Marc Primack | Between defiance and bad faith – Santa Cruz Sentinel
Watching a documentary about India Joze de Santa Cruz, I thought of the people who once made this place so special, and something Simone Weil once wrote.
Simone was a saint. She died aged 34 from a lifelong refusal to suffer less than those who suffered the most. If that isn’t holiness, I don’t know what is.
She abhorred privilege and its offspring, hypocrisy. Converted to Christ, she refused baptism, in fact refused to enter a church until the Church itself refused entry to those who earned more than minimum wage or had a savings account. By articulating this refusal, she inspired the popes who in turn inspired the reforms of Vatican II.
Simone understood that the privileged presume to appease their conscience either out of defiance or bad faith. Defiantly, they declare that it is perfectly natural that they have what so many others lack. Those who are in bad faith practice dishonest altruism, insisting that everyone have the same privileges they themselves enjoy, but at someone else’s expense.
Defiance says, “If you can’t afford to live here, move where you can! Bad faith favors empty promises. “100% affordable housing for everyone, provided by someone less fair than me, or there is no housing at all!” Santa Cruz has found a way to marry these two personalities, like when a speaker at a housing forum recently said it was natural to be NIMBY.
It is strange, however. In some 20 years of service on the zoning board, planning commission and city council, I have never heard anyone say “not in my backyard”. It was always the development in other people’s backyards that had to be controlled or restricted. His own hard-earned backyard was sacred, as was his right to do as he pleased there. But if NIMBY is “natural,” maybe so is racism.
Simone Weil has set the bar for justice low, where it should be. Twenty years after his death, Malcolm X did the same by confiding that he preferred the overt and provocative racism of the South to the institutional and bad faith racism of the North. The northern variant invented zoning as a tool of exclusion, even as politicians paid lip service to integration. Today, zoning, inclusion restrictions, greenwashing mandates, and an ever-growing arsenal of corrupt code, invasive inspections, and toxic patronizing of the public continue to protect privilege, just as it once protected. racism.
For decades, the City of Santa Cruz has had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to ad hoc affordable housing – granny units and garage conversions; no complaints, no applications. Hundreds have proliferated, allowing thousands of low-income residents – myself included – to live and work and settle here while maintaining a vestige of independence. It was a popular safety net for many. But then, like the country itself, we fell into righteousness in bad faith and started rounding up all those undocumented houses with a vengeance. Even today, in the midst of this crisis, building officials are denying homeowners their minimum rights under the law. Leaders say they care, but often ignore and exacerbate the problem with their unbridled disregard for landlords and builders who might provide these homes. That’s a shame.
For too long we have let defiance and bad faith set the bar. But we can always choose to be here now. The average person on this planet lives in 100 square feet. It’s a family of four in a two-car garage. Anything more is a privilege. I’m not exempt, and chances are you won’t be either. In the face of so much displacement and suffering, homelessness is our humiliation, and humility our only honest response. Pointing, puffing out your chest, shrugging your shoulders, turning your back and closing your eyes won’t help anyone. Humble efforts, one by one, will.
That’s what I thought as I watched Joe Schultz feed the homeless once again, and when I saw Darrie Ganzhorn of the Homeless Garden Project help one more human being regain their dignity and find a place in the world. There are others, but not enough. They need us now.
Mark Primack would like to hear from you at [email protected]