The agony of San Francisco: "Conditions in some neighborhoods are worse than in Uganda"

2022-06-15 18:15:57 By : Ms. Flora Li

The number of human feces complaints on the streets of San Francisco more than doubled (from 10,692 to 20,933) between 2014 and 2018. A year later, the city spent nearly $100 million cleaning the streets—four times more than Chicago, despite having three times fewer inhabitants.In 2020, not only did it already have 50% more drug users than students in public universities, but 713 people died of overdoses, more than double that of the coronavirus."They have installed very expensive portable toilets, they have cleaned the streets... And even so, there is still a lot of human feces in the streets," explains journalist Michael Shellenberger, who has lived in this city for 30 years, in an interview with El Confidencial."When you have a lot of people living on the streets, many of them drug addicts, it's inevitable that the streets get dirty and the neighborhoods turn into makeshift slums."Michael Shellenberger is a well-known climate activist and polemicist who has written several books warning of "environmental alarmism."Now, this president of the organization Environmental Progress publishes 'San Fransicko: why progressives ruin cities', a work in which he details what has gone wrong in San Francisco's urban and health plan so that the number of homeless people has doubled in the city (more than 8,000 people for a city of 880,000 inhabitants) since 2005.For Shellenberger, the main culprit for the state of some city neighborhoods, full of used syringes and feces, is none other than the "radical left" and its "well-intentioned" policies.Both during the interview and in his book, the writer sometimes makes statements that are too blunt and unequivocal about a multidimensional problem such as drug addiction and homelessness, but of course he manages to focus on an increasingly striking topic: how called Golden City has become famous for the thousands of people who live on its streets.QUESTION.How bad is the situation in San Francisco?The special envoy of the United Nations Organization was horrified in 2018 with the state of the city and compared it to the slums of Mumbai."There is a cruelty that I have not seen in my life," she said.The other day he was reading a comment on the internet that some neighborhoods in San Francisco looked like Syrian refugee camps.What's going on?RESPONSE.I've been to slums all over the world in Africa, Asia and Latin America, from New Delhi to Uganda, and conditions in some San Francisco neighborhoods are worse.But it is not because of poverty, but because of drug addiction and the lack of treatment for mental illness.It is the result of the well-intentioned policies of the radical left, which calls itself progressive.In San Francisco, there is an ideology that justifies these camps.In the United States, the word 'progressive' has become a euphemism for the radical left, which says it is immoral to ask people to sleep in shelters, to require involuntary hospitalization or treatment of drug-addicted people suffering from true addictions or mental diseases.Q. Why do these slums form?R. The left assumes that people are homeless because they are poor and that drug addicts are drug addicts because they are poor.But it ignores the fact that they are homeless because of their addiction and that many are addicts…not because they are poor!Both drug addicts and people with mental illness follow similar processes when it comes to disaffiliation from family and friends.They abandon their entire environment to continue taking drugs.When you're a drug addict, especially in the later stages of addiction, you try to stay as close to the drug dealers as possible.And you live in these shacks in squalid and dirty conditions where the only thing that matters to you is meeting your drug needs."The State has to intervene to prevent people from destroying themselves with their addictions"P. The main thesis of the book is that the decriminalization of the hardest drugs has not worked.What was the idea behind that logic and why has it gone wrong?R. From the beginning, there is an ideological reason.The radical left spread the idea in the 1990s that people with mental illnesses should have homes without conditions or drugs.And that idea spread in the 2000s with drug addiction.We know from Europe – Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Vienna or Zurich – that the state has to intervene to prevent people from destroying themselves with their addictions.And also that giving someone a house has to be a reward for the effort of abstinence or for fighting to take your medications.Q. This homeless crisis in San Francisco stems from a national drama that has been years in the making: the rise in overdoses.A. There are two devastating drug epidemics in the US.Drugs killed 17,000 people each year in 2000. Now they kill 96,000 people.It's a number that continues to give me goosebumps.One of the epidemics, therefore, is of amphetamines or methamphetamines.It speeds up in the sixties and every decade it becomes more powerful and we are not able to find a solution.P. And the other crisis?R. The opioid crisis, triggered by the massive prescription of pharmaceuticals in the nineties to treat pain.But people who were depressed, lonely, or alienated took opioids because their doctors, under pressure from drug companies, prescribed them to anyone.In 2010, the Obama administration restricted opiates, but many people who had become addicted switched to heroin, which was trafficked from Mexico.And now you have people taking fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin.To give you an idea, three friends of mine from school became addicts and two have died.The one that remains has serious problems.P. What do you propose to solve this problem in San Francisco?R. We know that the way to treat addictions is through intervention.In the US… we know it very well!In fact, we have a 'reality' on television called 'Intervention'.Many people in the US have a family member or friend who has had some kind of addiction and know what someone means when they say “intervention”.But the radical left says: “No, you should not intervene.These people are victims