Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The 'Nolia

Some of America's worst living conditions were present in erstwhile New Orleans. The Magnolia Housing Projects, once home to Master P and Juvenile, are currently inhabitated only by vagrants and a few of those rendered homeless by Katrina. A terroristic feeling pervades this nasty low-rise public residential complex, which saw some of the highest concentrations 0f poverty, addiction, and violent crime.

I don't think it would be a particularly stellar idea to relocate the Magnolia residents en masse to a single locale. Maintaining a high density of gangstas, winos, and elderly would not lead to any increase in quality of life, even if the physical space were more sterile and fresh. 3rd World conditions, as they existed in many pockets of New Orleans, are fun to rep if you're trying to be tough, but they're certainly not fun to be subjected to. The NOPD, a notoriously corrupt and inept law enforcement institution, was certainly always perceived as an imperial foe uninterested in amerliorating the conditions of the natives, who lacked economic and political capital.

The hard-scrabble ghetto life of the 'Nolia produced culture, an ethos born of tremendous anguish and unending peril. The reason why Juvenile put "my trust in my 9 and myself first" is not that he thought guns were amusing. Dog-eat-dog values ensure survival in the projects, with access to financial and reproductive always insecure. I'm not going to pretend that I understand the extent of life's bounty or lack thereof in the hood. However, as an interested observer and experientialist, I would say that the hood produces culture because it's on the edge of Western civilization and it challenges the typically accepted nature of Western life. Doing away with the hood and assimilating the ghetto to middle-class Western society would most likely make us all safer (current hood residents most notably). But, ghetto communities, despite their defects, do usually have a redeemable social and cultural fabric that we destory with every extra step the giant of gentrification takes, whether in New Orleans, the Lower East Side, or West Baltimore.

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