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Homeless of Venice

The Map Is Not the Territory

A few days ago I let my comrades in the Occupy Wall Street movement know through secret social media posts what was happening on the "skid row" of Venice. I wrote:

"Yesterday morning at 5:50 AM the LAPD walked down the sidewalk at 3rd and Sunset and told people in tents that they'd be getting tickets from now on if: there was a pole in a tent (holding it up), if the tent was tied to anything such as a hedge or fence, if the tent was blocking the sidewalk in the cops' opinion and if the heads of all occupants were not sticking out of the tent (for the officers' safety/so that they could ID who and how many were inside at a glance). One person next to me who had been given "pole" tickets in the past and who has tied his tent up to objects for the last few months was told he could no longer do that from now on."

I can only guess what went through their minds. Images of a sweep the next morning with multiple patrol cars, lights, police dogs barking, et cetera. What actually happened was a black and white cruised by slowly while I was up before anyone else and a cop softly said to someone moving in his sleeping bag on the sidewalk near me that "It was time to get up."--ignoring the large, sealed tent with poles next to him.

The same cops as yesterday? I'm not sure, but it was nonetheless a real-life example of the capricious, seemingly arbitrary, nature of LAPD and homeless interaction here. Not even the usual "woot-woot" siren sound they make from the squad cars almost every morning from their cars. The map being the rules (what one would write down) vs. the territory (what actually happens.)

homeless of venice

My point being that it's hard for someone who is down and out to know what the rules are (the map) when their reality is that much of police vs. homeless synergy here is selective (the territory.) For homeless political activists such as myself communicating to other activists (who often aren't themselves homeless) about what's happening out here it presents a challenge. Though the speech from the day before might be interpreted as reading the "homeless riot act" to individuals (the map) the reality is that much of police/homeless interaction is literally discriminatory (the territory.) The only real rule in the end being analogous to the law of the jungle on the African plains--the lions don't show up and eat all the antelopes—the selection is based upon the weakest links standing out.

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It happens all the time contingent upon, more often than not, the attitude of the officers towards the circumstance. If a “bum" is sleeping on a bench on main street in the sun with the public passing by a cop will certainly tell him or her to move on--if not ticket them, but at 5:50 in the morning on an isolated street filled with sleeping homeless people the whole "control" thing must get old, even for the LAPD, and there's no sign of the homeless population in Venice decreasing soon--just the opposite.

Homeless of Venice

Though the average person resents us occupy activists for relentlessly to-this-day contextualizing the crimes of the bankers as causing this American tragedy (the territory) that same person is reinforced through their own frustration at feeling powerless against the 1% and the media's scapegoating of the homeless (e.g., Fox News) to blame the powerless for crimes only the powerful could have perpetrated (the map).

And "caught" in the middle--pun intended--are the cops. The attitude of many of the LAPD towards all this, I contend, is along the lines of "I signed up to bust gangbangers and keep the peace--not babysit transients." But like the average person, they're human, too, and their frustrations manifest on the front lines of this class war of the 21st century as the seemingly lackadaisical attitudes of lions lying in the sun amidst tall grass eying which antelope appears the weakest (the map) when the reality is that the 1% who control this country (and the world) use the cops, the banks, the government and the media as tools to distract we-the-people from the real machinations of control as if the world were their own private jungle (the territory.)

And we're all economic prey if the 99% don't stick together and fight back against the un-American injustice of it all and see the world for what it's truly become. A jungle controlled by the few for their own selfish ends.

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Because the map is not the territory.

Brian Connolly