TimeOut New York took an admirable jab at getting New Yorkers into some activism with their latest issue – decked out in red tinted activist-y decoupage, of course – but misses (more than) a few points. Summary:
GOOD: Critical Mass! An actual endorsement for almost direct action!
BAD: No other mention of direct action. A friend of mine might describe much of their suggestions as ‘Liberal Bullshit.’ There was way too much discussion of calling legislators and asking nicely. Concerned about housing prices? Squat! Food going to waste? Dumpster it! (The ‘food is wasted’ section really needed to talk about Food Not Bombs) Take to the streets, but realize that moral persuasion only goes so far in getting the change you want – at some point you have to pose a risk to the interests and goals of the people you wish to persuade, and phonecalls just won’t do the trick.
GOOD: Acknowledgment of the housing crisis! A two part-er – New York homelessness continues to a be a problem, as does gentrification, which creates vulnerability to homelessness.
BAD: Umm, connecting the dots anyone? Homelessness and lack of affordable housing are the same issue, and parsing out ‘homelessness’ as a problem turns homelessness into a pathology rather than the result of systemic violence. Homelessness happens because of the cost of housing, not a lack of ‘job skills’ or ‘training.’ Too many people conflate homelessness with unemployment, but someone can go homeless while employed because of rent increases, spouses leaving – any number of sudden reasons.
Another problem: what the fuck is ‘overdevelopment‘? And what does it mean to ‘kill a neighborhood’? TimeOut devotes a whole section to this, and all it talked about was preserving buildings and shit. I don’t think you can talk about ‘killing a neighborhood’ unless you talk about what that means materially for the people that live there. This is not a legitimate issue until you connect it to the actual struggle of people to make do in capitalism, instead of merely protecting the interests of the already-established.
GOOD: Acknowledging environmental catastrophe!
BAD: Pretending it’s consumer’s fault! TimeOut gives some useful tips on cleaning up riverfront trash, reducing air emissions, etc. – but doesn’t ask who produced that trash, the cars creating air pollution, and totally ignores ConEd when talking about ‘deadly air.’ Also, dirty air doesn’t just happen everywhere – New York has a history of locating environmental contaminants in and around poor neighborhoods. Why is the Cross-Bronx Expressway not the Cross SoHo Expressway? Where are the power plants (and landfills) in New York? Seriously: coal/gas power plants hurt people, and ConEd placed its New York plants in places where people wouldn’t complain, or if residents did ignore, they could be ignored with limited political fallout.
GOOD: Talking about unions! Organize!
BAD: TimeOut doesn’t actually suggest anyone form or join one. Instead, they suggest wearing pro-union clothes and singing songs. Uhhh…
BAD: Misplaced priorities. The topics for the issue were selected by ‘reader poll,’ which means that the population of prisons and other marginalized groups probably didn’t have much say. That’s a serious oversight – NYPD has more than its share of issues, NYC Department of Corrections has similar or more problems. I also would have liked to see a discussion of the privatization/elimination of public space, and a discussion of AIDS, particularly in connection to the bit on homelessness. I don’t think TO NY had many homeless people asking about how to get into a home, they had housed people asking about how to get homeless folks out of their neighborhood.
Also, shoutout to Nina, now on the blogroll…