misery needs company

i was all set to write a very different piece, “misery doesn’t love company,” about how when i am feeling low, or, dare i say it, depressed, the best thing for me and those around me is for me to just be alone for a little while.

but then i started reading the latest issue of utne reader, and my head spun around in a completely different direction. inspired by the few articles i have read so far, i could write for days, but i will restrict myself to one, at least for now.

“city of ruins,”, was reprinted from “the nation,” about camden,n.j., and what a devastated wasteland it has become. thankfully, there are still a few people living there who are not junkies or hookers, who keep some semblance of heart and soul alive amid the rubble. my first thought was why not just build a wall around it, allow all the people who desire constructive, productive lives to leave, and then seal it up and let the crack dealers and street gangs just have the place to themselves.

but, no – there seems to be a thriving industry in camden of chopping up the debris of itself and shipping it to smelters in china and turkey. why not invest in some sort of smelting facility right there, in camden, and put some of the 40% unemployed to work running the place. but i’m sure there are vast regulations against that sort of operation, which i’m sure is filthy in almost every way, environmental filth that apparently doesn’t bother the chinese or turks.

so what do you do with a once-thriving city that now has no movie theaters, no car dealerships, not even a supermarket, with half of it’s population unemployed and living under the bridges? when houses stand empty – even in the time it takes one tenant to move out and another to move in, street gangs have stripped every bit of sellable scrap – down to the steel door frames. the “government” would appear to be deeply corrupt. what can be done? raze the whole place and begin again?

maybe someone, perhaps one of those top wealthiest 1% of us, could invest a wad of cash in the place, buy up property, employ some locals in rehabbing work, even hire blackwater for security (since there are virtually no police), and, in some small way, gentrify the place, or at least make it livable.

i fall back once again on the blessing that these kinds of decisions are not mine to make. but it seems if we all focused a bit of our energy on misery like camden (and detroit, and new orleans, and haiti and….) then maybe something could be done. there are research projects that “borrow” people’s computer down-time to crunch huge amounts of data – why not pick a city – camden, new jersey comes to mind – and all of us spend a week or two there. it wouldn’t be hard to find something to fix.

maybe i’ll do it. wheelchair and all.


Author: stephen

stephen harris is a writer, painter and a photographer who lives with his family in maine.

One thought on “misery needs company”

  1. I love Utne!! I haven’t subscribed for a few years, and just catch an issue now and again at the library these days, so I haven’t seen the one you reference. But I know exactly the feeling of being transported out of your own life and finding inspiration in quality writing. Utne is a great tool for pulling a person out of a funk.

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