Hating this tent is in poor taste.
Hating this tent is in poor taste. 400tmax/gettyimages.com

We will not understand why hating on the poor or homeless people—an attitude whose popularity has spiked in Seattle's Amazon and post-gentrification era—is in such bad taste unless taste itself is clearly explained. This post will offer an explanation, and also show, in its closing section, why those who express—on social media sites like Safe Seattle and Nextdoor—hatred for persons who live in poverty, and have, at the same time, little to nothing to say about how poverty is imposed on these people (the poor and poverty are one and the same thing in their minds), must be seen as nothing but badly bred.

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We also cannot rule out that the "Safe" people of Seattle were raised by animals that are not human. Many of my sleepless nights have been spent considering this possibility. How does a human not become what they are, a human (a hyper social ape)? Think about it: The emotional depth and expressive range of a Tarzan must be consistent with the mode of his adopter, the chimpanzee—a great ape, for sure, but one that's not nearly as social as the human. An understanding of our kind of sociality, which, in a state of perfection, produces the remarkable flower of good taste, will be appreciated at the end of this post.



Taste is an important part of the human world because we are the cultural animal. By taste, I mean feelings or attitudes that express refinement rather than coarseness. It is the habit of a well-developed human to strive for the former, for feelings that are not blunt but cultivated. And the reason why one strives for this state of subjective refinement is because it's not something a human is born with. It is learned; which is to say, it is cultural. The transmission of information by social processes (schools, books, spoken language, and what have you) is the anthropological definition of culture. And so, the more an individual accumulates (or, to borrow a word from Alfred North Whitehead, ingresses) information of this kind during the developing stages of their life, the more cultured they become. The key mental/social tool that's improved by cultural development is reason.

Basic forms of reason are found in all living things. Trees reason with the soil; dogs bark for some reason or another; a raccoon always has a reason to find and eat the eggs of a crow. Purpose and reasoning are one. You will not find a living thing in this universe that's not harassed by a welter of purposes. But in humans, we find another kind of reason. It is cultural, and its function is to dissemble the seeming whole of a present situation into its multiple causes, which extend into the past. Culture deepens the past of an animal's experience. A pure reasoning (which is only an ideal) would discern all of the events in a given past that are linked to a given present. This is the main aim of Baruch Spinoza's compact and brilliant philosophical work, The Ethics. He wants the reader to intellectually (meaning, culturally) view, as adequately (or far) as possible, the concatenation of things. He called the striving for this perspective the intellectual love of god.

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Many commentators of Spinoza have been upset by the Dutch philosopher's rejection of free will in The Ethics. He believes it does not exist. But to focus on this issue (does free will exist or not) is to miss why Spinoza took this extreme position in the first place. He wanted readers of the book to rise above the immediate appearance of experience and to see the past as the vast pool table that would famously appear in Hume's philosophy. This was the function of cultural reasoning. The liberation from what appeared to be obvious, and the recognition of the much less obvious chain of events that extend into the past. This kind of reason (cultural) has a biological function (the social). It gives the key human feeling, empathy, vision. Activities like reading good books give this feeling spectacles. But if the mole rats went blind (skin grew over their eyes) from living in the dark for ages, empathy can also lose its sight if cultural reason is stunted.

Now, how can a person who yells all over the internet about how horrible homeless humans are be in any sense culturally refined? And here it must be understood that the primary function of culture is to provide an individual with the empathy (or imagination—they are the same thing) needed to connect with and make sense of the experiences of many other individuals. The one becomes two in the mind (this is imagination as self-consciousness). The two become the many in a community (this requires a social imaginary). That is the logic of our long-evolved sociality.

The person roughing it in a tent or RV very well knows how they got there: priced out of a hyper-inflated housing market, laid off because the company needs to be "competitive," in debt because health services are greatly overpriced and socially under-supported. This list can go on and on. But where as one person can draw from the experience of these "matters of fact" (to use Hume's language), the other can draw from reason, the key tool of culture. This empathy tool is missing in the Safe people of Seattle because they are culturally underdeveloped. In their minds, they are speaking common sense, but in actuality, they are displaying very bad taste. Again, picture the skin on the mole rats eyes.

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