Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saving the World Through Racism; China-fication

(Please Note: as of 12/1/14 the racist page in question has been taken down, as far as I can tell, and I am told that 'Ms Brees' has issued some sort of minor apology on her Facebook page. I haven't bothered to check, but I'm gonna hope for the best. - L.D.)

I came across this just the other day. It's a public page on a Facebook Site, described as:
"China-fication of New Orleans Culture and Traditions'.
The page alleges to deal with the horror of Chinese imports used to 'celebrate' New Orleans culture.

 We'll get to all of that, but first, let me address the obvious racism of the term 'China-fication'; The author of the page in question told me via message (before deleting me for disagreeing with her) that it's okay to describe America's fascination with cheap junk this way because "It is a word being used in the news and academia across America."

 Do you suppose that if "
the news and academia across America" started calling DYI repair by black people "African Engineering", or negotiations by Jewish people as "Jewing you down" it would be acceptable?
Perhaps calling Latinos who work in the Mexican food industry "Taco Benders" would meet a higher standard? 

And the Italian in me isn't wild about 'Wop Salad' either, but whatcha gonna do, right? (fogetaboutit)

So I'm just gonna go off the top of my head here, and spit out a few thoughts.

There are about a billion people in China. It's a huge fucking country with many provinces, dialects, cultures & styles. Few of these, I would say, deal on a day to day basis with America's fascination with cheap crap. More likely, they are struggling to find better jobs in their late-to-game upsurging economy, trying to raise families under a rather oppressive regime we can't even imagine, and making it through life one day at a time, just like you & I. Some are just struggling to breathe the air in Beijing, or petitioning the government to have more than one legal child.

To saddle them with the responsibility for our own choices is both sad and typical;
Clinging to a childlike view of the world, it's easy to go blithely along, buying crap, and pointing fingers. Let's look at where those fingers are pointed, and should be pointed, shall we?

The author of this Facebook page calls herself Katrina Brees. It's not her real name of course, nor is she from New Orleans. She did, however, decide to make use of the name of the storm, Katrina, that took over 1300 lives here. Then a slightly clever, albeit sophomoric, addition of  Saint's quarterback Drew Brees last name gave her a full on commercialized 'N'awlins' name, one that doubles as the name of the wind that helped destroy a city and kill well over a thousand.

  In the messages before she deleted me for telling her some of these things (she wrote and asked me why I was "so hateful" when I pointed out the racism aspect), she told me she had lived all over the world, in many countries, most recently China, but others have identified her as Karina Nathan of Boston, Massachusetts.

Imagine my surprise when I read her page, announcing:

 "The truth is that New Orleans culture is now imported from China. Whether it is the $100s of millions in ostrich feathers, plastic seed beads, Mardi Gras throws, St Patty's decorations, a Saints jersey or even a king cake baby."

 The local news has carried stories about the toxicity of cheap Chinese beads, and some of these other things, but then, it's fun to jump on a band wagon and call yourself an authority, isn't it? Still, I would hardly call that stuff 'New Orleans Culture", anymore than I would the scene of Bourbon Street. 

Haydels Bakery, for example, makes it's own King Cake babies, modeled to match the floats of various Parade Krewes. Many of the New Orleans Parade Krewes are making efforts to switch entirely to throws made, not just in the USA, but in New Orleans. There is a change already happening, but time & economy play a big role in it.

Established businesses and long lived Carnival Krewes may have the deep pockets to do this in a relatively short period of time. But who does
Karina Nathan of Boston, Massachusetts decide to point the finger at? The Mardi Gras Indians, that's who.

Now, I'm no expert, but I know a few of these people, and have spent a little 'white boy' time with them when they let me hang around. These are not Bourbon Street club owners, buying the cheapest shit they can get away with. These are not people selling polyester jester hats, pimp outfits, Bud Lite coolies or 'Show Your Tits' t-shirts.
 That shit is, indeed, probably made somewhere in Asia, and should be avoided for it's garish tastelessness as well as any residual patriotic pride.

But the MG Indians?

I have heard it said:  "We have done so much with so little, for so long, that we are now qualified to do anything with nothing."

This describes what I have seen from any of these tribes I have encountered. They are mostly doing amazing work with what they can afford, which is often foreign made beads, sequins & feathers. When presented with cost effective local alternatives, many have made the change.

