Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Almost Renascence

In the last few days, our community received news that a 20-year old man was found dead of a drug overdose in the storage unit where he had been living on San Juan Island. Chris Laws, our County's Enforcement Officer (the man who would enforce the CAOs), criticizes our community's focus on the CAOs while we have fellow citizens dying in storage lockers. Chris Laws asks about our community priorities and wonders if any community group will express any outrage over the circumstances that could have lead to Ryan Ochoa's death.

Chris Laws goes on to say:
Priorities are a window into the soul of a person and announces to the world a core set of beliefs that will take precedence over anything else that may arise in that person’s life.
Yes, that may be, but I suppose you have to be listening in order to hear the announcements of core beliefs. For example, one "community group" has been outraged by the worrying economic and social conditions of our county for quite a while. In fact, Richard Civille, a prominent member of that group and former director of the County Economic Development Council, has given more than one presentation showing the growth of natural resource spending at the expense of the rest of society, particularly social spending. Yes, it's an outrage. Yes, many have been expressing outrage. Why is that not being heard? Maybe because it, and other information like it, is regularly dismissed and construed as being just "misinformation" or "property rights."

It's more than that. Despite the oft-heard phrase that we are the wealthiest county in the state, the fact is that our county economic and social dynamics stink, and they're getting worse. We have the lowest percentage of earned income from wages (35%) of any county in the state, and our wages are half the state average. Most wage earners have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. A generation ago in 1969, 54% of our income was from wages.

I can't really tell what Chris Laws fully intended with his article. He's obviously making a heartfelt statement, but it also seems like he's laying blame everywhere in the community. If he's painting all community groups with the same brush, then he's mistaken. If that's the case, then despite the heartfelt nature of his article, he needs to start listening to the substance of what's being said instead of participating in the rhetoric.

Some of us have been very much upset by the outlandish spending on non-problems while our authentic problems of today grow and multiply, fostered by our neglect. Some of us have been trying to convey that message for quite some time now. Some of us have been saying (or at least asking) how the CAOs will affect our ability to be a community, to grow our own food, to pay our bills, and to take care of one another. Some of us are tired of having our County agenda set by a relatively small number of eco-know-it-alls, who like most know-it-alls, don't really seem to know a damn thing.

If the drug or homeless problem is bad now, then what will it be like after Chris Laws starts enforcing the CAOs, hastening what many believe to be further economic and social deterioration here?  If Chris Laws wants to change the priorities of the community, he can start with those of his employer, which have seismically shifted over the years.

As the closing words of Renascence suggest, our world is only as big as our own heart and soul make it. I hope our community's heart and soul grow to embody the legitimate social needs of our fellow citizens once again (the 99%), instead of obsessing over the eco-disguised self-interests of pretend Dr. Dolittles professing to speak for the imagined priorities of voiceless sand lances.
The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky, --
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
- Millay, Renascence

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