Monday, October 16, 2006

It has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now?

What the fuck is it with people in this country?

(Warning: Broad generalizations ahead.)

People just don't want to get involved, god dammit.

(And yeah, I know, I've been non-blogging for almost a month and I need to 'splain where I been and what I been doing, but I'll get to that later - I don't have time for that right now, I'm pissed off.)

Here's what's going on:

The whole development thang.

Yes, I know, I KNOW that's all I talk about. But it's preying on my mind, people!

In the short term, we - we meaning KB and I and our immediate concerns about developers building in this neighborhood - have scored a victory. As I talked about in my last post. No one will be building in this neighborhood for almost a year, thanks to a city-wide moratorium on building in Residence B-zoned neighborhoods. So we're free and clear. We're gonna be moving when KB finishes his residency in June of Ought Seven, so we'll be well outta here before that happens. (Where we'll actually BE is another post altogether. One thing at a time. Patience, grasshopper.)

So we're fine. Nothing's gonna affect us; no big construction vehicles will be growling up the street while we're here, waking Nolan up from his nap; there will be no before-and-after surveys of our house to determine if the foundation was damaged by any blasting in the area.

But I continue to work on trying to get the neighborhood re-zoned, from Residence B to Residence A, which would mean no more multi-unit developments.

Why?, I hear you ask. Why bother if you're not going to be living there in nine months? Why fight for a street that you won't be living on when the changes you're fighting for actually take effect? That's a good question.

And I'm not sure I know the answer. I guess the short answer is that I still care about this street. This is still the place where KB and I got married in our backyard. This is still the hill I lumbered up while nine months pregnant with Nolan, walking back from work. This is still the street where I've made friends, talked with my neighbors, taken Nolan for walks, been startled by raccoons, where we've lived, dammit! Just because I'm moving away doesn't mean I don't still care about what happens in the future.

So I've been trying to help our awesome city councillor get the street re-zoned. But it seems there's some opposition, mainly from the developers and land speculators who have bought property on the street and plan to tear down the houses on the land and build condominiums. And these people have money. And laywers. And they stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if the zoning changes go through. So of course they're fighting with all they've got.

But I've been diligently going around the neigborhood, handing out my little flyers, trying to get people to go to the City Council meeing and the Planning Board meeting and Speak. The. Fuck. Up. And people say they will. People say they really REALLY don't want more developments on our street.

And yet they don't come to the meetings. Or they do come, but they don't stand up to be counted.

There was a Planning Board meeting last Wednesday night. KB and Nolan and I were in Dirty Jers for some more job interviews, so we couldn't be there. I told our Councillor I wouldn't be there, but that I would draft a letter to the members of the planning board for him to read at the meeting. Then I walked around our neighborhood and spoke to a number of people about the importance of this meeting and the fact that I wouldn't be there, so some other people needed to step up and attend.

So here's what I'm pissed off about (You mean you have a point? Huzzah!): People told me they were going to go to this meeting. I personally spoke to six people, five of whom told me they would be at the meeing and would SPEAK UP about their support for the re-zoning (and one of whom was going to be out of the country at the time, which pretty much trumped my out-of-state excuse). And yet I hear from my city councillor that exactly one person spoke up. One. Out of all the people on my street who say they are so opposed to new developments. One.

And yeah, one person can make a difference. One person is important. But tonight, at the City Council hearing (where they were supposed to vote on this issue but instead continued it until the next meeting because it is such a contentious issue) the numbers counted. The opposition showed up with a signed petition from five residents of the street, which is all they need (20% of the property owners on the street) to make it even harder to pass the re-zoning.

And nobody else from "our" side showed up but me. And KB. Which really, REALLY bummed me out.

(Pause for breath.)

And now, the broad generalization. I think people in the U.S. think of politics as a vocation. A job. Like, "What do you wanna be when you grow up, Timmy?" "I wanna be a plumber!" "How about you, little Billy?" "I wanna be President!" "Awwwwwww, isn't that cute? Little Billy wants to be President! And maybe you will someday, Billy. Maybe you will." And if it's not your job, if you're a plumber and not a politician, you should just stay the fuck out of things and mind your own business. We don't try to tell the heart surgeon how to hold the scalpel, and we don't mess with the politicians when they're passing their bills and molesting their underage pages (sorry, I couldn't resist).

But here's the thing. Politics isn't a job. It's not just for the politicians. Everybody has to get involved in politics or it doesn't work. The decisions that the politicians make affect everybody, not just other politicians. I know it doesn't seem that way sometimes, but it's true. And people in the U.S. get all bogged down with their own individual lives - who's gonna take the kids to soccer practice? - what am I gonna make for dinner tonight? - does this skirt make my ass look fat? - that they forget that the public arena is important, too. (I have now written the word "politicians" so many times it's starting to look weird to me.)

I had this friend in graduate school (who I still consider a very dear friend, I just don't get to see him much anymore) from Argentina who used to piss me off royally when I first knew him. Every time there was some issue in the department, some disagreement, he would argue with incredible passion. He would say inflammatory things and make sweeping judgements and get really really worked up about things (or so it seemed to me). He would accuse the administration of the school of conspiring to make our lives difficult and basically raise hell. Because where he comes from, everybody knows you have to get in there and have your say or you're going to get trampled on. No one is guaranteed to have any affect on the outcome of decisions, so people know they have to MAKE their voices heard if they want to be heard.

And it's not like that here. I don't know if we take things for granted, or we don't see the connection between our own individual actions and larger society, or what, but we tend to keep our heads down and our mouths shut. We don't care about what happens to our neighbors or what is for the greater good, we just care about getting what's ours, and fuck everybody else.

And not like I'm all high and mighty Miss Social Change 2006. I only got involved in all of this because I didn't want to live next to a construction site for the next nine months. My initiative was totally motivated by self-interest. I have no illusions about that.

But these people, these people who live on my street, my neighbors, they SAY they don't want anymore developments. They SAY they don't want to have big trucks on the street and water runoff problems and more traffic and less green space. But they aren't even willing to show up at a city meeting and SAY what they want. Because it might interfere with their watching the ball game. Or doing the laundry. Or whatever the fuck.

And that just makes me sad. Why don't we care enough?

Am I just being totally naive?

Thanks for reading.


Adams said...

I think that you articulate modern political inertia very well, Joy.

Now, on to my real question. Joy? Rose? Who are these people?

Rip Tanna

Jennifer said...

Joy -

Your work is admirable. I agree that it's wrong that those who promised to be there weren't, but at the end of the day, you choose your battles. People have jobs and kids and hobbies, and I really believe that most of them do the best they can. It's not that they don't care, it's that they place other things at a higher priority, which is their right. Of course in doing so, they waive their right to complain.

Keep fighting the good fight.

Karan said...

People are better at reacting then they are at preventing.

thptpth said...

Aw, come on, you know who Joy and Rose are, don't you, Tamla?

Adams said...

No, I don't, MAUDE.

Adams said...

No, I don't, MAUDE.

Zachary said...

What about Dru? Do you know who that is?

Electric Mayhem said...

Lol, Dru, you're too cute.

Cross-reference the blogs, Broc. You're a bright lass.

Adams said...

I'm going to kill all of you sonsabitches. Yeah, I was able to finally figure out who Joy, Rose, Dru, Celeste, Allan-a-Dale, Marie, Ann, Lee, Mike Mike, Li'l Wayne, and all the rest of you jackballs are. Why you James Bond Junior Mints couldn't just give me a straight answer, I'll never know.

As ever,
Dorothy Mantooth

Adams said...

I want an election-themed update, Joy. Get to work!