Walking around Berkeley, I see the saddest sights — as well as the most disturbing. One of them was just this week.
I was walking down a main street, College Avenue, and there was a blonde, lanky, good looking young man walking in the other direction. He had the most agonized expression on his face.
I didn’t smell any aroma on him — not marijuana or body odor. He looked like just a regular guy, but his face appeared haunted. He seemed to be crying, but with no tears — just a distraught and tortured expression.
Although I don’t know, my guess is that he was from somewhere else and came here looking for something. Maybe from a middle-class family in a sane town, but felt bored and was lured out here by the promise of the so-called California dream. Now he’s stuck in a nightmare that he can’t awake from.
I’m seeing more and more of these walking wounded around town. New homeless encampments are springing up all over the place — and it’s not just around Berkeley. Downtown LA has four blocks of encampments. And there are tent cities in Santa Cruz, parts of Oregon, and even tony Santa Barbara.
But the new homeless are not your typical, hard-core mentally ill, drug addict. The newcomers are much younger, much whiter, and often come from halfway decent families.
I spoke to a Mexican immigrant other day about encampments near his place of business, on Cedar Street in West Berkeley. There was no love lost from him about the vagabonds. With obvious disdain, the man told me that his father taught him early in life the value of hard work.
This young Latino is working two jobs to try to make it in the obscenely priced Bay Area. He said to me, “Many of the homeless are white people from middle class homes. They live on the streets voluntarily because they don’t want to play by the rules.”
There is much truth to what this man is saying. It’s true that if a person procures a bed in the plethora of homeless shelters, he will have to leave behind the bad behavior, dogs, and the drugs. Many choose not to do this; after all, they may have come to the Bay Area in the first place to escape society’s rules.
But there is another type of homeless or marginal young person here — personified by the distraught young guy I saw the other day. What I’m seeing are the lost and the broken, with city streets looking like something out of the Night of the Living Dead.
Here’s another example: right in front a big box store was this thirty-something, red-headed male sleeping on a cardboard box. He happened to stand up when I saw him. He was also handsome. . definitely not the typical, filthy, homeless guy we’ve seen around here for decades. . . probably a newcomer as well.
I have a theory about why we in California are seeing a new type of homeless person. I think it springs from a total sense of nihilism in our young, of a hopelessness that we have not seen in decades, perhaps not since the Great Depression. I call it the New Great Depression.
When the stock market crashed in the l930s, scores of people were left homeless and hopeless. Many took their own lives.
But what’s happening today is not due to the stock market. The economy is in decent shape. Most able-bodied, willing Americans can find a job somewhere — even if it isn’t their dream job in their dream location.
Much of the despair, I think, has to do with the election of President Trump — not Trump himself, but the repetitive refrains from the media and others about Armageddon. With absolutely no future to look forward to, with the belief that the world is spinning rapidly out of control, these young folks are so depressed that they cannot function in any meaningful way.
Plenty of these young adults are high on substances; so too are they involved in endless hook-ups. They’re covered from head to toe in tattoos, trying to feel something to escape the soul-crushing numbness, even if means pain.
What I’m seeing here is the saddest and, yes, the most depressing scene in my thirty plus years of living in these parts. A massive, region-wide — possibly nationwide —- depression; an epidemic of despair, of young, fragile spirits broken by this world.
There is plenty of blame to go around for the tragedy: the parents who raised their kids devoid of the knowledge that God loves them; the virulently anti-white popular culture that promotes rampant self-hate; the soulless media, with its endless doomsday proclamations. I’ll assume some responsibility myself: for we Baby Boomers unrealistically promised our young people an eventual utopia on earth.
The results have been nothing short of catastrophic. One only has to behold the tormented visage of a young, blonde man on College Avenue, his face contorted in a silent scream.