It's an age of microwaves and internet-enabled pocket telephones. Those of us who haven't recently lived in real want and deprivation have been conditioned to expect convenience as our due. We are taught by media to demand it, to expect it, and that we deserve it-- why wait 12 minutes for some slow-ass to make a po'boy when you can get 2 Big Bufords in 60 seconds for $5? Why indeed... why indeed. Why go to a show when you can stay home and download an mp3 at the click of a button? Why indeed.
But wait... is there some reason you shouldn't? Why wouldn't you? Are you hearing some tiresome murmurs suggesting you're not supposed to? What the fuck... who are these muttering spoilers, these haters trying to make YOU feel bad about your glorious Mall On St. Claude shopping experience?
The recently opened Mall on St. Claude is essentially a roach motel to attract and trap affluent whites. If you don't believe me, look who's excited about it, and who's staffing it, and who owns it, and who's on the board, and who shops there.
It is part of a deliberate and overt plan to remake the region, a trap baited with Reiki and Pilates and Sushi and World Music and Organic $5.89 packs of hotdogs... and a credit union, and a gym, and a bunch of other nonsense designed to delight and reassure the ruling-class "new-creatives" and any post-political burnout artistes willing to lend legitimacy in exchange for a foot rub.
Pres Kabacoff, the same megadeveloper who holds the contract to tear down the Iberville, used $1.8 million of scarce CDBG disaster dollars-- community money-- to build this day-glo Johannesburg Fortress. Of course that's nothing compared to his earlier $55 million backroom deals with city hall-- He built the gross Saulet apartments, Wal-Mart, and a vinyl-sided cheaply-constructed suburban townhouse neighborhood on the former site of the St. Thomas projects. St. Thomas' displaced residents, including those few originally permitted to stay in the townhouses but since evicted for violations of "community rules" like sitting out on their own stoops, have been cast to the winds to survive without their former tight-knit community and its health center. Some of them have died fending off violence from the wardies into whose unfamiliar neighborhoods they were forced to move. Lives lost... to gentrification.
But oh, "gentrification," what a complicated and loaded word. I mean, it's like gravity, right? Gentrification has no agents; it's really all of us, like the air. There's no power analysis possible. If you can pronounce the word, then YOU're part of the problem, so get off your high horse! Gentrification just happens... blamelessly... it's just change. Change happens. There are no rich people pulling the strings. Gentrification has no real meaning as a word.
Now, you may already have negative perceptions of NOPD-- I say "may," because who am I to judge? But the Guardian Angels who Pres has given a City HQ inside the mall are an actual self-described paramilitary group. What a blessing Sallie Ann's fake-priestess ass has wrought upon the 9th ward with her Healing Center... I mention the ninth ward specifically, since that's the neighborhood the Guardian Angels described to the media as being "Uzi-toting, dope-sucking, psychopathic killing machines roaming the streets."
Answer: It will only serve the tiny (but growing) stratum of the neighborhood that Pres Kabacoff WANTS it to serve. Are you part of that slice?
Will you stand in solidarity with your "dope-sucking" neighbors, or will you use your privilege and money to enjoy the organic kombucha and the safe, sanitized atmosphere of the healing center while the Guardian Angels patrol to keep you and your fellow-shoppers safe from the rest of the neighborhood? Which side of the windows are you on?
But oh my god, what-EVER. I see you rolling your tired eyes. Of course you disapprove of these bad things. You're not pro-Mall, but at the end of the day, you just want organic hotdogs and a yoga sesh. At the end of the day, basically, you don't care.
I mean, surely those making the criticisms above don't appreciate how much YOU personally have suffered and sacrificed to live here. Jesus you've been in this miserable neighborhood for, like, multiple years. How dare anyone wag their finger at you for taking advantage of convenience, for cashing in a little of your privilege chips and enjoying some amenities of the consumerist alterna-culture you've so valiantly forgone 'til now? Don't these haters WANT the neighborhood to have access to Reiki?
It makes you angry, maybe, that anyone suggests you should care. So what if the Mall on St. Claude blasts loud music late into the night, disturbing long-time neighbors, and threatens to have those who complain evicted? So what? How does that concern you? Why should YOU care? It's not really your problem, is it?
Your life is so difficult, so demanding. The dues you've paid as a bohemian transplant roughing it in the wilds of downtown New Orleans are immense... people calling for accountability, using the term gentrification, those are just guilt peddlers. Guilt is so last-century. You don't even consider yourself white, really, not deep down.
No joke; you'll be SAFE inside the Mall, surrounded by the symbols of material success, guarded by NOPD and the Guardian Angels. It's like a beautiful other-world in there, a mini-vacation (from poor people). Standing in its carnival-vomit-hued belly, you'd never know you were in New Orleans at all! You're safe... breathe out, breathe in... relax. You're safe from the realities the rest of the neighborhood has lived with for however long. You're safe, and the red-bereted paramilitary and NOPD cops who guard this tiny oasis of affluence will never bother YOU, will never beat YOU up. They'll smile at you, they'll be unobtrusive and obsequious, because they know, same as you do deep down: You belong in the Mall.