Public Comment

Never Mention Tree Sit Trojan Horse again: A Grander Vision for the Heart of Parkness

By Wendy Schlesinger
Wednesday February 09, 2011 - 02:01:00 PM

Let's be kind and say the unwanted tree sit was an unwitting Trojan horse that brought bad juju to People's Park temporarily. It started by muddled minds seeking publicity ostensibly to avoid harm to the park, but the violence and weapon and damage involved clearly brought much more harm to the Park's reputation than would have happened if they just let it be. 

To achieve a grander people's vision of the Park's evolution we have to get past a few misconceptions: It is not Native American owned land; the original leaflet was a literary, not a literal trope. 

The Regents are land stewards of the land and hold title for the people of California. If as in the new article on the founding of People's Park the former Chancellor Heyns tells UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design Professor Sym van Der Ryn that he is just the Regents' janitor, then we can be the Regents' gardeners and reconciliators. It is wrong and improper to see the University as an enemy or the enemy; look to your left, as the old joke goes and look to your of those people is a therapist. Now if the therapist is on your left, the Berkeley dwelling citizen who works for UC Berkeley is on your right. 

Rather than aspire to take away the miniscule pensions of mostly female administrators who gave up higher salaried corporate jobs to commit 10, 20, 30 or 40 years of their lives to raise their children on a slender paycheck , but then someday have health care and a pension to augment medicare and social security, the carpers of People's Park and the organizers of the assembly on Telegraph (which I totally do not support as the cause is misguided and unproductive, provocative by nature and too old-school) should aspire to getting and keeping jobs. 

People's Park should become a focus of a green jobs total approach involving town/gown/Berkeley and Oakland and RIchmond youth. Anyone who wants to work and can work who now hangs out in People's Park should be triaged, treated, led to shelter and family, given therapy and food stamps and substance abuse treatment and get a chance to choose a better life. I truly say that the working life is a better life than hanging out looking for love in some of the right places, but keeping away others who are also looking for love by the acting out of some people who need help, not tolerance, not encouragement and enablement, but help. 

It is time to get ready to welcome the coming Anna Head students who will live across from People's Park. Their paths of desire will draw them into the Park and to Peet's coffee. Those students should specialize in the emerging social sciences of happiness as taught by Dacher Keltner and Hubert Dreyfus, our local heroes, who can rise to the challenge of dispersing paradigms of spontaneous packets and continuous streams of bliss at counting our blessings and stopping to smell the roses (after we communally plant them). 

We need to welcome the new top administrator from the World Bank and have BP (Yes: Berkeley People's Park) donate a few million for micro economic green jobs. 

incubators rotating around the Park, the BART paths, Provo Park, Berkeley City College and Ohlone Park. Train the youth on weekends. Train the Park habitues in the skills of civility, give them access to the things that make us more human such as hot showers, stable housing. 

Work is the answer. And for those who can't work: They can't disrupt the Park just because it is the People's Park. It is Ronnie Reagan who closed the mental hospitals, we need compassionate volunteer psychiatrists and psychologists and social workers and nutritionists to help motivate Park and Telegraph Avenue dwellers to try something different. 

Since we can't seem to get our beloved Iceland open, why not build housing on the soccer fields there that was once Savo Island (home of the first People's Pad) and have a jobs center and mental health consortium for the poor, transient and homeless inside Iceland. 

It is time to reclaim the original concepts of volunteer work, community, the Wow feeling of a participatory not passive event that constructs something positive, or creates a product, including food, to sell. From the productive Park to Telegraph kiosks, find the natural leaders and train them to thrive. Find out their stories, reunite them with their families in love this time, not bitterness and disappointment. 

Ishmael Reed, our resident genius, supports President Obama 100%. That's good enough for me. Obama wants a recovery through green jobs. The new administrator likes micro commerce, helping people to bootstrap themselves up with loans to become independent. The youth need mentoring, jobs, training, money and love. I suggest BP donate seed money to Gardens on Wheels Association (my nonprofit) which would give honorariums to leading luminaries of social change --- UC Berkeley's own Dr. Walter Hood who can advise on how to keep the Park as beautiful as ever and help people who are afraid of it understand that striated multi-use reflects our society and can coexist if flagrant psychotics are given treatment elsewhere as a matter of serving the greater good at the same time as loving the individual. Let's bring in Don Mitchell, who has written about the detriment to social good that will come from extincting the rights of the people to enjoying the streets and parks. I would be curious to see how he would balance all of the grumblings versus how good the Park looks, with its big well maintained meadow on a warm day when all kinds of people do picnic there or come to hear music. 

It is time to reconsider if the Park itself is served by Food Not Bombs (which I love as a concept) serving food there, as opposed to a different location. And finally, I would ask Denny Abrams, owner of Fourth Street and social/architectural designer, what are his secrets to creating a fun street even just for broke browsers. I would bring in the freakonomic writers and have them unearth whether it is actually the changed demographics of the UC student body itself that has prevented Telegraph from emerging from a long, long recession. And I would make sure all seniors get their social security so they can read Kindles and drink coffee on Telegraph, tutor students, and do some gentle weeding at the Park. 

When you wake up tomorrow morning, ask yourself: "What would Dr. Martin Luther King do? What would Dr. King say?" 

Wendy Schlesinger: all power to the nonviolent