Marginalization. It’s something we all, as valued members of society operating in an economic market, do on some level, either consciously or unconsciously. Marginalization, as established in this paper, is the process of suppressing, moving, and ignoring undesirable entities, such as ideas, groups of people, and even individuals.

It’s a natural tendency for many humans, as a species, to ignore that which is of little importance to their daily lives. In fact, in a world of increasingly advanced commerce, an individual living in western society often finds oneself immersed in a burgeoning marketplace that rewards self-concern and punishes altruism. Very few people, if any, regularly seek putting themselves in another’s position--all the while reflecting on the other’s interests and quality of life. The very few that do this, and are still able to survive in today’s marketplace, are psychiatrists, marketers, and the occasional popular fiction writer. However, these professions all provide a service to others in the marketplace—a psychiatrist makes others feel better by listening to the “problems” of the affluent, marketers profit from pandering to our insecurities, and the popular writer sustains him or herself by leading a person away from his or her troubles of life by immersing them in a world of fiction. One may argue that intense self interest is simply a biologically predisposed trait for many people, for survival is best prolonged through egocentric behavior. For example, the lawyer whom unleashes violent criminals and sociopath rapists back into society (only for them to reoffend) is rewarded handsomely in the form of large salaries, dinner parties, and respect within the community. The single mother, who selflessly works two jobs as a slave wage servant and dedicates herself to raising her young children, is subjected to a life of poverty, and often times, intense conflict. While such words are dissonant to the ears of those who believe in a “just world,” one cannot deny the palpable economic reality of western society. In this instance, the idea of an unjust world is marginalized in the mind of those who believe in a world that is just.

In an egocentric, market focused society, those not actively participating in the market are outside of the participants daily life, and are thus forgotten. Because we identify with each other according to our market roles, those with no roles are not empathized with. The top players in the market are those whom posses the power, such as CEO’s, politicians, and those with significant assets. The unemployed, or the surplus of the surplus labor army, are essentially at the mercy of the powerful and influential. This is because power is money, and money is survival.

There are several means for marginalizing those whom are not active participants in the marketplace. One way is to create an urban landscape not conducive to the basic functions of the marginalized. For example, in downtown Seattle, many of the bench seats at bus stops, which were long enough for a homeless person to lie down on, were replaced with smaller, wire benches. Now, many of those benches are being replaced with “bucket seats,” which are just large enough for one solitary person to have a seat. “Civility laws” have taken root in America, which prohibits many activities characteristic of those homeless, such as camping in parks and urinating in public. These laws are simply a means to have leverage over the homeless. With this leverage, police officers are able to harass, trespass, and even jail the homeless impeding on the city and parks reserved for market participants.

Marginalization isn’t limited to the homeless, either. Skateboarders, in recent years, have been driven out of Seattle as well. Skateboarding in Westlake Park, for example, is punishable with a fine, trespass, and seized skateboard. The author of this paper has been chased down and forcibly thrown to the ground for skateboarding on the University of Washington campus. Skate knobs have been installed on many publicly funded ledges, which are large, metal deterrents to what is known as “grinding.” Grinding is when a skateboarder jumps up onto a ledge and the axle of the skateboard “grind” across the ledge. As of January 2007, the only skatepark serving the entire Seattle area (which was located near Queen Anne) was torn down in favor of a parking garage for Bill Gates new headquarters, which will house the idle cars of active market participants. When skateboarders, such as myself, are approached by police officers, we are told to “get the hell out of [there]” and are threatened with fines and arrest. If a skateboarder sees a police officer enter the general vicinity, they may attempt to leave in order to circumvent any conflict. However, this is almost always a foolish move, for police officers perceive this as an attempt to “elude an officer,” and will turn on their lights and sirens, riding up onto pedestrian walkways, if necessary, to catch a citizen guilty of skateboarding. None of this is known to those outside of the close-knit skateboarding community, including those responsible for city skatepark planning.

Ironically, skateboarders have moved to an area under the Marginal Way Bridge in Seattle, not far from the West Seattle Bridge. Here, marginalized homeless people and skateboarders alike seek shelter from the rain and market participants, in an area in which they are left alone from both environmental forces. Other safe havens exist as well. Underneath the Seattle viaduct down the Pike Street hill climb was a place known as “the dungeon,” in which skateboarders gathered and the homeless slept after being driven out of everywhere above First Avenue. All of the obstacles have since been knobbed, and a large flowerpot turned on its side, adored by skateboarders as an obstacle in a town with very little to legally skate, has been removed. The last frontier exists at a place just across the street from the infamous Ezells chicken: Garfield High School. Here, skateboarders are left alone in a neighborhood where police officers and residents are more concerned with stabbings, domestic violence, gang fights, and hard drugs than they are with people skating at an empty school.

Marginalization creates a specious atmosphere for market participants, in which the marginalized are out of sight, quietly suffering in non-visible, unvalued areas. In order to be represented within a group where identities are established by roles in market participation, the marginalized too must become market participants. However, once marginalized, it becomes increasingly difficult to become a market participant. Some, for example, are limited by education. Others, by age. A fifteen year-old skateboarder has absolutely no power to influence the decision to knob ledges and create anti-skateboarding laws. Similarly, a homeless man suffering from mental illness with a fourth grade education, left to his own devices, has no way to influence the federal government to provide subsidized housing in desirable locations.

Because of our market structure, there is no way in which any rational person will leave their daily tasks, empathize with someone they have no connection to, and leverage their market position to advocate for them. Rather, market participants must see it in their own best interest to create change in a society known to marginalize the non-participants—the undesirables. This will only take place when there is a significant personal payoff for such advocacy.