July 16, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 29

Community & Editorial

A Case For Being Human

Letter to the editor

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Do the poor really need to be “shocked” into greater productivity? (“To free up housing for the thousands in line for it, Seattle Housing Authority to take a tough-love approach to tenants,” Real Change, July 2)

Why should those of us who have learned the art of living with less, who consistently find ourselves adapting to the many systemic inequities and effects of a speculative “free market” assume a “for-our-own-good” ramping of our financial obligations relative to housing?

Why not be human about housing? As David Graeber explains in his book, “Debt: The First 5,000 Years,” speculative finance-based economies, owing their origins to war, expansionism and slavery, typically organize and conceive themselves as mandatory and retribution based. Those deemed in need of reforming, rehabilitation and “changing” usually end up bearing the burden of the reformer’s dream. Historically these forms of relating to each other exist only in the contexts of conquering and colonizing.

Our world also has a significant history in what Graeber terms “human economies.” Human economies normalize the human assumption that there is no “other” to shock, marginalize, colonize or reform. We are it. And if we are it, why not prioritize health, emotional wellness, friends, families and home?

Being human is a vocation with a very long tradition. Being human predates empire and every one of its “cost-spreading” mechanisms. When commonly shared, the world provides housing, healthy food, clean air, clean water, education, culture and enjoyment, and works as a functioning and sustaining infrastructure. While in this world we can practice non-coercive, facilitating and sustainable human relations by volition and design.

Or, if you wouldn’t want the restrictive, aggressive, austerity-mentality policies designed for “the poor” applied to you, this means they pretty much suck.

Sharon Alexander |  Seattle



"Elimination from our surroundings of the pecuniarily unfit results in a[n] ... elimination of [the] elements of beauty which do not happen to conform to the pecuniary requirement."

lucy mendes | submitted on 07/31/2014, 8:44am

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