Letter: Suella Braverman and Elon Musk are on to something ... the decline seen on our streets has been prompted by bleeding heart progressive politics
Last August we sat down outside a cafe on Fountain Street in Belfast city centre on a lovely bright late afternoon. Before our order arrived a street drinker sat down beside us, opened up a can of beer and lit a cigarette.
Later we went to Corn Market to let our three young children play on the monument. This was impossible. Our children were terrified of the large crowd of people who were drinking from open containers, dancing and playing loud music.
Later the police came and lifted one of the men.
At a nearby supermarket on High Street my pregnant wife was nearly knocked over as a topless drinker was removed from a shop after trying to steal a bottle of whiskey. Outside there was a large crowd of men drinking cheap and strong cider, with their empties lying on the ground.
We left Belfast shocked.
Naturally, the recent comments about people living on the streets being a “lifestyle choice” from Suella Braverman hit home to us. They were extremely blunt, but rang true.
Her comments came at the same time that Elon Musk described the streets of San Francisco as a “zombie apocalypse”.
I am not comparing Belfast to San Francisco, LA or other urban areas in the States. But we can take lessons and heed warnings from what happens with soft/woke politics.
There has been a decline across western cities, and the decline has been prompted by bleeding heart progressive politics. As Braverman said about America: “Weak policies have led to an explosion of crime, drug taking, and squalor.”
Elon Musk gave an account of the decline: “You walk around downtown San Francisco, right near the X (formerly Twitter) headquarters, it's the zombie apocalypse. It's really rough… You can't believe it til you go there.”
Any one who used X/Twitter regularly will be familiar with the photos and videos of tent cities, rampant homelessness and open air drug use in major US cities.
Like Braverman, Musk attributes the rampant decline of US cities at the feet of bleeding heart progressive politicians and the “mind virus” that their donors fund and the politicians propagate.
He said: “The mind virus is very clear if you walk the streets of downtown San Francisco.” Predictably our liberal politicians in NI instantly and categorically shot down Braverman’s statement.
The homeless and vulnerable need our sympathy and help. But the instantaneous and unthinking rage directed at anyone who points to the glaring problem on our streets is very suspect.
There is a balance to be struck. There is a glaring problem of vagrancy and street drinking; but to yet again play the bleeding heart woke political card is not going to improve life for everyone.
Noticing that there is a problem does not make you a right wing extremist. There is such a thing as the law of unintended consequences. Just as giving a child everything they want and meeting all their needs does not help them, so the policy for homelessness must account for the frailty of human nature and in this instance I would rework the old saying, "you need to be strict/tough to be kind”
Brian John Spencer, artist, Co Down