He Who Controls the Trough

I read a report from Brookings today about food scarce communities and it reminded me of the first time I read Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael years ago. (If, on the rare chance, you haven’t read it – stop everything and do it now. It’s just that kind of book) But here we are nearly 30 years after and it seems like humanity is spiraling even faster than before.

Instead of increasing agriculture – it’s dying out. (They keep saying that and I keep buying produce at the market so I hate to wonder if farming is a career of extinction…what the hell am I eating?) Our resources have continued to decrease while our human population has continued to increase. I say human because we all know that the massive fishing and deforestation and mining that takes place to support the ever growing human population is showing a very huge and negative impact on animal and plant life.

Everything Quinn said about “locking up the food” has become even more true today. Do we have bread lines? We have nearly 14% of our population on food stamps. And an even greater percentage that regularly utilize food banks to supplement their groceries because many food giveaways don’t ask for proof of income.

And what about the wealthy? Don’t you see them rushing to get their Trader Joe’s organic free trade coffee beans? Lined up week after week for endless food festivals and brew house events? (I kid you not here in Spokane we fill our downtown with food vendors all Spring and Summer from Hoopfest to , literally, Pig Out in the Park )

I mean, it sounds like someone was reading Quinn’s books and putting it into action…just maybe not the ones that should have been. It might be interesting to note that Ishmael won Ted Turner’s 1989 fellowship for a work of fiction showing promise in global solutions. Ted Turner, who has stated he thinks the U.N. should control the world and that we need to depopulate the planet by well more than half of us.

So you lock up the food. You control the trough. And when the time comes – you starve the unwanted population so that you can enjoy the wonderful resources that are left on Earth that will now replenish themselves because most of us are gone. Food for thought…literally.

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$pokane

I went for a ride the other day. This is unusual for me as I am most comfortable as the driver. However I had partaken in one too many weed caramels early in the day and I was happily stoned and unable to be the normal, controller of car destiny. So, this day, I got to observe.

“Look at the cars!”, I exclaimed. Like a little kid I kept pointing to the newer, shiny cars every where. “Holy shit! That was an Alfa Romeo!” I couldn’t get over it. In my town.

Before you dismiss me as some small town hick, I am talking about Spokane – a growing metropolis in Eastern Washington. We have over 500k living in our county. But until the last 15 years the economy was stagnant. The World’s Fair in 1974 brought a ton of workers to Spokane, buildings went up overnight, families moved from around the area and across the country. But after the World’s Fair packed up and left, it left behind a population of unemployed. Spokane did not suddenly become a center of commerce and industry as it was, after all, still annoyingly far out east.

So the west side of Washington thrived while Spokane became the dumping ground for Washington’s criminals, particularly its sex offenders. We got the short end of the stick politically and when State funding was given out, we got the crumbs. Spokane held on as the place Canadian’s came to buy tax free presents at the mall and, eventually, a the closest place to find a Costco within 250 miles.

No longer. Rising real estate prices have pushed industry eastward and Spokane is now a rising metropolis. Suddenly we have a 4 star hotel, stores like Free People and anthropologie. Downtown has filled with condos. We are building a medical school complex that will service both Gonzaga and WSU. Neighborhoods that were formerly known as the “ghetto” near downtown are instead having coffee shops, gyms, and boutiques sprout up in them. As a result, neighborhoods that were formerly quiet, middle class enclaves have become the new ghetto complete with drug use, gangs, and graffiti as the poor are pushed out of their prime downtown spots to places like 29th & Grand or Shadle Center.

And downtown has the same divide only in circles. In the middle you can buy a $9 latte in a vintage brick building with “vintage look” light fixtures bought at Restoration Hardware for $499 each and in five minutes and two traffic lights buy and shoot heroin in front of the gas station on 3rd street while traffic whips by.

Spokane has put tons of money into things like beautifying the off-ramps downtown and marketing their town as “Near Nature, Near Perfect”. They rallied hard for the medical school to be built here, on the East side of the State.  Roads are slowly disappearing in congested areas and Spokane begins its life as a “walking friendly town”. (No one stops to think that by getting us out of our cars they are encouraging us to spend more money)

But much like the good ole days when Spokane had a Grand Prix right through downtown and hot air balloons set aloft from the greens in Riverfront Park, they spent in the wrong places. Under the freeway, down the back alley, in the ghetto apartment by the courthouse – a place well known as “Felony Flats”- it is still Spokane. It is a mental health care crisis at a breaking point. It is a gang crisis that rose out of the lack of police funding in the late 1980’s and 90’s. It is a heroin crisis that looks a hell of a lot like the crack cocaine epidemic we felt so good about conquering.

Spokane is the kind of place where the housewives all have dirty little secrets and we are just driving about to Trader Joe’s and Hot Yoga hoping ‘Apple’ and ‘Jannika’ don’t find out about our probation officer or cocaine addiction or tattoos or that we were homeless when our husband was laid off last year.

Spokane has a lot going for it – as long as you don’t pick at the edges.