My Mayor Will Save Your SoulIf you are anything like me, you've spent the last several years studying religion and philosophy and one of the things you get sick of hearing all the time is "dualism." One of the most popular/easiest ways to discredit someone else and their ideas is to label them "dualistic" and be done with them. This is especially applied to evangelicals, modern philosophers, classical philosophers, muslims, any religious believers, Kant, Descartes, anyone who believes in souls, anyone who believes in anything transcendental, and anyone who believes in anything that has two part or multiple diminsions. But then just when you are finally about to dismiss anyone who argues against anything by saying it is dualistic you run into a story like this that basically defines the term and you have to tell all your friends about it on your blog even if it took a week to get around to it.
For those of you not from Chicago, we have a very interesting man as our mayor. For starters, fans of politicians who are always saying things wrong love Mayor Daley. He is notorious for saying outlandish things. Further, he is one corrupt son of a bitch and no one in Chicago seems to mind. This is in part because his dad, Richard J. Daley, a previous mayor of this fine city, won and ran this city for a long long time under the simple agenda of keeping the garbage picked up and the ice off the streets, a popular strategy for the current Daley. Other things that Richard J. Daley did that were less awesome include turning away Martin Luther King Jr. and his attempts to bring civil rights to the midwest, ordering police to shoot and kill any black people rioting after King's death, getting kicked out of the 1968 democratic convention in Chicago, and basically inventing the patrionage system of local government that still keeps Chicago running.
Our current mayor, Richard M. Daley, has continued many of the fine traditions started by his dad, including keeping the streets clean, making new parks, and leading the patrionage machine in Chicago. Some of his finest moments include bulldozing down an air field in downtown (without anyone's permission) in the middle of the night so that he could put a park there, having many of his closest advisers busted for hiring corruption, and the potential forthcoming disaster that is Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics. One of the things that King Daley II has tried to shake from his dad's reign is the percived hatred of black people. Being a democrat in a city where 36% of the people are African Americans (the largest ethnicity in the city) it is seen as a political necessity for White Daley to listen and serve the African American community. With an election around the corner and several solid African American canidates running against him (including Jesse Jackson Jr.), Daley is acting oddly trying to secure the African American vote.
Many people love Mayor Daley for creating the latest residential building boom in Chicago. Some people benefit from higher property values and are happy to be able to live in downtown Chicago. Some people are happy that they see less panhandlers, garbage, and guns around the city. Many other people hate Mayor Daley for his housing boom. They are furious that one of the prime focuses of this building boom has been tearing down government subsidized housing for low-income families. After tearing down one of these buildings the city is supposed to mandate an equal number of new low income housing units be built, as much as possible in the same neighborhood. Of course this has been a disaster, with thousands and thousands of low income units beings destroyed and very very few being rebuilt. Since many of these units were occupied by African Americans, those campaigning against Daley in the forthcoming election will no doubt focus on this issue amongst others.
(For a hilarious take on this building program and our wonderful mayor in general, see Neal Pollock's speech from 2000 reposted on the McSweeney's website. "I would like to thank our Mayor, Richard M. Daley, without whom none of these programs would have even come close to existing!...The programs we have proposed today will create 700 units of new housing in our neighborhood, while tearing down 4,000 other units, most of which were in pretty bad shape anyway. More good news: The destruction of these apartments will create hundreds of new jobs and thus build opportunities for poorer residents of the neighborhood to buy their own homes, starting at $170,000 a year, so they can own a share of our community's wealth!...I cannot not emphasize enough that Mayor Daley's firm-handed leadership has made our community, and indeed all of Chicago, a place where families can once again feel safe. Without Mayor Daley's strong, masculine presence, all of Chicago would still be a miserable ghetto full of neighborhood bars, street vendors, yard sales, and bizarre old grumps with interesting life stories. This new Chicago imagined by the Mayor, is a far nicer, calmer, friendlier place to live. Thank you, Mayor Daley! Thank you! Thank You!" And it only gets better from there...)
So what do you do if you are a very very white Irish mayor who is attempting to appeal to an African American community that is beginning to believe you hate them? Apparently the correct response is to assume that they are all very very "spiritual" and with that very very stupid. In a recent speech Daley focused on how he and his reign are working on the souls of poor people. Local columnist John Kass has done an excellent job once again busting the mayor's chops about this. Daley was focused in explaining that he and his followers are not just about building buildings that the poor can afford to live in, but more so they are about the business of building souls. Attempting to fix the shelter crisis in Chicago where there are far from enough beds for homeless people, Daley and his clan are attempting to build more temporary/permanent housing for the poor in Chicago. Some estimate that they amount of money put into these programs and others to care for the homeless is $260 million less than that of other major cities in comparison.
Of course what these reports fail to consider is that the more important job, soul rebuilding, does not consist of the petty realities of the material world. Pumping money into programs that provide food, clothes, health care, and housing for the poor can't do anything for the more important issues of the soul. The mayor said, "In coming to this process of the transformation, you're basically rebuilding souls...you look at the individual, many have personal issues, alcohol, drug, other issues...it just can't be looked at one way, and that's why education, and basically rebuilding the souls and public housing go hand in hand." In other words, (my paraphrase), "all of these people are trying to pressure me into building more buildings for these people to live in but what they fail to realize is that unless all these poor people quit drinking all that booze and doing drugs and turning tricks they will never not be poor, so what's the point in pumping money into housing for them before they get cleaned up?" The mayor appears to believe that once poor people's souls are rebuilt through education (HOW AWESOME LIBERAL IS THAT IDEA!) they will be new people fit for living in new buildings.
In other words, once the poor are no longer poor they will be fit to live in the new buildings. And, interestingly enough, this explains why all of the projects have been replaced with expensive condos and the homeless shelters are shut down, so that the poor will just have to hurry up and start not being poor, move away, or just die, all of which will raise property values in Chicago, including those of the mayor and his friends who run the powerful businesses in this city.
The duality of the mayor's thinking is shockingly similar to Freshman philosophy students at conservative colleges. While some people are worried about things like providing food, shelter, and medicine for people, others are concerned with getting their hearts right. In missions this debate is split between whether Christians should provide aid or evangelize. In Chicago the divide is between people who think the government should spend some tax money on rebuilding the low income housing it destroyed and those who follow the mayor in believing that government helps people who help themselves. Here's hoping that as the forthcoming mayoral campaign picks up in Chicago the focus will be on cleaning up government, not just the sidewalks of downtown, and figuring out how to fix the public housing mess in Chicago.