I Got “Take it Back!” All Wrong

May 14, 2018

Ahhh.  I got the “It’s Our City. Take it Back!” campaign slogan all wrong.  I thought it was more garden variety hating on newcomers and techies that’s been prevalent around town.  It’s not.  It’s the oligarchy we’re taking it back from.  It’s Donald Trump.  Steve Bannon and the alt-right.  Ron Conway.  Ev Williams (whose wife, Sara, has contributed hugely to Tenderloin public arts and youth development, but that’s beside the point).  My apologies to Supervisor Kim for misunderstanding her understanding of who our enemy is.  She’s flying at 30,000 feet and I’m just walking the streets of the TL.

Still, Supervisor Kim, in her frequent, misleading references to “high-rise luxury condominiums,” is not always talking about the billionaires and the oligarchy, is she?

Anyway, my bad. All those years studying Weber, Marx and Durkheim, and I still didn’t get that this was really about The Great War:  The proletariat vs the bourgeoisie.

That said, the oligarchy didn’t stop us from building housing for everyone over the past several decades.  We did that.  It didn’t force us to concentrate extreme poverty in one small neighborhood where about 3000 kids live.  We did that too.  The oligarchy doesn’t force us to oppose projects because we want to protect our view and don’t want newcomers venturing into our neighborhoods.  We do that.  The oligarchy didn’t tell Supervisor Kim to torpedo new resources for the arts.  She did that.  The oligarchy doesn’t care if we clean our streets for our poor families to live with dignity.  Supervisor Kim hasn’t cared either, except for 3 months or so before an election.   The oligarchy doesn’t care if we provide enough beds for our homeless; we’ve been unwilling to.

Bernie’s right about the oligarchy, of course.   Speaking of which, did you see that Trump’s perverse version of redistributed wealth is derailing the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program?  LIHTCs have been a powerhouse in the production of affordable housing, so this is a seismic undermining of a key resource.   It was one of the programs Hillary said she would aggressively expand.

Blog Graph LIHTC Equity Pricing Per Credit as of April 2018

Maybe what Hillary supporters don’t get about the Bernie supporters is that they’re right.  Maybe what Bernie supporters don’t get about Hillary supporters is they care less about Bernie being right and more about expanding nuts & bolts programs like LIHTC, at least until the global oligarchy is overthrown and justice rings throughout the land.  The poetic vs the prosaic.

I don’t fly at 30,000 feet.  At about 5’11”, I just can’t believe that after the biggest boom in 150 years we have a worse situation on the street than ever before, and we haven’t improved conditions, particularly for families living in the Tenderloin.  Instead, Supervisor Kim (proletariat?) complained about Ed Lee’s office (bourgeoisie?), and vice versa.  Maybe she also had her sights set on Conway, Sara Williams, President Snow… who knows.  There was so much we could have done that was within our power, but instead we always claimed helplessness and subjugation to larger sinister forces (like Ed Lee’s office).  We blew it, and if she wins next month, we’ll no doubt again be helpless but for a different reason, with a different bogeyman or bogeywoman.  With Supervisor Kim we’re all just victims in need of protection, and I can’t stomach being a victim.

If you read Richard DeLeon’s “Left Coast City: Progressive Politics in San Francisco, 1975-1991,” you’ll recognize the decades-old pattern of progressives needing “The Enemy,”  the “Bogeyman.”  In the 80’s it was the pro-growth, downtown interests. Today it’s the tech billionaires and the alt-right.  Progressives can and have accomplished little on their own; they just know how to oppose.  Similar to the Republican Party, they are accomplished primarily in being the opposition.

So, again, I was wrong about the Take Back Our City! slogan being just a bit fascist.  Instead, it’s just a tired, cliché, and ultimately useless ideology for meeting the basic needs of our citizens.  It’s an “Immigrants are Welcome Here” or “Stop Global Warming!” sign on the front lawn of a household that votes against the proposed 4 story housing development down the street to preserve neighborhood character.  It’s stepping over bodies and feces day after day while focusing on impeaching Trump and getting rid of local philanthropist Sara Williams.  (I signed the impeach Trump petition, btw, but he’s still there.  What the fuck?)  But you don’t notice life on the street so much at 30,000 feet.

How about this as an anti-tribalism compromise: Resist!  And build housing at all price points, not just the low-end, which results in little to no housing getting built at all.  Resist!  And restore arts funding to original levels, or at least stop opposing the arts because we think they’re bourgeois and irrelevant to the lives of poor people (which is fucking insulting).  Resist!  And provide clean, healthy, safe streets for poor people, or at least stop opposing clean streets because we think they’re bourgeois and irrelevant to the lives of poor people.  We can think of many examples.

If you’re all about The Resistance only, well, you’re just no use at all to the real proletariats who have indeed been systematically disenfranchised and oppressed by the Trumps and oligarchies throughout the ages.

Shouldn’t we all do something about this?  And stop waiting for Neo and Katniss to save us?

Or should we continue to just settle for our annual “Add-backs” and saying “Fuck Trump.”


p.s.  Should we stop accepting Sara’s money until we sort this us vs. them thing out?

Anyway, as it turned out, the oppressors were President Snow and President Coin.  As a big Julianne Moore fan I was really bummed out.  As for the brilliant Donald Sutherland, well, you just knew he was going to be a bad guy.