Hate Man, the Pathways Project, and the War on Eccentricity

Carol Denney
Monday April 03, 2017 - 03:55:00 PM

There comes a point in a local's life where you go to People's Park and you stop looking for a spectacle, a particular vision of all it has stood for over the decades, and begin instead to look for who is there.

The tourists often look for a museum experience that will quickly summarize the sixties so they can go shopping. University of California officials are looking for evidence that the sixties are still there so they can start another development machine. City representatives usually hope to minimize their connection to the park so they can get re-elected.

But park-connected people look for the people which, as much as the weather on a particular day, will predict the likelihood of some really good music, some rocking stories, a couple of good arguments and jokes. There might be an old friend you met in a holding cell you can borrow a couple bucks from or pay back. And usually there was Hate Man.

Hate Man, born Mark Hawthorne, was among many things a philosopher who encouraged people to confront negative feelings in themselves and others, which he saw as more honest. He was articulate, educated, and gentle. He usually dressed in creative attire unusual even for Berkeley's streets, which, like his philosophy, gave gentle permission to others to stretch their ideas of their own expression. 

The University of California's animosity toward eccentricity was by no means limited to Hate Man, but one of the best illustrations of this paranoia still exists in their "People's Park Rules", which go so far as to specifically criminalize baby strollers unless they carried a baby. That was for Hate Man, and the strange, gentle power of a philosopher who was continually forced into court, the City of Berkeley's and the University of California's preferred territory for battle. 

Since the block between Haste, Dwight, Bowditch, and Telegraph's rowdy, explosive block of ungoverned culture, mostly in shared houses, was bulldozed in 1967, the UC Berkeley administration has torn its hair out trying to quell that culture and the concomitant gentle warriors who carry it with them in their smiles, their pace, and their willingness to greet the National Guard with flowers. Hate Man's embrace of "oppositionality", oddly fit right into this strange revolution, an oddly quiet revolution unless certain people were behind the faders. But then, if you know the people behind the faders you can have an effect on that, too. 

The City of Berkeley's "Pathways Project" continues in a decades-old parade of fallacies: that you need freshly-built buildings to address housing needs, that only carefully "vetted" people deserve a roof, and that our eccentrics are a threat. Those lucky enough to have known Hate Man are sad today to lose him, but will forever see him on our streets and in our Park, and loosen their constricted expectations of others and themselves. And maybe bring a baby stroller. Nothing is funnier than the poor police officer who tries to explain what is wrong with that.