Monday, March 26, 2007

A Metaphorical Mugging

Dr. Wes submitted a typically brilliant column to Real Change today . No. That's not right. His columns are brilliant about 37% of the time. Another 42% of his columns are glibly witty in a half-assed sort of way, and the other 21% of his columns are complete shit, and would never see print if we weren't relying upon them to fill space.

But genius a little over a third of the time is better than most of us manage, so we keep him around. Besides, he's the guy who feeds the cat. And he writes for free.

Soon enough, his column will be up on Adventures in Bloggery or at Real Change, but in the meanwhile, here's the gist: Genshiro Kawamoto, the Hawaiian billionaire who's recently made headlines by letting homeless native Hawaiian families move into mansions for token rent or for free, is an irresistible metaphor.

Here's a guy who became insanely wealthy by ruthlessly dispossessing the poor of their land and driving up the cost of housing through rampant real estate speculation, who's now decided it's time to give a little something back.

It's sort of like if I beat you with a tire iron, stole everything you owned, and then sent you a get well card with a $50 Starbucks gift certificate. You might buy a muffin and a coffee with the gift card, since you wouldn't have any other money, but you might still be a little resentful about the mugging.

Or, say you're the federal government. And you've funded public housing at a level designed to eventually produce system-wide failure, viciously attacked all programs that offer assistance to the poor, and invented a hundred creative ways for your friends to make a buck off of poverty, from legitimating extortionate interest rates to desperate people to building a prison-industrial-complex that preys disproportionately upon people of color, and then you've claimed to be "ending homelessness" because you've tossed out some token funding that, in many cases, gets funneled to your base of right-wing Christian supporters who run faith-based social services agencies.

Just supposing.

In most instances, the person who gets to shake the hand that holds the money out doesn't really care what the other hand is up to, or even where else the hand with the money has been.

Metaphorically speaking, that is.

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