I just checked out the link to the Pepper Spray Times stories, and it really looks good. I wanted to tell you a story about "Dr. Toy".
I was upset with an opinion piece she wrote just before Christmas 2008 for the Berkeley Daily Planet. Homeless people were listed along with trash and feces as objectionably visible on public streets. I resolved to write a piece about her observations, which I believe are the psychological underpinning of brutal policy, but since it was Christmas, and since I was curious, I asked for an interview. She agreed, even though I made it clear that the interview was about homelessness.
She made it clear that she thought the interview was about her, and told me stories about her life. She brought little toys which had met with her approval to hand out to nearby kids in the cafe. And then she proceeded to clarify, with great excess, that she indeed wanted homeless people off the streets FOR THEIR OWN GOOD, which she felt made all the difference, and felt the same way about the day laborers down on 4th Street.
I let her go on for about fifteen minutes and then I told her I was there because I believed that the only reason we have local and national policies of first creating and then criminally punishing homelessness was because people like her permitted it, even going so far as to promote rounding up people off the streets. I sat and told her about the current population of homeless people numbering over 1000, the same 240 shelter beds we've had for decades being inadequate, the hundreds of empty new-built condo units, the police roundups, the hiking of quality-of-life infraction fines, etc.
She quickly began flattering me, impressed with my scholarship on the subject, and asking for references and reading material, which I didn't mind recommending. But I told her I was a satirist, and that my main purpose was to demand an apology, a written apology in the Daily Planet, for starters. Absent any apology, I planned to take her to task for comparing homeless people to trash and feces.
She has made no attempt to apologize for her cruel, ill-informed opinion piece. It's true that it is the holiday, and I did wait for weeks for some kind of acknowledgement that her comparison was ill-advised and completely devoid of compassion, but I'm done waiting. People are freezing to death here, in ones and twos, while others' health deteriorates.
I believe in confronting the people who create policy, and I believe Dr. Toy got all the generous opportunity she needed to avoid being personally satirized. Having offered her that opportunity, I believe she fully deserves to be skewered, and I'm delighted that you chose to highlight the Dr. Toy story on your site. Berkeley's war on the homeless can only continue while people like Stevanne Auerbach provide the philosophical and psychological underpinnings for a policy which should have ended decades ago.
Mitja Che Ng-Baumhackl wrote:
Hey Carol, hope it's okay with you that I just posted two of your PST articles on my blog, www.navalgazing.com. I link to your back issues... :)
Happy New Year!