studying the city (Annette Koh)

Public space, the right to the city, and civic engagement. How can we improve equity and access through participatory urbanism? Ph.D. student in Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Former resident of Seoul & San Francisco.
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Posts tagged "american society"

A pseudo-event, then, is a happening that possesses the following characteristics:

(1) It is not spontaneous, but comes about because someone has planned, planted, or incited it. Typically, it is not a train wreck or an earthquake, but an interview.

(2) It is planted primarily (not always exclusively) for the immediate purpose of being reported or reproduced. Therefore, its occurrence is arranged for the convenience of the reporting or reproducing media. Its success is measured by how widely it is reported. Times relations in it are commonly fictitious or factitious; the announcement is given out in advance “for future release” and written as if the event had occurred in the past. The question, “Is it real?” is less important than, “Is it newsworthy?”

(3) Its relation to the underlying reality of the situation is ambiguous. Its interest arises largely from this very ambiguity. Concerning a pseudo-event the question, “What does it mean?” has a new dimension. While the news interest in a train wreck is in what happened and in the real consequences, the interest in a [pseudo-event] is always, in a sense, in whether it really happened and in what might have been the motives. Without some of this ambiguity a pseudo-event cannot be very interesting.

(4) Usually it is intended to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The hotel’s thirtieth-anniversary celebration, by saying that the hotel is a distinguished institution, actually makes it one.

Daniel Joseph Boorstin. The image: a guide to pseudo-events

Our recent economic crisis, its underlying foundations and our reactions to it highlight our obsession with the wisdom of economics and efficiency. With the economic recession, we worried more about the return to American prestige, and less about how our irresponsible spending affected the world, or about how perhaps we need a change of values. This need for economic wisdom and efficiency seeps its way into even our most ardent civil rights discussions. Often, you will see people discuss women’s, LGBTQ rights in the context of how it benefits the economy, as if the morality of these issues weren’t enough to be convincing. In President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address, he couched many moral issues in economic rationalizations and reasoning. After he grounded immigration reform in economic wisdom, “Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants,” he explains that similarly, “We know our economy is stronger when our wives, our mothers, our daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence.” Our politicians, even potentially progressive presidents, justify many policy decisions based on their economic boon. To that extent, the book paints a familiar picture of an American society more bothered by the economic cost of war than its moral toll.
Guernica Magazine's review of David M. Kennedy’s The Modern American Military, reveals the trade-offs we’ve made for our super-efficient, all-volunteer forces. Joe Winkler writes about military hyper efficiency and its (moral, social) costs. Guernica is also on Tumblr.

Sticker sold in a San Diego store

Ever since the stored property ordinance (Bill 54) was signed into law here in the City and County of Honolulu, I’ve been reading/thinking a lot about the criminalization of homelessness. The clearest explanation on the fundamental injustice of these ordinances was laid out by legal scholar Jeremy Waldron in his 1991-92 article “Homelessness and the Issue of Freedom”:  

Now one question we face as a society — a broad question of justice and social policy — is whether we are willing to tolerate an economic system in which large numbers of people are homeless. Since the answer is evidently, “Yes,” the question that remains is whether we are willing to allow those who are in this predicament to act as free agents, looking after their own needs, in public places — the only space available to them. It is a deeply frightening fact about the modern United States that those who have homes and jobs are willing to answer “Yes” to the first question and “No” to the second.

As someone utterly dependent on the public restrooms of the Seoul subway system (nearly always before the turnstiles and thus accessible to all), I am not sure why people get so huffy about homeless people in Hawaii choosing to live at beach parks. Access to showers and bathrooms ain’t no small thing. As Waldron writes, “Moreover, though we say there is nothing particularly dignified about sleeping or urinating, there is certainly something deeply and inherently undignified about being prevented from doing so.” 

A lawyerly way of saying the following, yes, America does sh**ty things to homeless people (full article at Alternet). 

disobey:

1. Outlawing sitting down. 

2. Denying people access to shelters.

3. Making it illegal to give people food.

4. Installing obstacles to prevent sleeping or sitting.

5. Anti-panhandling laws.

6. Anti-panhandling laws to punish people who give.

7. Feeding panhandling meters instead of panhandlers.

8. Selective enforcement of laws like jaywalking and loitering.

9. Police raids repeatedly destroying possessions and shelters of the homeless.

10. Kicking homeless kids out of school.