What is real? A good question to ask at the beginning of 2022. How do we move from reality to fiction? Or rather backward: We live with fictions, but what is real? The intention of this post is to show the beautiful facades of San Francisco through the 2021 Christmas period, almost devoid of humans. A ghost town, glowing in an ominous light.
The last year was not easy. Sometime in the middle of 2021, we thought the pandemic would be over after everyone got vaccinated, and the third vaccine shot became available. But viruses (are they alive?) mutate, and the Omicron version taught us that nature is wild and unpredictable, and human remedies are weak temporary fixes. Historically, deadly virus plagues have decimated whole populations throughout the centuries; even in the early twentieth century smallpox is estimated to have killed 300 million people. Today, we have the miracles of genetic research and modern medicine, so the death count in the US is still only around 850,000 in January 2022. But there are people who think this is not real: at the beginning of 2022, roughly 15% of the US population (around 50 million people) is unvaccinated, and only 62% are fully vaccinated. Is it ignorance, an act of political resistance, a mistrust of modern medicine, or a death wish?
San Francisco is a ghost town also for other reasons: homelessness and petty crime has spread and it is overwhelming the inner city. It is no longer safe to walk along Market Street in downtown, and the Tenderloin District, right behind Union Square, is a cesspool of drug dealing, squatting, and human misery. There were 711 overdoses in the city in 2020, more people died from drugs than from Coronavirus. The side effects are horrendous: Drug dealers get rich, and stores get looted almost with impunity, while bystanders post videos of it in real time. Police officers are watching the show and make minimal efforts to stop it, because it is cheaper for the judicial system to send perpetrators home after they are arrested. This non-interference policy happens in the name of racial and restorative justice. If racism leads to poverty, and poverty leads to crime, doesn’t it make sense to reward offenders so they wouldn’t need to be so bad any more? The results of this warped thinking are visible when you walk around Civic Center. Normality may have always been a fiction, but in this place, the curtain is lifted, and any concept of normality has vanished. We all exist in a twilight zone between life and death, but for some, the presence of death is accelerated, and has become shockingly visible in their neglected appearance: the living dead.
The photos you see below don’t show any of it – I simply left out the people. I wanted to show some areas of the town that are also beautiful: Illuminated towers with cascading waterfalls, a new way to exhibit modern art through animated projections, high-end shopping under police protection, and Christmas without meaning.