Rather than go further into that, I will wonder out loud, why single out the bottom of the economic pyramid (sorry guys), compared to the wealthy, Uptown carnival Krewes, Bourbon Street Clubs, beer representatives, party stores & t-shirt shops?
Because it gets a 'cooler' headline and is a whole fuck of a lot less work? Perhaps.

In short,
Karina Nathan of Boston, Massachusetts, could move to New Orleans, change her name to Katrina Brees, claim to have lived in China, slam an entire country and a billion people by blaming them for American acceptance of throw away shit, mostly bought by corporate shills, and get her picture taken 'saving' the Mardi Gras Indians.

I call foul.
This is why.

I'm guessing Ms Brees has an iPhone and/or iPod laying around somewhere. I wonder if she knows that those are also made in oppressive Chinese factories?
Lets' look at where they're made, shall we? 

"Apple iPods, iPhones, and other products are manufactured for Apple by Foxconn, a Taiwan-based company (technically, Foxconn is the company’s trade name; the firm’s official name is Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd).
The iPod and iPhone are manufactured in Shenzen, China, though Foxconn maintains factories in countries across the world, including Thailand, Malaysia, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Singapore, and the Philippines."

While I'm sure Karina Nathan of Boston, Massachusetts has no problem with those Chinese imports, (Oh NO! I forgot my PHONE!), perhaps she should look at how the Chinese who make them feel about this 'China-fication'. At least one of those factories (Foxxconn) has "suicide nets" around it so the workers, who are not allowed to leave, can't jump to their deaths.

17 Foxconn workers have killed themselves in the past half decade. What had seemed to be a series of isolated incidents was becoming an appalling trend. When one jumper left a note explaining that he committed suicide to provide for his family, the program of remuneration for the families of jumpers was canceled."

Somehow, the beads just don't seem so Dr. Evil anymore. Nor do the Mardi Gras Indians, many of whom recycle their beads, year after year, and already spend an inordinate amount of their income upholding their traditions. It might surprise Ms Brees to know that these traditions, started by the poor, black communities of New Orleans, pre-date plastic AND Chinese imports, even though she claims that:

"The truth is that New Orleans culture is now imported from China.

Karina Nathan of Boston, Massachusetts interested in really spreading the news about our trade problems with China, an obvious place to start might be the XL Pipeline, a nightmare of an Eco-Apocalypse supported almost entirely by it's Chinese customers and a small section of right wing investor monkeys, who have no qualms blowing up the world or drowning it in epic oil spills, as long as few drunken Canadian politicians (and some really stupid greedy American ones) can make money pumping it across the USA to boats destined for China.

Or she could join the campaign against Walmart, who's owners have become billionaires by selling cheap Chinese imports, via part time employees unable to get healthcare or live without food stamps.

Then there's the Monsanto driven FDA, okaying Chinese crawfish, which destroy the local fishing economy, or the import of Chinese chicken meat, none of which meets the already dismal inspection standards the FDA sets out. They don't even require it be labeled in many circumstances.

But no, let's get out our iPhones and join a woman named after exploitation & death, as she points her finger at the Madri Gras Indians, who's culture now comes from China. 

Because it's easy.
Calling other people names and pointing fingers is alwasy easier than actually dealing with problems. But dressing up in fairy
wings and getting your picture taken with some MG Indians won't solve much.

I do think it would be nice if she stopped talking about 'Our culture' and what "we" are doing about it. I know some tribe people that have been masking & looking for local alternatives since before
Karina Nathan of Boston, Massachusetts was born.
Certainly before she came here to point fingers and 'save us'.

In closing, and I say this from the bottom of my heart,
I don't care how the fuck y'all did it up north, honey.
You here, now.
Stop pointing fingers.
As the late, great Elvis Presley once sang, "Clean up your own back yard."

PS: Anyone interested in recycling Carnival beads, please contact Margie Perez at Arc Beadcycle. They do good. Fo real.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sign Posts

Each of us holds a secret in our heart.
To look hard enough to see;
To know and respect and honor and cherish;
That is the way to love.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Walk By The River; Lord of the Flies & the Slave Children of Mordor

Today begins the Sacred Music Festival at the New Orleans Healing Center, in which billionaire Pres Kabacoff sponsors his crazy wife's party, which they convince the local hippies to work as 'volunteers', because god knows Pres & Sallie are short of cash.

