Those in power, the “haves,” don’t like to be called names or be spoken to disrespectfully by the “have nots.” If the have nots get too strident, the powerful write them off. The have nots, meanwhile, are pissed, as they get ignored anyway. This is a double bind. Those in power define the parameters of speaking truth to power, but they don’t listen anyway.
Power in Sonoma Valley? Homeowners, developers, tourism, agriculture, government.
These haves have only done what anyone aspires to do for survival and self-advancement; they take available advantages. If, for housing, the cards were unfairly stacked by segregation and redlining, well, that’s the luck of the draw. And what group in history has ever relinquished self-interest, power, and control? About none.
From the standpoint of the working class, changes for inclusion are not happening fast enough. Stonewalling and obfuscation rule. The years roll by. Segregation, low wages, and differential access to housing, health care, the justice system, and education, all of these plague the workers. Decorous speech, or even solid studies, don’t seem to be working to level the playing field. So, what’s the proper way to broach the topic of these aggregate unfair social relations? If decorum is the highest value, and that allows the powers that be to continue ignoring the issues, existing inequity is allowed to reign supreme. If nobody can be made uncomfortable, business as usual continues unabated in its comfortable status quo bubble.
The simple, logical conclusion is that it doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it, no one is giving up power and control, period. The only sand in the shoe? Indecorous public comments and social media dissonance must be endured.
For housing, regardless of how we say it, the existence of people with too much privilege and people with not enough is the problem. I’ll say it politely: In Sonoma, the haves have nice, Mayberry, Leave It To Beaver, low-density neighborhoods, and they don’t want any encroachment on this arrangement. Mayberry-exclusive values are enshrined in the city’s General Plan under the code words of “small town character” and “rural character.”
Any movement to include working class people with special housing projects is met by resistance, through what I have termed the Green Checkmate, no housing on the edges, none in low density-zoned areas, none anywhere. Smart growth dogma, fueled by an apocalyptic sense of climate emergency which cannot be questioned, ends up further restricting housing options. The upshot is that possible inclusion can only happen where it meets the interests of power.
The Word from the powerful: All new development must be on West Napa Street, period. Homeowners get to keep their sequestered wealth and low-density zoning; all human cleaner fish have to take the bus and live in high-density infill on Highway 12, period. That’s woke climate justice, take it or leave it.
Speaking truth to power here has the sense of pissing in the ocean, because those with the power feel they are not to blame – they are victims too, they say. There are larger wheels turning; they can’t help the big picture. They didn’t choose such privilege; they are not intending any malice. But look at the housing facts on the ground. Who among the powerful is going to take responsibility?
In the end, the appeal for decorum can be seen as an effort to exculpate the guilty from the shame they need to feel, that would spur changes for a more equitable system overall. The point of indecorous speech is to shock folks into waking up, to spur work for a just society, and to stop finding all the reasons why not.
Our liberal salvation, the Green New Deal, can’t end up like the Green Checkmate, where social equity gets words but no action. The haves have got to sacrifice and give up some space and wealth, let the little guys in the door; move over and share the power. Stop monopolizing the discussion.
Sonoma Valley is a microcosm for all of what ails us, even as local beneficiaries never tire of saying how great it is here. How great! Sorry that my constant haranguing, of speaking truth to power, rains on the parade. If getting a message to hit home is merely a matter of decorum, playing nice, and saying it just right, and I am not getting it, someone please help me to say the words in such a fashion as to speed up the creation of a just society.