1. “The Burners who invaded their neighbors weren’t acting out of racist motivations. They were in revolt against presumed privilege and exclusivity, the Other of wealth. Which is just another kind of resentment that mucks up the machinery of civic life.”

    Just so. In San Francisco, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a lot of “othering” – wealthy residents don’t want more poor people coming to the city, and they’d like to see some of those already here (most notably the homeless) just go away. Poor residents have similar prejudices against the wealthy – they object to any upscale development or new business perceived as catering to folks with money, and in short want them to stop coming to the city and if they’re already here, to leave.

    It’s a mirror intolerance and hatred toward the “other” that neither group seems to recognize as a bad thing among its own members, though they have little trouble noticing the hate and hostility among the other group.

    A fundamental part of the problem is lack of respect for property rights. These apply as much to a homeless person who wants to pitch a tent on the sidewalk as to a wealthy homeowner. Both of whom are likely to have their property rights violated by government in different ways. The homeowner is extorted via property taxes and all manner of regulatory fees and bureaucratic hoops to jump through any time they want to change anything about their property.

    Perhaps partly as a result of being expected to put up with all these takings and restrictions, they tend to feel entitled to a certain environment in the neighborhoods around them that caters to their sensibilities – e.g. not wanting to see the homeless, or grafitti, or hear nightlife, or see people hanging out and getting high.

    The poor and homeless, for their part, not having large or any private spaces of their own, do much of their socializing, living, entertaining, and creating outside in the public spaces. Yet they find these spaces designed not for them, but for the wealthy and privileged. There are spots to park your car if you want to go shopping, but not if you’re trying to live in it. The physical environment is hyper-regulated, just the opposite of Burning Man. You can’t make your own creative contributions to the physical infrastructure.

    Cities should be more like Black Rock City – let planning take place on a spontaneous, bottom-up, community basis, rather than everything being dictated in a top-down process. Community meetings and hearings and mandated notices to neighbors are no substitute for an open-source approach to the commons in which everyone can contribute and participate, and issues get ironed out organically, rather than via a set of governmental rules and regulations. Where everyone has more rights to make decisions about their own property, and the shared community areas are where people learn how to work together, without coercion, and without anyone having the expectation that some central authority will impose their tastes and preferences on everyone else.

Join the Conversation