill" formulation that the Puritan Reverand John Winthrop plucked from the Sermon on the Mount way back in the 1600s. It's a beautiful sentiment, but it's also a strikingly unforgiving, rigid one (that is, a remarkably Puritan one). In the Puritan model of charity, the rich have an obligation to do good for the poor--but the poor also have an obligation to the rich, to try to be a useful part of the same society. It sounds not unlike the way Silicon Valley understands homelessesness: Why are the poor dropping their end of the bargain?

This is, of course, a conservative worldview, where harder work will solve most problems. In his farewell speech, Ronald Reagan called America, "a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity." 

We were in Seattle this Summer and the transgressive nature of the homeless population downtown is truly disturbing.  These aren't guys down on their luck who could use some help, they're aggressively anti-social.  And it's a surprisingly central topic of public conversation.
Posted by at December 12, 2013 5:37 PM
  
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