With cities growing ever safer, more sanitized, more well behaved by the day, the financial hurdles of being able to afford these swelling citadels for the rich spiral ever upwards. American crime, or at least the violent type you hear about on the McNews, has been declining for decades since leaded gasoline was banned. In its place is a new lawlessness: land theft, rent gouging, corporate mortgage fraud, foreclosures, water shutoffs, and criminal bankers always getting away with it, every fucking time.
What makes the middle class turn a blind eye to this kind of white collar urban crime? It benefits them, of course.
If you’re the type with a secure career who wants to raise a family, you aim for the up-and-coming respectable part of town. Never mind it used to be a heroin den of strippers and steel workers – they’re long gone. So are the artists, the graffiti, the low wage baristas, the food carts. Now glass and concrete condos reflect affluence to all still around to give a shit.
America has embraced capital real estate completely. We’d prefer tens of thousands of homes sat empty than a homeless person live peacefully in one for free. We’d rather evict campers sleeping in a tent under a freeway, lest they offend some REI cyclist on his morning cubicle commute.
You know the type: Liberals who talk about inequality the way Republicans talk about homosexuals, “Some of my good friends are homeless, I just don’t agree with their lifestyle, but Pray they can help themselves to a better, market-priced housing future.”
— Seth Woolley (@sethwoolley) May 16, 2015
Once I wrote about bike thieving as being a really bad thing, a thing to be prevented at all costs. It was mostly a satirical piece written in response to a tone-deaf article pondering whether running over cyclists was morally practical. Still, I was criticized for ignoring the disenfranchised for whom theft is an act of survival. Those critics were correct, even though they were oblivious to the satire.
In the interest of expanding the possibilities and appeasing my critics, maybe a rash of bike thefts is just the cure for a nervous class of yuppies all too happy to gentrify your working class neighborhood. Maybe a modest increase in street crime can help keep your community in their homes?
I’ll stop short here of actually advocating theft, or any crimes above traditional civil disobedience. Rebel Metropolis, as always, neither condones nor condemns autonomous action. These are just creative ideas, take ’em or leave ’em.
Think of this as a social experiment in price point stabilization. We need true affordable housing, not that ten percent below ‘market rate’ horse shit.
See a new condo going up after your favorite cafe was just wrecking-balled? Watch who’s parking their bikes there afterward. Perhaps liberate their fancy carbon-fiber hobby and gift it to somebody in need. You might be thefting. Then again, you might not. After all, what’s one Cannondale to somebody who can afford to steal an entire neighborhood?
You needn’t stop at bikes. There’s lots of tactical urbanist installations that can help drive down the cost of rent once the developers and investors discover the locals to be ungovernable. Put that Broken Window Theory to the test!
If theft and vandalism isn’t your druthers, maybe just help resurrect those “eye-sore” camps under the freeway. Once the huddled masses yearning to be free get evicted by armed protectors and servers, they’re going to need help – cops routinely destroy the property homeless people depend on to survive.
If you can, donate used camping gear to a shelter or organization, preferably one not affiliated with city government. For extra credit, find the last known site of a recently purged camp and dump your refuse there. The cubicle cyclists now free of riff-raff will no doubt enjoy fond nostalgia smelling the familiar odors on their morning commute.
All kidding aside, some of the most well-read bikey voices around are celebrating a war on the homeless. Perhaps it’s time to fight back and hit them where they’re most vulnerable.
Virtually every urban dweller not making salary is struggling against skyrocketing rent. How would your friends survive if forced to live on the street while armed cops disrupted their daily lives?
Bottom line: bicycles are way, way less important than human life. If your cherished bike advocates won’t freely admit this fact, maybe it’s time to stop funding them.
See you in the streets.
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Illustration by Grayson Perry.