MY LABOR DAY -- THE AFTERMATH

P8475423 at vmsuser.acsu.unsw.EDU.AU P8475423 at vmsuser.acsu.unsw.EDU.AU
Tue Sep 5 14:14:44 MDT 1995


Ralph, my recent brief visit to the USA convinced me that there is
plenty to make a person with soul feel bitter. I ended up leaving
two days early because the homelessness in San Francisco disturbed
me so badly.

I had arranged to share a room with a German guy to cut costs
while attending a conference on genetic algorithms, which was
being held at the Hilton (I couldn't afford its $149 a day
charges), but our cyber-communications broke down (the
conference I went to the USA for had made no provision for
Internet access) and he didn't front. So I thought, no
problem, I stayed at the YMCA in New York when visiting Chris
Sciabarra, I'll do the same here. So I got a taxi to the Y,
which turned out to be only 3 blocks diagonally from the
Hilton.

I got up the next morning to walk to the conference and
passed about 300 homeless people on those 6 streets; yet
at the end of my journey I was standing in opulence (the
Hilton). I walked back again, and began to feel myself
doing what I had seen some Americans doing (not all!)--
"shutting down", pretending not to be disturbed by
the feeling of walking through that dispossessed humanity,
because I was afraid as well as upset.

I got to the Y to find a 50-something guy talking to
the gym's clerk about having been accosted (not assaulted)
by a homeless kid in a shop, saying this had never happened
to him before though he lived in this area, and how he felt
that he had to defend himself--next time it happened he
would go on the offensive, he reckoned.

I started to argue with him that his individual action
would only make things worse; he, thinking I was
criticising him for being afraid, got angry. As I tried
to explain myself, the emotional strain of that experience
got to me, badly, but I finally managed to convince him
that I accepted he had to defend himself; my observation
was that the individual's understandable reaction to
such a situation only helps to make the social situation
worse. American society has bifurcated; to redress the
bifurcation it must take collective social action; but
individual experiences of that social bifurcation make
people less willing to do what is necessary.

I'm afraid I have been a bit longwinded above; my point
was that, having experienced your inner-city societies
for a very short time, I can understand how a person
of poetry--which you are--can accumulate bitterness.
But you are still a poet, Ralph.

Cheers,
Steve


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