Poem: “What Must Be Done”

Do not hate them.
Do not be angry with them:
The real estate agents, appraising
the value of other peoples lives,
calculating the profit that someone’s home
of twenty years, delivered vacant, will bring.
Do not blame them, the developers,
imagining a whole new population,
turned over and recycled, clean,
where there is no room for you and me.
Do not fear them, the bankers and investors
who hold whole worlds in a regurgitation
of destruction and reconstruction
wrapped in exponential rates of return.

Do not raise your voice in anger
against them:
they are doing exactly what they
are supposed to do, what we
created them to do,
from the moment we surveyed
the soft curve of these hills
from Spanish galleons and Puritan sails,
delineated parcels on a map
with cartographic precision,
enclosed this earthly flesh, cut it up
in harsh fencings and gridded streets,
profaned this land once sacred and common,
gift from Creator.

have been with us from the moment
our eyes first saw in this land something
to be signed into writs of ownership
that could be given a price and
exchanged on printed paper deeds.
We carry their joy of possession,
deep in our cultural memory:
how that primal “us” and “not-us,”
“ours” and “not-ours,” became
the cancerous accumulation of
“what I can profit from,”
eating ourselves from the inside,
our home on this Earth.

Mourn them now, their vacant dreams.
Feel their loss, their days are numbered.
Be compassionate, take no joy
in what must be done.
Do not be tempted to offer a second chance,
no matter how much they are like us –
their entire lives have been second chances.
They are, in fact, us, and that is why
it must be done.
Be swift and complete.
Our existence depends on it,
as does their only hope for solace.

Fernando Marti is co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, a coalition of affordable housing and community economic development advocates in San Francisco.


  1. Fernando, you have to understand that the idea of destroying the market system is of very recent origins. For virtually the entirety of human history it never crossed anyones mind. The market mechanism was in fact essential for the whole of the medieval era – farmers depended on it to sell their crops throughout the year. The farmers – the working class of the medieval era – were the great exponents of the free market. They credited it with their success, health, vitality, prosperity, spiritual well being and so on. The essential point about markets is that they allow millions of people to trade with people they don’t know rather than the few whom they do. And it is precisely by reworking economic action in this way that free enterprise created its vast bounty. Now society had become so wealthy by the 19th century that leisure time became possible. People now had the free time to think about their more interior realm, their personalities, their identities, their non-economic relations with others. It is of course precisely the availability of leisure time only made possible by the vast productivity of the market mechanism – which allowed people for the first time to contemplate the ‘meaning’ of life. It is no coincidence that psychiatry emerges in this singular period of plenty, as does transcendentalism, as does existentialism, and as does socialism. In a sense all identify the same ‘problem of mind’, banality of existence, and boredom which comes from the free time prosperity gives rise to.
    In this period, Marx reworks the concept of race exploitation – the idea which since the 17th century revised history to say for instance that the conquering Normans are exploiting the indigenous Saxons – into class exploitation. And so the idea of class exploitation and life of the mind merge in a new discourse of socialism determined to solve two problems: The unsatisfactory circumstances of individual consciousness and interpersonal relations on the one hand, and the unsatisfactory circumstances of class exploitation on the other. And so it is that socialism forges its two pronged attack. On one flank it launches the battle over equity: Let us deploy an array of government programs by which to take from the wealthy and give to the poor. On the other hand it deploys its community battle: Let us rework economic action away from the impersonal market system and back to the small scale of the local community of individuals known personally to us.

    We have some one hundred years to examine the results of this socialist attack.
    Now Newark NJ as it was some 100 years ago is the Newark created by the impersonal forces of the market. No single individual or group authored its design. Rather millions of market participants unintentionally contributed to its design which you can see here:


    In sharp contrast we have the Newark of today which represents the cumulative intentional design of a small cadre of planners committed to the precepts of socialist enlightenment which you can see here:



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