Rats, ghettos and white flight

Chapter 32




Ex-slave Charles Smith died as a citizen of honor, according to himself 137 years old. These were his last words to me:
- Do you think the black man is completely free?
- No, he ain't never been free!



As America's oldest citizen, Charles Smith was invited to be guest of honor at the launch of a moon rocket, but declined as he refused to believe a man could reach the moon.
One morning, close to his home, in an area where I still on occasion hitch rides with mule drawn wagons, I saw the launching of a rocket through the cracks of a shack I had stayed in.



But this old man here below, Cape Canaveral's closest neighbor, did not notice as the rocket slowly ascended over his dilapidated shack. He had no electricity nor radio to inform him of this billion-dollar project. Even if he had been told, he was too sick from malnutrition and disease to lift his head and watch the rocket.



A rat done bit my sister Nell
with whitey on the moon.
Her face and arms began to swell
and whitey is on the moon.
I can't pay no doctor bills
when whitey is on the moon
ten years from now I will be paying still
while whitey is on the moon.



You know, the man just upped my rent last night
because whitey is on the moon.
No hot water, no toilet, no light
'cause whitey is on the moon.
I wonder why he is upping me
because whitey is on the moon.
Well, I was already paying him 50 a week
and now whitey is on the moon.



Taxes taking my whole damn check,
the junkies making me a nervous wreck,
the price of food is going up
and if all this crap wasn't enough,
a rat done bit my sister Nell
with whitey on the moon,
her face and arms began to swell
and whitey is on the moon.



With all that money I made last year
for whitey on the moon,
how come I ain't got no money here?
Hm ! Whitey is on the moon.....



You know, I just about had my fill
of whitey on the moon,
I think I will send these doctor bills airmail special.... whitey on the moon !



In Chicago 600 black babies died from rat bites and malnutrition during the year a flag was planted on the moon.
In Detroit I stayed with a family where four of the children were bitten by rats while sleeping. Their weeping was only drowned out by the motorists tearing along on the highway right outside the house.



Trapped by their own system, these lonesome whites must speed down the superhighway to get safely from secure suburbs to their work downtown without being confronted with the rats, the misery and the violence of the ghettoes.



As a vagabond wandering on foot below the busy highways you see society in a different way than the motorist inside the system. Like the rural blacks coming up from the South you are frightened by the speed of the traffic. You see it passing above you on the elevated highways and realize that your only chance of succeeding is to get up there into all that speed. You try to climb up the cold ice-covered slopes, but keep slipping back.



Your southern dream of leaving the sweltering heat of injustice and oppression turns into a nightmare as you realize you are on the icy slopes between valleys even less exalted and hills and mountains made even less low. Finally you give up the Sisyphusian climb and wander on foot underneath the roadways in the shadow of dark pillars. You have not yet learned that you may be there to stay - though the pillars seem like the same old Greek plantation pillars already confining you to a new ghetto and eventually may look like bars - for you still have hope.



Though these elevated highways symbolize your struggle against an inhuman system, they are equally significant of the powerlessness of those who ride them, over increasingly misanthropic and deserted cities wherein they no longer dare move on foot.



But what actually was done to us in childhood to make us repress our natural love for all people, and to allow us to literally drive over them without a thought?



These spaghetti highways are one of the most despairing examples of a heartless development created by our own scarring and mistreatment as children. As more and more of these barren and anxiety-ridden landscapes are created, their inhuman sterility now become home for our own unhealed anger to fester.




Though the global environment cannot afford this forced private consumption, we are being more and more caught in a vicious circle. We are forced into decisions which seem reasonable from our concrete horizon - such as military threats against the Third World demanding more and cheaper oil.



Five percent of the world's population has thus robbed the majority of the world's cheap oil reserves in a single century. Car radios pound sweet music and messages to buy bandages for our wounds, making us blind to the resulting pollution.



The vicious circle resembles more and more a flight away from the poverty and suffering we have created, a chaotic flight drowning in music and messages about means for this flight, means creating needs for more flight, flight away from ourselves and everything we have built up, flight into ourselves and out into the loneliness.



Fleeing whites spend more on a weekend of skiing and hotels than the underclass they leave behind in the cities make in a week. But though we in one sense are oppressors we are just as ensnared by the system as the oppressed - and fundamentally just as unhappy.



For God's sake,
you've got to give more power to the people!



There's some people up there hogging everything,
telling lies, giving alibis,
about the people's money and things.



And if they're going to throw it away
they might as well give some to me.



They don't care about the poor,
they have never had misery.



There's some people who are starving to death
whom they never knew, but only heard of
and they never had half enough.



If you don't have enough to eat,
how can you think of love?



You don't have time to care
what crimes you're guilty of



For God's sake,
why don't you give more power to the people?