January 17, 2006

Violence and Death in I.V.

Just balancing out the stupid survey with some morbid mortal stuff. There’s been a lot of it lately, whether the steady attrition of cliff-divers to more recent freakish things like the Attias craziness and this poor girl. Now someone else died in the surf off Campus Point.

I liked to joke about Isla Vista as the retarded phoenix but it definitely has undergone a nasty transformation within the last decade (that is, in the entire time that I was living there). Well, that may or may not be true, but it seemed nastier. When I arrived as a freshman in Fall ’95 it was the first year of Zero Tolerance, where county sherriffs frantically tried to outnumber students and keep the fabled partying masses under control.

I don’t know where it changed- where the mix of Fear vs. Fun careened finally toward Fear- but David Attias probably had something to do with it. Even so, things had been getting weirder and more violent, or so it seemed, especially to moralizers outside of the I.V. bubble who either a) feared for their loved ones inside or b) had a full-on “I hate leftist universities and everything about them” problem (this was particularly, insidiously stupid once wingnut students started showing up and bitching about their Bush-hating professors).

There are lots of other contributing factors and one of them surely must be the tightening grip of the large property owners upon I.V. Companies like Ron Wolfe and the like have been the local Monty Burnses for decades, but things seemed to escalate in about ’98 or ’99 when one such agency declared a mass eviction of all tenants in one building. These tenants were all Hispanic, mostly immigrants, who wouldn’t be able to meet the stratospherically climbing rent. This was one case only, but the pattern has been to slowly quasi-gentrify Isla Vista, so that eventually only the children of the very wealthy can afford to live there.

Of course, vague and ominous feelings of malaise have little, superficially, to do with the recent tragedies and deaths. For the most part, the editorial columns of the Nexus (those written by the staff, and probably Hentry Sarria as well) were mediating things- admonishing students (however patiently or empathetically) for the dumb mistakes we all made, but also giving the finger to outsiders who made snap judgements about the supposed Gomorrah by the sea. See, the sexual morality (or lack thereof) isn’t the problem. Of course rape still happens and the culture that creates it should be opposed, and (more superficially) the horrible things students in relationships do to each others’ brains once sex gets involved are regrettable, but what I felt that was frightening was the non-sexual violence. Alcohol-fueled macho crap in I.V. has seemed to skyrocket within the last 5 years, and I don’t know what caused it. I loathe everything it stands for, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to stop horrible shit like this.

I’m probably overreacting. Either that or viewing all this through the wrong sort of eyes, but by the time I left there I was glad to be gone. I should have done it earlier, and I would have if there was no band to play in, even if 3 of us don’t live there anymore. Well, 4, since Billy is actually in Santa Barbara and he hates I.V.

Anyway, this isn’t ending up anywhere special. I’ll probably end up doing a “Shorter UCSB” that will sum it up much better. What weirds me out lately is why these weird nostalgic impulses- high school, UCSB, band stuff- have had such a vicelike grip on me recently. No idea.

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