Autumn. I spent time yesterday at the Department of Sanitation digging through the rubble of what was left from Liberty Park. It was the second day I’ve spent doing it. The NYPD officers there know me by now and we’re friendly enough to chat to help pass the time. I was asked more than once why more people hadn’t shown up for their stuff. I didn’t have a good answer. Maybe they don’t know about it or maybe it’s too difficult to get here. Others posit that we’re just too lazy to get it together to get uptown or maybe we don’t want to be in the system because we’ve got priors or something to hide.
Yesterday I was really interested in filing claims against the city and Bloomberg that they should pay for what they’ve destroyed (“destruction of private property–that’s an actionable offense.”). But today I’m wondering how could they ever? It’s impossible to repay. We’ve got two different realities at clash. This is the paradigm shift we’ve been talking about for so long. One reality is Bloomberg’s world of finance and hierarchy, where people just follow their orders and there are claims to file. The other isn’t even about that. It’s not all about finance, it’s a gift economy. The second reality is a world of interdependence and connection, of mutual aid and relationships.
When I move to file a claim against the city, my underlying need is for some retribution, some justice. Accountability. I want my whole community back, but it can’t be bought with monies paid out by the city comptroller. What I mourn is the destruction of the love and goodwill that was embodied in the creation and daily life of Liberty Park.
It’s not just the cost of the tents and the sleeping bags, the clothing and all the gear. It’s not just about how much the electronics cost or the generators or any other thing. Their true value isn’t reflected in their money cost. Justin’s leather portfolio was given to him at graduation by his grandfather. It is irreplaceable. Its value doesn’t derive from the cost of the leather or of the craftsmanship of the thing in itself. The value is in the love the object was steeped in and the feeling it created over time.
So too the People’s Library built entirely of generosity, of love. So too all the tents, all the mittens, all the jackets, all the socks. Every pizza, every energy bar, every bottle of water. Almost every aspect of life at Liberty Park was created through a generosity of community spirit with a foundation in love. This is not quantifiable. It is the destruction of our home, of our community.
What happened at Liberty Park wasn’t just clearing a park of a bunch of campers or people leaving piles of books around, it was an attempt to sever the ties of love, community and support that had taken root and begun to grow.
I believe that what any gardener knows will prove true for our community as well. Bloomberg’s deadheaded us and our community– temporarily destroyed the visible, flowering growth. It’s almost impossible to kill a plant by deadheading, it’s actually one of the best methods for creating new growth. Now our roots can grow deeper and stronger. Thanks again for your help, Mr. Bloomberg! It really is the beginning of the beginning.