Saturday, January 6, 2024

Goodbye 20th Century Peoples' Park Edition


For the past few days, Disaster Amnesiac has been watching the events that continue to unfold at and around Peoples' Park in downtown Berkeley. It appears as though Cal has finally jumped through the final legal hoop and will indeed be able to develop the block upon which the storied park sits. Their spokesmen stress the university's "urgent need for housing", along with the more apparent and long standing issue of various crimes that occur there. Demonstrations against the development plan have occurred, arrests of a few protestors have been made, but their numbers appear to be quite limited. An action that would have drawn angry masses out into the streets of Berkeley in years past is quite obviously a non-event in 2024, and this is fascinating and very telling to me. Perusing the the vox populi within YouTube comments, Disaster Amnesiac has found that people for the most part support Cal and its claim that it owns the property and needs to use it. Additionally, there is evident frustration with the people who congregate within Peoples' Park for days and days that eventually melt into years and probably even decades. I can't find a lot of sympatico on display for the Movement types of people for whom the park was at one time a major flashpoint for their causes. It's evaporated. Citizens in Berkeley are more inclined to mention the crimes that they've seen or that they fear they will see in and around that block of their town; when they do mention the legacy of the Free Speech Movement, they acknowledge it but neither do they shy away from the fact that the physical space is not the same as the ideas that were once exchanged therein. I guess that someone should venture on over to the campus proper and find some expert on Post Structuralism for further explorations of that particular dynamic. Disaster Amnesiac has also had much pause to think about people such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, and Andy Ngo, who were all censored and even physically attacked on the Cal Berkeley campus for simply trying to communicate their ideas. Even if one finds these ideas odious, as many in Berkeley obviously do, their freedom of speech was cancelled ignominiously and without any kind of intellectual consideration. They were simply shouted down and worse. To my mind, these actions set the stage for the sight of shipping containers and bulls in SWAT uniforms shutting down Peoples' Park. As we approach the second quarter of the 21st Century, it's obvious that a lot of our society, and yes, even a lot of the enlightened thinkers at places such as Cal, have jettisoned concepts such as the First Amendment of the Constitution. The mega donors of the professional managerial classes, in all of their varied guises, will go with the money, and ideas, for them, can pretty much fuck off. They have too much at stake for all that now, and places such as Peoples' Park, while they may be quaint reminders of noble actions that happened at some point in a distant and possibly over sentimentalized past, are ultimately just that. The Plan must roll on, and the Planners can't afford to be too romantic. And it's clear that most 21st Century Americans, if they noticed the events at Peoples' Park at all (which they mostly didn't), are cool with that. There's just not time to be bothered by that kind of thing anymore in this odd paradigm we've created here in the United States, well after the previous century and its often quite different societal aspirations.

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