Mardis Gras Materialism: Dialectical New Orleans, “Rebel” City for Capitalism’s Causes

I wrote this aesthetically ugly little diary from New Orleans Sunday morning during the last Mardis Gras weekend and first published it that Sunday night for Anti-Capitalist Meetup. After returning to Nowheresville, Deep South, out of the flood plain, I thought I would give it another whirl on the day, “Fat Tuesday,” and added a word about the people of a sad place that is special to me. (I am finally getting around to publishing it at gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com a month later.) The republishing at Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Fat Tuesday was dedicated:

to the people of the Ninth Ward, past and yes present. Whether they live in the Ninth Ward still or are scattered to some other southern ghetto, materialism has dictated that they will live very hard lives. After hurricanes, from the Redneck Riviera to Fire Island, the wealthy rebuild, courtesy of federal and state socialized programs. I am all for getting at the root causes of why people live in places like the Ninth Ward to begin with, but the truth is, if “we” as Amurikka are going to redline places in our country and our world vulnerable to hurricanes/Climate Change and not worthy of protecting and rebuilding, political power will dictate that this means where “they” live and not where those with the power live. And where is that Jobs Program that the poor people of New Orleans and all of Amurikka so obviously need? Is our plan to avoid “love thy neighbor” by getting rid of the neighbors who don’t have jobs and nice places to live, out of sight and out of mind? Sorry for the buzz kill, but for me Lent is beginning a day early. I am sorry brothers and sisters, we have let you down and chosen the easy path of spreading the lies of the powerful who look down at you and blame you for being the necessary byproducts of their own system of organized fear and greed.

Krewe of Iris beads

“I can see that we’re going to have a great deal of trouble capturing the conservative rural redneck Calvinist vote.” Reilly, I.J., facetiously summarizing the failure of his address to the inattentive dancing assembled prospective members of the newly formed Peace Party.

Toole, J.K., 1980. A Confederacy of Dunces. Louisiana State University Press.

Dear Communiss Readers:

I had high hopes for this diary. Although I love this beautiful mess of a city, some things about New Orleans make me want to unsheath my scimitar, and I wanted to tell you about them in a scholarly manner.

Like the fact that the brilliant Republicans who allowed much of it to be destroyed in a predictable natural disaster and then watched as 1,464 people died used this very destruction to lay off thousands of public school teachers and destroy the cash-strapped public school system in order to complete the ushering in of a charter school takeover, which siphons needed money away from children and teachers into the pockets of privateers, destroying neighborhood schools that were often the only glue holding communities together, replacing imperfect but still somewhat democratic school board representation with thoroughly undemocratic boards of directors, many of whom send their children to private schools, and serving as an example of the marvels of the marketplace for similarly gutting other cash-strapped public school systems. (http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/4/new-orleans-charterschoolseducationreformracesegregation.html
http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2012/08/lb_landry_high_school_alumni_t.html http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2012/10/recovery_school_district_faces.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/in-new-orleans-traditional-public-schools-close-for-good/2014/05/28/ae4f5724-e5de-11e3-8f90-73e071f3d637_story.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_Hurricane_Katrina_in_New_Orleans#Loss_of_life) Apparently there is gold, or at least copper, in them thar hills, and below-sea-level wards. (http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2015/02/international_high_school_sold.html)

Like the fact that NOLA is forced by the ALEC bullies of Baton Rouge to avoid the ugly truth of the hallowed marketplace: that many if not most young African Americans in this city who live in poverty and extreme poverty will never have decent paying private enterprise jobs that will lift them and their siblings or the next generation out of poverty and extreme poverty, but they will be implicitly invited by the wonders of capitalism to resort to self-medication and coping strategies and to fight with each other not only in bread and drug wars but also over Mardis Gras throws when they are not being incarcerated or expelled from those same charter schools. (http://socialistworker.org/2012/09/05/a-tale-of-two-new-orleans http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Louisiana_ALEC_Politicians http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/02/louisiana_tax_changes_mirror_a.html http://archive.theadvertiser.com/article/20120603/NEWS01/206030342/ALEC-school-reform-La-plan-mirrors-think-tank-s-blueprint)

Like the fact that the parades were founded in racism and still can reveal racism, like the “nice” “white” woman I talked to while we were watching the Krewe of Iris, founded in 1917, which I understand was a rather important year for anti-capitalists, who was herself on the Krewe of Muses and who smiled and politely explained to me when I asked her if the shooting deaths of two young African American men had placed a damper on the occasion, “Nah, it was just like any other day in Nyoo Ahhlyins.” (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001UE6LZI/ref=pe_385040_118058080_TE_M1T1DP
http://www.nola.com/mardigras/index.ssf/2012/02/mardi_gras_debate_of_race_clas.html
http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2015/02/mardi_gras_parade_shooting_hom.html)

Like the fact that almost nothing from the hotel, restaurant, and booze taxes goes to actually help New Orleanians living in poverty and extreme poverty but instead goes to pay for advertising, improvements to serve tourists, and maintenance of edifices that primarily benefit corporations, the wealthy, and the tourists. (http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/8495050-148/hotels-agree-to-higher-tax http://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/new-orleans-poverty-rate-almost-twice-national-average-report-finds http://www.louisianaweekly.com/anti-poverty-programs-have-been-successful/ http://m.bestofneworleans.com/gambit/the-new-orleans-hotelmotel-tax/Content?oid=2102931 http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/04/hospitality_zone_taxes_on_down.html)

Like the fact that in Jefferson Parish, where during Katrina the mayor of Gretna blockaded the bridge, halting New Orleans evacuation (http://articles.latimes.com/2005/sep/16/nation/na-gretna16), one small but apparently thriving business boasts of producing the highest quality metal barricades in the world to go to places like New Orleans and New York City to restrain the public and ensure that they do not become true rebel cities. (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/06/02/do-not-cross) I am, however, reminded of a piece annieli did for this group a year ago about, among other things, how barricades have from time to time been used for revolutionary purposes. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/23/1276916/-Anti-Capitalist-Meetup-The-Power-of-the-Flea-Market)

But I won’t be able to get into those details in a scholarly manner, as I type in the early morning darkness and courteously try to avoid waking other nearby parade-goers. We all need our sleep, although I find that a teetotaling socialist reporter needs less. Fear me lurking boregeoise.

Until later, Gary, Your Militant Working Boy

P.S. I learned recently that a hundred years ago when unemployed workers came to New Orleans during Mardis Gras they did not feel particularly welcome.
(https://books.google.com/books?id=7Ko9AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA359&lpg=PA359&dq=socialist+interpretation+of+mardis+gras&source=bl&ots=zSYERgJUKS&sig=WVYuqpo3TzpM15ZSG-0dqPTZqp8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=3HbdVKGZOMGfggTt64KYDA&ved=0CDoQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=socialist%20interpretation%20of%20mardis%20gras&f=false) Now we, their comrade descendants, whether we live in NOLA or elsewhere around the world in neoliberalism/austerity’s grasp, must do our parts as species-beings and true rebels (http://www.versobooks.com/books/1411-rebel-cities) and rise up in this neo-Confederacy of dunces, however silly the Rebels, those so often of masks, and hoods, mercenaries of the 1%, with no causes other than barely-disguised fear and greed, would like it (the rising up, not them, their neo-Confederacy, or their fear and greed) to look. First as tragedy, then as farce, then not so funny.

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