Morlock Elloi on Mon, 21 Aug 2017 20:51:21 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Richard Florida Is Sorry

Also relevant:

The Bay Area is Separating into Red and Green Zones

(see pic at )

The more I pay attention in the Bay Area the more I’m noticing that it’s a place of absolute poverty.

Much of the East Bay is extremely poor. The South Bay is poor. The North Bay quite poor (on the east side). And we’re talking about around 7 million people in total.

Inside of this 7 million people, and the vast swaths of poverty, there are basically a few rich areas. Mostly the tech areas.

San Francisco. Mountain View. Palo Alto. San Mateo. Marin County. And a few tiny areas spread around. I’m guessing around 2-5% of the actual geography and population has a salary that lets them live comfortably, and that seems too be supported by numerous recent articles.

Other than that, what you have is working class people making very little money while living in one of the most expensive places in the world. And it’s extremely hard for them to get by.

We’re talking about people with little education, some basic job skill like construction, or retail, cleaning surfaces, medical tech, or something similar. Many are immigrants facing language and legal barriers, as well as the even more formidable obstacle of having been told:

If you just just work hard, everything will work out. Don’t worry about all that fancy college stuff, that’s not for you. Just work constantly, start a family, and everything will be ok.

It’s heartbreaking to watch people walk over that cliff, work lunchbox in hand, smiling because they’re being good workers.

Anyway, driving around the Bay Area is surreal. I live in San Francisco, and if I drive just around 5 minutes south, you’re instantly in a very different place. The crime rates skyrocket. There is garbage all over the place (well, that’s in San Francisco too). And you generally have no energy in the people.

Why? Because they’re fried. They work 2-3 jobs, making no money, and basically look forward to getting home and watching TV until their next shift starts. Of course that’ll be a shift that is as long as possible, as unpredictable as possible, and hopefully (for the company) isn’t enough hours to require that benefits be paid.

So you basically have millions of zombies, roaming around the Bay Area, going from job to job, making virtually no money, who are not planning at all for their futures (other than having kids to take care of them).

You’ll know you’re in these neighborhoods because they’ll be full of check cashing businesses, dollar stores, cheap Chinese food, fast food, and basically everything looks dilapidated.

The malls are full of discount shops trying to liquidate something. No high end stores. No bookstores. There is trash everywhere. The conversations are all about how they’re being beaten down by the daily grind, and you doubt they even know that automation is coming for the jobs that they still have. It’s just sad.

So I keep driving, and I eventually end up in San Mateo. There’s a small amount of stuff right there by the water. Lots of Tech. Visa. Decent shopping, etc. So, it looks a bit more healthy. But it’s tiny, really. And the areas around it are just like the ones 5 minutes north—poor.

So then you drive out of San Mateo heading south. More of the same. Working class poverty. Run down cars. Run down people. People working way too much for way too little. Garbage everywhere. No colleges. No bookstores. Just car title shops and places to buy alcohol and nicotine.

Then you get to the Valley at some point. Mountain View. Menlo Park. Palo Alto.

Oh, this must be the thriving Bay Area I’ve heard of. Everyone’s on fire. Fast-talking. Vibrant. Energetic. Smart. Busy. The job pays well, but they’ve got 12 other things going on at the same time.

Their kids come out of the womb with a college acceptance letter. Not because they’re entitled one, but because the parents have been planning it since 4 years before they got pregnant.

This area is full of colleges. Bookstores. Coffee shops. High-end shopping. Apartments that virtually nobody in the United States can afford. 3-4K for a single bedroom.

Keep going down and you end up San Jose. Keep in mind this is just a few minutes drive away. But much of San Jose is indistinguishable from a slum. So much of the infrastructure is decayed to the point of looking like a third-world country. I’ve been to many, and the similarities are unpleasant.

Come back around up to the north and you end up around Newark and Fremont, which is where I’m from. Newark is working class poor. The energy has been sucked from it by jobs that pay virtually nothing after taking every waking moment from those who work them.

Fremont has some promise, but only because it has a chance of becoming a small green zone. And green zones only represent “promise” if they’re options for everyone, not if they’re a tiny oasis in the rest of the world.

Heading north from Fremont is basically sadness. Hayward, Oakland, San Leandro, Richmond, Vallejo. They’re all poverty stricken and broken. The only green zones I see out in that area are maybe in Dublin, Pleasanton, Moraga, etc., but I honestly don’t know much about those areas because I seldom get out there.

Minus the rent levels, green zones represent the America that we thought we had. It’s the Bay Area we thought we had.

But to 95% of the Bay Area this isn’t where they live. It’s where rich people live.

So what we have is an extremely poor Bay Area, with a few tiny little rich spots.

We have 90% of the Bay Area working for wages and not getting an education or gaining skills that will lift them into the next socio-economic class. And then 10% of the Bay Area lives in very few places, with the best jobs, the best infrastructure, all their kids are going to college, and they’ll have as good jobs or better.

This is a problem.

I drive around this Bay Are that I love, listening to books about the trends that are coming. Trends around work. Trends around technology. Trends around income disparity.

And I see it. I’m watching it in realtime, as I gain an increasingly vivid picture of where it’s going.

A while back I wrote The Bifurcation of America: The Forced Class Separation into Alphas and Betas.

This is what I’m seeing happen to the Bay Area. I’m seeing a big red zone with tiny little green zones inside of it.

And I’m worried about what the borders to those zones will soon look like. I’m worried that within 10-20 years there will be strong measures that keep red zone types out of the green zone, due to security problems that will arise out of the separation and disparity in opportunity and benefits.

At some point people are going to get tired of being bused into the green zone to clean and build, only to be shipped back out to the red zone where they can afford to live.

I can’t see any degree of harmony coming from this degree of separation between the classes. And I don’t see any force in our immediate future (other than a world war) that can keep technology from making it happen.

So I’m sad.

I wish people could see what I think I’m seeing. Or that I were wrong in some way.

But I don’t think they want to, and I don’t think I am.
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