An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:
** Public discussion around the cleansing of the downtown core has been especially disdainful towards sex workers. Articles in the Hamilton Spectator have cited sex workers, along with other perceived evils like high crime rates, panhandling, unsightly businesses and loiterers, as barriers to a thriving downtown economy. One Spectator article, describing the eviction of tenants from the historic Hotel Hamilton to make room for creative entrepreneurs and a trendy coffee shop, noted that the building “had ended up as a rundown boarding house that spawned numerous complaints from nearby merchants and residents about prostitution and hardcore drugs.” Similar articles, notable for the consistent exclusion of the voices of the people implicated, have suggested more policing, a ban on social services and the creation of a pedestrian mall as possible solutions. **
My online comment in response to the above linked-to article follows. I here correct typos in the original:
** This article is very thought-provoking and timely.
“In many communities, propaganda campaigns against sex workers and other “illegitimate” users of public space culminate in legislative solutions to the perceived threat of urban decay… Safer Communities And Neighbourhoods Acts have been enacted in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and Yukon, and a SCAN was recently proposed and defeated in Ontario. The legislation allows “problem” properties to be emptied via municipal and provincial court authorities. Targets are crack houses and common bawdy houses, many of which are rental properties used as living and working spaces, and evictions can be completed in as little as two weeks.
“SCANs take different forms in different provinces, but the system for identifying “problem” properties is usually complaints-driven, and community members are encouraged to observe and report their neighbours.”
Here’s the thing. I can relate to ‘some of’ the fears felt by proponents of the SCAN approach to social disintegration. There is such a thing as unclean neighborhoods and unclean people.
We seem to be talking, here, about successful (healthy if you like) versus unsuccessful (unhealthy) social life. But there is a range of many, many shades of healthy and unhealthy socio-economic conditions between the very best off and worst off in society. Those progressives who are trying to fend off the attacks by uncaring elites and their (comfortable class) tools and who romanticize for example the sex trade and it’s employees never mention the… least healthy elements further down the socio-economic ladder in the sex trade.
I worked as a security guard for 10 years on Queen East in Toronto, a sort of fringe downtown area that laws (from my understanding) drove sex workers to start working in. There is lots of economic depression in the area and lots of crack houses as well, although you’ll find that all over the city. Some prostitutes are nasty people who couldn’t care [less] whether you live or die. I’ve never hassled sex workers. And I can’t say that many of them have hassled me. But it’s happened a few [times]. One mouthed off to me, swung her purse at me and spit at me. I kept telling her to get out of my way. I was trying to get away from her. The tenants on break outside the building who heard [the] commotion had a good laugh. But it wasn’t funny.
I’ve seen some pretty scary, rundown and messed up sex workers and unless my progressive friends want to tell me that they don’t count… Others note that some of those women live with nasty criminal types who couldn’t care less whether you lived or died. No one should be indifferent to that.
But some of us care and many of us don’t. The problem isn’t always with the unsavoury people and behavior surveilling citizens see and want stopped. The problem is often that the surveilling citizens just don’t care or have good intentions. Just because you want (what you think is) the good life, that doesn’t mean that you are good or right. Nor does it mean that those who have little chance of having it themselves (sometimes, but not always, deservedly) aren’t simply unlucky. – I’m very aware that talking about those [who] are ‘deserving’ and those who are ‘undeserving’ is tricky.
I reside in an (not ‘the’) unhealthy zone in the socio-economic ladder. I don’t want to be here (where I’ve been my whole life), but it has given me the opportunity to observe how heartless people can be who have been lucky – luck ‘always’ plays a part in one’s success in this dog-eat-dog world even if hard work and sacrifice play bigger parts – in this monstrous money system. It’s a system that will devour any who can’t run fast enough (be lucky enough to have good jobs, connections, supportive friends and/or family who are financially secure, etc.) from it. And those who run fastest usually turn out to be crooks who took not only their own money before sprinting, but others’ money as well.
I had a chat today with a young man who, for the moment, is a big believer in the Right and people like Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty. But he’s not a bad person. He doesn’t have bad intentions and he’s like a lot of other people who haven’t bothered to examine what they think are their beliefs, but which are actually propaganda pushed at them by corporate owned media. He was trying to tell me that he hates the way a certain man pushes religion on him, without malice, but still… That person always has religious books with him where we see him and will preach at you and twist your arm to read one of his books if you don’t stop him up front, which it is easy enough to do to be fair. This young man in fact believes in good morals and in law and order.
Indeed. I pointed out that how you sell what you’re selling can say something about the quality of what you’re selling. I’m religious, but I don’t force my religious views on anyone. This young man, who plays a bagpipe – which he feels is fairly good at allowing a closer to pure translation of the musical intentions of the musician than some other instruments, even though he doesn’t particularly care for the instrument – stated that he’s always been sort of on a quest for purity and that’s why he likes the idea of having standards and a moral foundation, even though he doesn’t want someone forcing him to go there.
And I suggested to him that perhaps purity is impurity. That elicited… a quiet pause. Then I explained that, for example, God instituted marriage, united the first human couple and declared them to be ‘one flesh’. And that was, at this socially and economically pure time, perfect and according to the design of a perfect God. And then, in the desert, suddenly it was okay for God’s male servants to have more than one wife.
Sometimes we don’t see the forest for the trees. All kinds of people are wandering around with all kinds of moral codes in their heads, and lots of them have not learned compassion or felt empathy and so lots of judgmentalism is happening and lots of suffering as a result. Imperfect humans who believe, with or without good intentions, in a certain moral code and see others (perhaps themselves) acting against it, might not realize that they are not necessarily looking at people who are so different (or so much more wicked) than they are. They may not stop to consider that when a context changes, then the rules which prevailed within that context may need changing too.
For example, The good wife who suffers in silence for years as her loving husband, who no longer finds her sexy, gets his sex elsewhere while she goes without because she’s married and loves her husband who loves her, shows she lacks mental agility. The context for her loyalty has disappeared. She needn’t suffer. But she continues to. That was a story in the Toronto Star a while back (this year) that really moved me.
Finally, A healthy monster isn’t a good thing. But that’s just my moral code speaking. **