 In keeping with this occasion, I came across a picture of their fake Voodoo ceremony, which I have diligently posted to Facebook.
All the same, here it is again, with the same caption.

"Privileged White People, bastardizing Haitian culture, performing a 'ceremony' at the Hippy Shopping Mall Healing Center. The best part of this picture is Pres Kabacoff, in his ridiculous pink suit, staring at that woman's ass, while his crazy wife pretends to do a Voodoo ceremony.

 I admit, this put a wrinkle in my day, much like coming across any other pile of stank droppings, so I thought I'd take a walk at the new Crescent Park, down by the river.
It's a blustery day, so as expected, I had it much to myself.

 I had read warnings from other pundits, suggesting that the park would soon be over run with 'thugs' and today, I saw them, myself, en masse, for the first time.

I'm guessing they're the Cottage Cheese Ass Gang, Lord of the Flies chapter. They were all skinny, bearded white boys, carrying those large tree limbs, and, as I arrived, beating loudly on all of the iron panels around the Piety Street deck, like some loud & insane Drum Circle From Hell.
 I watched for a while, wondering if they knew there were cameras in there, watching them, too. Then they noticed the cameras, ("Hey look! Dude! Cameras!") and in a moment of bravery, hoofed it back across the Bridge of Rust, complete with their Gandalf Staff Wear, to march off in the general direction of Mordor, or as it's called locally, the New Orleans Healing Center and Co-op.

 I walked on down to the end of the path, to where it ends in a lovely chain link security fence. There was a cargo vessel making a U-turn, and the music came floating across the river as it gracefully spun about. It was Scott Joplin's 'The Entertainer' played on the Caliope.
 Suddenly, I heard a foot step behind me, and spun around. There stood an obvious jogger, totally fit, wearing the sort of stretchy jogging clothes only totally fit people can wear. He was smiling ear to ear.

"Impressive, isn't it?" he said, nodding at the ship.
"The music makes it completely surreal", I replied.
"I know," he said, "It's perfect." He went on his way & I on mine, but I was reassured by this exchange. The simple acceptance of surreal imagery & the child like wonder of watching one of the Big Ships, so easily shared by complete strangers, passing on the river bank, is probably as old as the city itself. The name of the ship certainly fell in to line with this imagery. The MSC Stella.

Needless to say, I felt better about things.

Once back on the home turf of the Skull Club, I decided that I would pop next door to the Mordor Co-op Voodoo Shopping Mall, and see if they ever restocked the one, single item I ever went there for, anymore, and then, only under the most dire of circumstances (which often occur at 4:20); The Pursuit of Good Chocolate.

 They used to carry 3.5 ounce bars of delicious Giordella baking chocolate (70% Cacao) for about $3.29. Now they direct me to the fancy schmancy ones, made with real Rain Forest Fairies & The Angst Ridden Tears of Guilt, but they're all much more expensive, and loaded with additives. As I pointed out to the intrepid clerk hawking this crap, the mere addition of the word 'Artisanal' adds at least a dollar to the price.

  Anyway, he finally told me, in a secretive whisper (like these other people ever listen to anybody) that they had discontinued it because they thought Giordella might not be following 'Fair Trade' guidelines. I asked what this meant, suggesting that they'd always treated me fairly, and at a good price, mind you.

"It means that they aren't being fair to the farmers" he told me. I have serious doubts about that, believing that the Co-op only stocks things with stupid, expensive names on it, so they can charge stupid expensive prices for it. It happens, ya know.

 So I took a pass, and left without my fair trade chocolate, with bits of real rain forest artisanal fairies in it. On the way out, I saw the New Orleans Co-Op Signature Water Bottles, carried by simply everyone who is anyone and cares deeply about farmers & workers rights.

Of course, I happened to turn it over, and take a look at the bottom. Imagine my surprise.

 My surprise was that it wasn't actually filled with the tears of child slaves, imprisoned in the factories of China, but then, those tears might be considered 'Artisanal' in some countries, too precious to be tossed away.

Especially here in Mordor.