and they can do what they want, because it would be immoral to try to impose ourselves on those who have an addiction.In fact, we should give them what they want.If they want to sleep on the street, not only do we have to let them, but we also have to give them a tent.”We are giving them money, free rooms, silver paper… If we don't ask for anything in return, we are subsidizing their addiction.P. You usually say that, in this issue, both the stick and the carrot are needed, but the radical left has stopped using the stick.What would be the stick?A. Comply with the law.The left has forgotten to comply with the law.The San Francisco attorney general says that even drug traffickers are victims of human trafficking because they come from Honduras.So we do not comply with the law so that there are no repatriations.The stick would be to prohibit camping in the city, taking drugs in public, defecating in the street or stealing from stores.There you should be arrested and brought before a judge.And if the judge and psychiatrist determine that you are suffering from drug addiction, then you should have the option, alternative to jail, of committing to rehab.The carrot would be avoiding jail for rehab.But pressure would have to be put on you to walk towards abstinence."We are giving them money, free rooms, silver paper... If we don't ask for anything in return, we are subsidizing their addiction"Q. Some compare the decriminalization of drugs such as amphetamines or heroin with the criminalization of alcohol and marijuana.But you, who were an advocate for the decriminalization of marijuana, say that they are two very different things.A. There are two ways of thinking about drugs and addiction.The first is that just about anything can be addictive.Social networks, sex, marijuana and all kinds of drugs.At the same time, there are many differences between drugs.Who has suffered an overdose smoking marijuana?No one.You can throw your life away if you don't stop smoking weed, so there should be some restrictions.Same with alcohol.We don't let people drink in many places on the street.We have to keep both things in mind.But I still think it's good to decriminalize the use of marijuana.You can even do it with heroin and cocaine too, but it's a very different thing to sell it in stores.For example, if you do what the Portuguese or the Dutch do – I haven't studied the Spanish case – if you arrest someone for shooting heroin, they don't have to go to jail.P. For this, a greater focus on mental health is needed, he defends.What is the relationship between drug addiction and mental illness?A. Normally, if you are addicted to heroin, you are sick.You are suffering from a type of mental illness, which is what addiction is.And you need the people around you and the state to pressure you to go to rehab.There is an extreme argument that everyone who is addicted to drugs has an underlying mental illness.I do not know if it's true.But anyone who is addicted needs detox help.A friend of mine addicted to cocaine started taking an antidepressant, exercising and dieting and managed to quit.Therefore, to improve the drug issue, we need better mental health protection.Q. What role do you think ideology has played in this type of policy?You write: "Those who question the policies of homeless 'advocates' are attacked and branded as inhumane, even though those very policies have contributed to so many people being able to live under one roof."A. When I grew up in the eighties and nineties, the radical left revered heroes like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or even Che Guevara.Their stories were heroic, leaders overcoming the oppression of the system to benefit the most disadvantaged and fighting for socialism and greater equality.That has changed in the United States.Now we have the 'woke' ideology, focused exclusively on the victims.The victims are now spiritual and sacred beings.The left, instead of seeking heroism, seeks victim status.And we have entered into a stupid competition for who is more victimized.This is related to identity politics: the more types of victim you are, the higher your status.Before, the left thought that you could be a victim now but a hero later.But not anymore.If you are a victim now, you will continue to be in the future.P. And in this case, what does being homeless and a drug addict have to do with political victimization?A. Once you are lucky enough to be declared a 'victim', everything must be given to you and nothing can be asked of you.If you are a drug addict, you will receive money, house, needles, etc.You cannot be asked to stop using drugs or try to achieve abstinence, since asking you to improve your life will be nothing more than a continuation of that state oppression.P. You say that the left has made it taboo to say that there are people living on the streets for reasons that have nothing to do with poverty.In the case of homeless people, many times yes, but he says in the book that the relationship between drug addiction and poverty is not so clear.A. When I wrote in 'Forbes' that many people living on the streets are addicts, a so-called radical left homeless advocate accused me of inciting violence against people on the streets.He is very intimidating to be accused of inciting violence.But that's the best way to silence someone.Such aggressive and emotional language is an ideal way to intimidate people.We have before us a new McCarthyism, but now it is on the left.Q. You don't sound very optimistic when you talk about the future of San Francisco.R. It is difficult not to be pessimistic when you think that everything has gotten worse in the last 30 years.There are some signs that this may change.California still has a lot of future, but San Francisco… I'm sorry to tell you that I'm not optimistic.The number of human feces complaints on the streets of San Francisco more than doubled (from 10,692 to 20,933) between 2014 and 2018. A year later, the city spent nearly $100 million cleaning the streets—four times more than Chicago, despite having three times fewer inhabitants.In 2020, not only did it already have 50% more drug users than students in public universities, but 713 people died of overdoses, more than double that of the coronavirus.