‘A paradise to live in or see …’

Is Asheville in a state of cultural and economic prosperity or capitalist malaise? In his March 6 Opinion piece, “Long Live Asheville: A City Dying to Be Reborn,” Martin Ramsey took aim at the city's utopian self-image, especially as relates to tourism and the “invisible class” of locals “who make this city possible” with their work at the restaurants, hotels and other places that draw visitors to town and support their stay. “It is my experience — gleaned from years in the service industry, renting, gardening, moving jobs and scrapping metal — that more and more, little by little, Asheville is being turned into an amnesiac consumer destination,” he writes. “See our dog bakeries! Come visit our olive-oil-tasting rooms! True, unemployment is low, but so is pay, and many residents work multiple jobs. Rent is high, and buying costs are astronomical to the everyday worker.” Was Ramsey’s aim true or off the mark? Readers responded with letters and comments, and you should too, at http://avl.mx/r1. — Jaye Bartell

Dig deeper, look closer — at yourself and your fellow man and not just the surroundings you call home. These are my first thoughts when I read published opinions about Asheville being labeled as an “amnesiac consumer destination.”  I am an entrepreneur who is tired of the anger and misguided resentment that is constantly being directed by some at our freedom to create, invent and capitalize on hard work and vision. The rampant hatred of consumer spending and generalizations of corporate America has got to stop.

When did it become so fashionable to hate people who achieve, succeed or create for profit? My small business donated to more than 10 local charities in the first year alone and was engaged in two community service projects. …

If we want to have real discussions about how or community looks on the outside, we need to begin by examining the spiritual and moral compass that resides deep within ourselves. If we are not centered in these basic foundational principals, whatever we try to legislate on the outside will have little enduring results. If we take personal responsibility, and choose to use our energy to enrich others, the results will be far more enduring. Our greatest power comes from our free will and ability to choose. In the meantime, try appreciating the creativity and courage it takes for someone to risk it all to have a brewery, dog bakery or olive oil tasting room. After all, think of how monotone Asheville would be to have nothing but government offices with long lines of people waiting to find out how they should spend their money or how they have to share to help others. — Kevin Sandefur, letter [Sandefur is the owner of BearWaters Brewing in Waynesville]

I get it — that Asheville, despite its amazing history, has turned into a town catering to tourism and the wealthy. And that, should the economy go further south, this city will be adversely impacted. There is one small detail, however, that I would like to address. It's true that Asheville built and paid for its water system. However, Buncombe County residents built and paid for their own water system before transferring it over to Asheville during the Depression. That is why Sullivan Acts were approved by the N.C. General Assembly based on Asheville's water history. Apparently, other N.C. cities do not share this history. Hopefully, with the infusion of beer-making businesses in Asheville, the city's economy will improve.— Meiling Dai, mountainx.com

Quite an indictment, but what do you propose? You say its time to organize, but in what way and with what goals? More money for the underpaid? Cheaper housing? How do you organize to make the rich less greedy and pay their employees a living wage and landlords that offer fair rental prices? I agree people are underpaid across America, and I feel that the rich should make less and the poor should make more. But how do you convince the rich to do this voluntarily? This is an anti-union state. How can we make this difference? I would like to see change too but this to me seems to be a problem of human nature rather than something we as a city will address. Prove me wrong. — Scott, mountainx.com

The challenges and issues identified in this piece ring true; however, as Scott noted, calling for a "working-class movement" and for increasingly debilitated unions to feel "empowered" is unlikely to have the desired effect.

It seems more productive to have those who continue to slide down the economic tubes to work cohesively in electing people who will represent these increasingly marginalized citizens, and that means from the ground up … from county dog catcher to state representatives.

Democrats throughout the country should make their primary goal the registering of as many citizens as possible, regardless of the hurdles state Republicans try and throw in the way. Then support candidates sympathetic to these issues. — Dionysis, mountainx.com

It sounds as if you’ve made enemy of an idea, a cultural phenomenon simply observed by the method you’ve taken. There is anger in your voice, and though I identify with what I imagine to be its inspiration, I have a hard time detecting its direction. It would be easy to render the intended targets of your distaste, but at the same time, I sense an equal, if not personal distaste for the situation you’ve surrounded yourself with. Is the environment from which you’ve called dynamic enough to sustain the solutions you’ve offered? I instead, propose a less participatory, though intensely active approach.

The we cook your food and walk your dog bullshit is both degrading and shallow. By no means should we claim rights to such a disastrous set of social and economic infrastructures, as the energy generated from such a malnourished perspective is going to be negative and without stamina. There is no sense in committing our dearest and most passionate qualities to the “Nos” and “Nows” of traditional demands. Why subject our dignity to the politics of an intellectual fight? These are matters of personal judgment and thereby susceptible to and within the direct rights of every last interpreter you offer your words to. This attitude becomes merely a reflection of the same posture this conversation yearns to transcend.

Personally, I’m disgusted with the realities you’ve shared, and I find no interest in dedicating the pillars of my lifestyle to characterizing its semblance. Our goals should not be relegated to our temporary emblems of wealth, nor our commonality to the vanities of strife. We should consider our miscommunication as our primary enemy, and do so with patience and humility. Our successes lie only in our collective ability to further understand this world we’ve inherited.  — Nathanel Roney, letter [Roney the senior graphic designer for Xpress]

The working people are the backbone of America, and our poor and sick are being exploited and kicked to the curb by every piece of legislation this money/power grabbing governor signs. — June Honeycutt, via Facebook

It’s time to find each other and fight back. I am amazed at how people make excuses for the exploitation (‘just human nature’) and can’t get it together to even muster the will to stand up for themselves. Hell no! — disruptina, mountainx.com

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