Rebuilding demographically

by Rob Horning

8 September 2005


The always excellent Billmon has a post here that touches on both the upcoming David Brooks column, perhaps the most sensible thing I have ever read by him, in which he touts his love for the kind of habitus-building neighborhood splicing you’d expect him to call quasi Stalinist social engineering, and the extremely noxious Wall Street Journal report of some true American fascists, the bigots who hope to rebuild New Orleans as an essentially white-only gated community, a playground for wealthy Republicans. (I don’t blame The Journal; in fact give them credit for a piece designed to stoke the kind of indignant outrage at upper class selfishness that conservative shills ordinarily call “class warfare.”) For these Louisiana plutocrats, the hurricane and the massive amount of human suffering it exacted has been the answer to their prayers, a long-wished-for boon that has driven all those pesky poor people out of their beloved city. If they have their way the city will be rebuilt in “a completely different way demographically”—i.e. it will be cleansed of the poor people who will now burden other cities not fortunate enough to have a natural disaster hit during an incompetent presidency to annihilate or displace most of its working-class population.

We can scowl at these moral monsters, but they are not so different from all those people in my family who moved out of North Philadelphia to live in “safer,” aka whiter, suburbs in the 1960s. They are not so different from yuppies who move out to the country when their kids reach schooling age. It’s not accidental that the political party that basically advertises its contempt for the poor maintains a stranglehold on power in America. It keeps its grip on power by marketing an air of respectibility for the racist/classist notions we’ve already absorbed, that are intertwined into the very fabric of what we percieve as common sense. They vindicate class apartheid that few are willing to make the sacrifices required to dismantle. We’ll send money to the Red Cross, but that’s like a protection payment to keep “those people” out of our neighborhoods. It will only be a matter of days before we go back to forgetting about this de facto apartheid and children dying in poverty and go back to worrying about more important things, like teaching “Intelligent Design.”

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