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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Letters

"The officially sanctioned helpless"

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Your story "Tarp Nation" seems to condone living in squalor, while trying to convince the reader that the plucky residents of these communities are creative, self-reliant and just happen to suffer because of the government's harshness, the mainstream's condemnation and society's refusal to embrace the positive potential of this new social movement, "informal urbanism" (HCN, 3/16 & 3/30/09).

Language has great power to shape people's thinking. By using this language, "informal urbanism", there's an automatic seriousness, a respect and legitimacy lent to a phenomenon that perhaps doesn't merit such regard. The article makes no effort to examine the sense of entitlement that the tarp nation residents feel. Is it really the government's failure to provide housing? How about the article's statement "informal urbanism (is) characterized by unauthorized land occupation ..."? Doesn't this matter? Despite the rush to proclaim a global society, we still have private property, immigration laws, and other structures that our society functions by, imperfect though they may often be. What's happened to our common sense? Why is it unreasonable to enforce our laws?

It seems too much to expect these people to take responsibility for their own lives. I know this is a widespread problem, but it's counterproductive to portray them as society's victims and at the same time encourage the proliferation of ever-expanding communities of the officially sanctioned helpless.
                                                                                                                                                    
Avram Chetron
Ashland, Oregon

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