I was walking through my local park in North Beach last week, and I noticed a crowd gathered around a man lying on the ground. It looked like he was having a seizure. I watched him shake uncontrollably on the cement until some paramedics came to take him to a hospital.
Seeing someone OD in the street was a first for me, but almost nothing surprises me in San Francisco. In the same park, I’ve been verbally harassed by a man in a full body bear suit. It wasn’t Halloween. I could go on and on with stories of my favorite neighborhood bums (Crack McGuiver has a special place in my heart), but the point I’m making is that homelessness is a problem here. While it makes for great stories, these are real people that are suffering. And in my opinion, parents shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not their child will see a homeless man ODing on their way to the playground.
I was going to write a post laying out some of my questions and ideas. But after doing maybe 15 minutes of reading on the problem, I realized how insanely complex this issue is. The new mayor, London Breed lays out what seems to be a good plan here. The punchline being, keep people from losing their homes and put people in the streets back into homes. Easy, right? One year into taking office, and homelessness in SF is demonstrably worse. About 2,000 people were being taken off the street per year (according to statistics she gave prior to taking office) and then she brags about 1,500 people being taken off the street in her first year of office. And for everyone one person taken off the streets, roughly three people became homeless. So what the hell is going on here?
I have no idea. There’s simply too many actors with unclear or opposing incentives. Too many intersections between housing policy, zoning, rent costs, building costs, budget, lobbying, fundraising, campaigning, federal restrictions, and just general bureaucracy for me to make much sense of it. I could dedicate serious time to research, but I don’t want to bother. There’s only so much time in the day and so much impact one can make. That isn’t to say someone shouldn’t be spending time on this. I’d hope that a lot of smart people would and are. It’s just not gonna be me. And if it’s not me, then I need to shut my mouth and accept the fact that I have no idea what I’m talking about.
I called this blog Mostly Ignorant (originally) to embrace this ideal that I’m alluding to. This world is complex. What’s accepted in science today is nonsense tomorrow. It’s almost certain that we’re wrong about most of what we accept to be common knowledge and best practices. This is true of science, morality, and even personal hygiene. Surgeons literally didn’t wash their hands before 1847.
It’s easy to assume that if doctors don’t know what they’re talking about, my opinion is as good as theirs. It’s true that experts and scientists are mostly wrong. I think science is the pursuit of becoming less wrong over time. But that doesn’t mean that your Aunt Tina has anything useful to say about pancreatic cancer treatment. There’s a reason we go to doctors and hospitals instead of calling our Aunt Tina. It’s because Aunt Tina hasn’t dedicated her adult life to studying and practicing medicine. If I need to know who got robbed on Season 32 of the Bachelor, I’ll give you a ring Aunt Tina. Just shut up about acai berries.
My aim is to speak only on that which I know. Which means I’m quiet, as I’m young and don’t know shit. And when I’m simply compelled to speak up on homelessness or the global implications of killing an Iranian general I was utterly unaware of until the foreign policy experts of Twitter enlightened me, I hope that I’ll remember that I’m mostly ignorant.