FEMA Camp (the pilot episode)

The specter of “FEMA camps”, with a negative spin, has been out there for awhile.

Among the real FEMA camps, were the post Hurricane Katrina mobile home parks, with subsequent scandals about formaldehyde.

The 2009 California Air Resources Board‘s report stated, “Nearly all homes (98%) had formaldehyde concentrations that exceeded guidelines for cancer and chronic irritation…” [source]

Another dark meme, used by Christians wanting to scare themselves, features FEMA guillotines, ordered by the thousands, and purportedly waiting in camps to use on good people who believe in the Bible. “Secular humanists may say they’re Good without God (slogan) but then why would they be plotting to take our heads?”

A darker meme, because it actually happened, stems from the Golden Age of human experiments. We all know about how prisoners were injected to see if cancer could be made contagious. MKULTRA was all about letting psychiatrists just try stuff, focusing on so-called misfits. Lots of drugs got tested, sometimes on volunteers.

Those weren’t FEMA camps exactly, although one of the main psychiatrists was looking for a remote location (a refurbished military base wasn’t it?) where he could practice. The public got wind of it and decided the government was getting beyond creepy. Psychiatry is like that sometimes.

But what about a more positive spin? Could a “FEMA camp” ever be an asset?

From the get go, we’d need lots of journalists and other chroniclers to be embedded, watching closely. Who says a camp has to be remote? How about a skyscraper somewhere, or a suburban neighborhood in need of new blood. Perhaps I shouldn’t have said blood. Is there any way at all to steer clear of the horror genre?

My theory is Americans are eager to show compassion towards one another, having become sick of all the polarization. They know the opioid crisis is real, as is the homeless crisis (they’re not unrelated).

Many Americans are out on the streets, living in tents, cars, RVs, and in need of some way to get back in the game. Might “we the people” have ways to help them? Or is our only way of dealing with adversity to fill the prisons? Does our puritanical streak dictate that the down and out be seen as immoral and therefore unworthy? A lot of people have this attitude and pray for punishments to befall the “bums”.

Given the history of native American reservations, why not admit up front the whole idea is completely hopeless? If we were going to help these people in any substantive way, we would have done so by now, right? Compassion is not our strong suit, and helping people is socialism, good money after bad. Why waste services on the unworthy? We have this sense of doing triage.

In the World Game community, we always start with a bigger picture and ask about what’s in inventory more generally. Where does wealth come from? What do people need? General Systems Theory (GST) is about looking into these questions.

Perhaps people need opportunities to assist one another, more than they’re getting now?

Demolition engineering (so-called “war” — though these aren’t usually declared anymore as war is illegal) gets more budget today than ever. It’s obvious what our priorities are, but is that because of the wisdom of our leaders, or their ignorance?

What I’m calling a “pilot episode” was really just me, a blogger, spelling out a fantasy scenario featuring Dignity Village, a real place near PDX International, and NGOs, such as MercyCorps (a real NGO), needing to prototype new technologies for refugee camps. I sketched the scenario for anyone interested. No one was, but no one stopped me either.

Vast refugee camps already exist around the globe.

The new tech includes new shelter models.

Eventually, Dignity Village wouldn’t be big enough. The practice, of showcasing and prototyping, would spread.

The US would own up to its poverty, not by criminalizing it, but by ramping up its Refugee Science. My Project Renaissance was all about the public / private partnerships that could make it happen.

People would stop seeing more and more prisons as the only solution to houselessness and drug addiction.

As it is, Homeland Security is entering the prison camp business in a big way. Criminalization of trans-border trafficking is the name of the game. How does one justify keeping people in prison camps unless they’re criminals?

I know Ann Coulter thinks we wouldn’t have a United States without complete control of the borders. Lots of people agree, saying “without control of the borders you don’t have a real country”.

All right then. If that’s true, then the USA to this day has yet to be a real country, nor has it been for over two hundred years. I’m not sure what makes the two hundred year status quo a “national emergency” but there you go. Right now, we’re in one (according to those who should know).

We’ve all been fooled, up to now, in thinking the USA was really a country (according to this so-called logic), given its borders have never been been secured. So we have nothing to say “adios” to, except our own illusions.

It’s not that we’re trying to hold on to something we used to have. Instead, we’re dreaming of creating something we’ve never had, and have no proof we could ever devise, either through central planning and/or social engineering. Where’s the evidence?

That’s pretty obvious, if you stop to think about it.

Fortress USA, fenced in all around, purged of undocumented humans, closed to all uncontrolled controlled substances, has always been science fiction. How would Wall Street get its cocaine?

However, I digress.

What about Dignity Village as EPCOT West? Was that a good beginning? What about those FEMA camps way stations to “Tomorrowland” cities, wherein people get paid to be in reality TV shows featuring newfangled lifestyles?

Do we want to really try driverless motor vehicles big time? We’ll have whole communities set aside for such prototyping.

All the cars are driverless in some Tomorrow Towns. Others don’t have cars.

Going from a pilot to a Season One will take some more work. The sheer number of people living in camps, worldwide, needs to come home to the viewers, providing context. It’s not as if we don’t have a ready cast.

We also need to talk more about the opioid crisis, and the houseless crisis, without supposing we first need a referendum on socialism. Reporting on “what is” does not depend on “what should or should not be”.

Anyway, I’m talking about commercial broadcasting here, not public TV necessarily (although the PBS-BBC would be welcome to provide coverage and criticism).

Three developments will help get us to Season One, and I’ve already written about all three.

First, the “Chinese Peace Corps” — a meme in the making — is about Americans getting much needed help from overseas. We have the humility to admit our need for expertise. Chinese in particular understand about our need to fight drug addiction, and not by criminalizing the addicted.

Again, I’m more the blogger venturer than the bureaucratic coordinator on this one. I’m not running for any particular office, though I’d like to help make television.

True, I’ve worked with refugees and visited a few camps. I did food logistics for the camp in downtown Portland (OPDX we called it). Lots of Peace Corps have stayed as guests in family homes over the years, in the Philippines especially.

But one solitary individual does not a bureaucracy make. My role is more asking questions at this point. What are Americans capable of pulling off? We well know they’re able to invade and efficiently demolish other countries, but for what else might they have an aptitude?

Secondly, we need better global data displays. How are we going to tune in the refugee camps, and the FEMA camps more specifically, if we get no help from cartographers and data visualizers? I scroll through Twitter and Facebook, to see if all that investment in data science is finally paying off.

The third development has been a pipe dream for a long time, which doesn’t preclude its eventually happening in a big way: national service options that are optionally non-military.

Who will work side-by-side with the Chinese Peace Corps, to help rehabilitate the victims of opioids, if not those wishing to commit to national service?

That’s a lot that has to happen, I admit it. Perhaps prospects are dim. Universities don’t seem to think along these lines. I’m but a lone wolf in the wilderness.

Given we’ve been in the pilot phase for so long, it’s not like I think helping refugees is a trivial undertaking.

It’s human nature to not wish to face the enormity of a challenge, unless the elements of a solution are in place, at least in the imagination.

On the other hand, these challenges are not going away simply because of malign neglect. We have some reason to expect the curriculum will strengthen, and that the Global U will find ways to heal itself from its drug and weapons addictions, and provide more student housing, better Food Services.

If we’re able to pull off a FEMA camp or two, and make some good news happen, that might spark a convergence of think tanks, universities, donors and sponsors, manufacturers, willing to join in the effort. Some politicians would be among the last to jump on the bandwagon. Others are already on board.

Lots online.

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