Cafe Observations

There’s a San Francisco Cafe that captures the true essence of the city. This particular cafe is tucked into one of San Francisco’s more well known neighborhoods. It is considered an institution because a number of its patrons once included artists. It serves mediocre pastries of unknown origin. The coffee, no matter who is working, tastes bitter and burnt. It’s considered a landmark, a must see. The decor is less than desirable, and therefore it is considered charming. 

It’s patrons are white and liberal. They read the mandatory arbiters of neoliberal doctrine: The Financial Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. They read San Francisco’s decrepit Chronicle, because they are informed. 

Their national political views mirror the ideological strain that dominated the Clinton and Obama administrations: feel good Starbucks Social Justice, free trade and expensive college degrees. Some social safety net is good, but the era of Big Government is over. Radical change is the enemy. There sometimes might be a debate about whether Bernie should be the nominee. Trump is bad and red states are backwards, trapped hopelessly in the past.

A local politician skulks in an out on a daily basis, chatting with a few of the patrons. Their politics match his own: obstructionist progressivism. An obstructionist progressive is a Janus-faced creature native to San Francisco, but often found in other wealthy bastions of liberal ideology. They want to progress society forward through equity, which they only define in terms that protect their current positions and privileges. When it comes time to vote for meaningful change in the city, they balk outright or talk in circles about tradition.

They speak of helping the poor, so long as it doesn’t come at their own expense. Do as I say, just not in my backyard.

They are obstructionist to the point of conservatism; hitched to an idyllic view of San Francisco’s past that they demand the present conform to. This means that big corporations are bad, but expensive wine bars and posh luxury boutiques are fine. New apartment complexes are an eyesore – instead, all new construction must conform to the vague notion of neighborhood character, even if that will do little to alleviate soaring housing prices.

The end result is that nothing ever changes – a sort of social stickiness that benefits those who have while keeping everyone else underwater. Mobility is nonexistent. There is no ladder to climb out.

Hence, you have San Francisco in a nutshell: white folks who think Trump is bad, but want to keep what they have at the expense of all others. The City decays in cadence with their votes, but all is well in their minds. The illusion of San Francisco is thriving, a Utopia that they refuse to admit only exists for a select few.

They are just white people drinking bad coffee, in a run down dump, eating shitty pastries, thinking everything is okay. I go there about once or twice a week.