Nathan Nothing

May 25, 2016

King County has finally taken steps to defund the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE) for failing to show that they can move homeless people out of tents and shelters and into permanent housing. SHARE has been protesting that move by closing down their indoor shelters and encamping at the King County Administration Building at 4th and James.*

[Photos by David Preston. Click to enlarge.]

 

SHARE claims there are 200 homeless people in these tents, but there certainly weren’t any 200 SHARE supporters speaking to the King County Council at open mic day last Tuesday. More like 8. Yet this Council meeting was just a stone’s throw from where these tents are.

A guy calling himself Nathan Nothing was one of those testifying for SHARE. He currently lives in one of these protest tents and says he’s homeless by choice. He claims he’s got good reasons for living outdoors, and maybe he does. But let’s face it: a man who chooses to be homeless is maybe not the best guy to be pitching the we-need-more-money-to-end-homelessness line. Makes about as much sense as a zombie doing life insurance ads.

Nathan’s delivery left something to be desired as well. And what his message seemed to boil down to was this: Fuck you, whores! –No really. That’s what he said. Unfortunately it took him 4 minutes to say it: twice the allotted time. But that was the message, basically. Fuck you! Merry Christmas.

While Mr. Nothing’s remarks might not represent SHARE’s official position, they seem to capture perfectly its unofficial one. Everything SHARE has done lately, from the the immolation of Nickelsville, to the bogus accounting, to the angry tirades against government . . . what is all this, really, if not just one great big F-U! to the people of King County?

Feature Presention

“Nathan Nothing”


Bonus Material

Alex Tsimerman: The True Meaning of Masturbation

(Mr. Tsimerman is not affiliated with SHARE.)

*For a Seattle Weekly story on how SHARE gets homeless people to join its protests, see here.


Postscript: On disrespecting public officials

You might think from my tone that I think this behavior is cute, but in truth I abhor it, and I hope SHARE staff will review this footage and realize how harmful it is to their cause. The tone of public discourse has degraded notably in the past 20 years, and we are now at a point where many people feel it’s acceptable to curse public officials to their faces. That needs to stop.

–David Preston

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3 Responses to Nathan Nothing

  1. Dudley Do-Right says:

    David, I have been mulling over your post on Nathan Nothing from May 25. Of course I don’t support cursing people to their faces, like Nathan did, and of course SHARE should realize the harm that letting people like Nathan speak on its behalf before the King County Council is doing to its cause, but at the same time… I think I understand Nathan, and I believe that Nathan should be taken seriously. Nathan has been ground down by the system for decades to the point that he has not much to lose by letting loose. Yes, he may be mentally ill by the standards of modern society, but as the old saying goes, you’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you. And even if Nathan doesn’t think that society is out to get him, well… it is. It would much rather that Nathan and his misbehaving ilk be transported somewhere, anywhere, out of their sight. It’s just that the rules of polite democracy require that the Nathans be given a chance to speak, even if they are immediately ignored, so he gets his few minutes. All in all, however, I think he had a lot of insight into himself and his everyman homeless role to call himself Nathan Nothing…

    Personally, I am ongoingly troubled by how the label of mental illness is so often used to delegitimize eccentric people, no matter the validity of their underlying message, and I don’t think you did enough to bring that into focus. There are many examples of this denigration (and worse) throughout history, from the Salem Witches to the Soviet Union; one of my favorite (thankfully discredited) mental afflictions in American history was Drapetomania; it was a supposed mental illness described by the American physician Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851 to explain the reason that black slaves might try to flee captivity.  In his book, Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race, Cartwright pointed out among other things that the Bible calls for a slave to be submissive to his master, and by doing so, the slave will have no desire to run away; it followed, then, that failure to be submissive was a failure to follow the law of God and therefore had to be considered an illness. As a treatment for this disease in “severe” cases, doctors made running a physical impossibility by prescribing the removal of both big toes.

    Now we have advanced as a society to the point where no one force feeds Prozac to Nathan or people like him (at least until they go to prison, that is). But when society neglects doing the right thing to alleviate social ills, and it ignores the problem for long enough, the Nathans of the world lose little by cursing at the powers that be when given the rare opportunity to do so. As Victor Hugo once said, “If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.”

    In summary, if I were writing your blog post, I would have more strongly balanced Nathan’s outburst against the “Silence of the Haves” on the King County Council. (Perhaps Anthony Hopkins can make a movie of that and reprise his role from “Lambs”).

    That being said, no matter how valid SHARE’s anger may be over the lack of adequate support for homeless people in Seattle, their cluelessness and/or over-democratization of decision-making as to who should appear in public on their behalf is creating an appearance of organizational adolescence that is grossly harmful to the people needing the most help. I support your intent to roundly chastise SHARE for this lack of oversight, and you need to stay on their case about that. However, we also need to make sure that the criticism does not divert attention away from the crying need not only to support the marginalized but also to try to understand the situation by listening seriously to them.

  2. DBP says:

    Thanks for the long and thoughtful comment, Dudley. I would be amenable to sitting down with someone like Nathan and talking, but frankly, the guy scares me. The eccentricity wasn’t a problem. In fact, if you think about what he’s saying, it’s all rational, so I wouldn’t even consider him an eccentric. It’s the intensity of his language and his demeanor that are off-putting.

  3. Dudley Do-Right says:

    You’ll never know for sure what kind of a threat Nathan is unless you actually sit down with him, but think about it: Who is more likely to rob you, him or Troy Kelley? One is coarse, angry, and impolite. The other is slick, puts on a good show, and has his hand in your pocket before you know it. I could be completely wrong, of course, but after being in the homeless trenches myself, I get the vibe that Nathan developed his intensity and demeanor from being spit on and not listened to, not the other way around, plus the fact that the King County Council isn’t the kind of crowd he hangs around much, so he was probably expressing his insecurity in talking to them by projecting it outwards, not owning it. I’d bet that, if you ever decided to talk to him for the purpose of getting his opinion, he’d be flattered, ’cause no one else does it. Just my two cents.

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