Laughing at the rich

An article in the NYT lays out the course of events eroding the Gullah or Geechee culture of this country’s southeast coastline. Descended from slaves, the inhabitants have recently fought discrimination. Now they have become a national treasure (which they always were, of course in fact, Porgy and Bess, the jazz opera, is based on this culture) but they are a little bit in the way. Better to reduce them to carnival sideshow workers, dressed in traditional “costumes” (bib overalls and mammy rags?), to please the tourists, than to have them actually living on the land. The land, after all, can be used to make huge amounts of money via sales and taxes. And who better to develop that than the rich?
The rich have the leverage to destroy the culture but not the understanding to preserve it; in their world everything is measured in terms of monetary worth. It reminds me of that scene in the first season of Treme (I wasn’t impressed with this season’s opener) where the little group is gathered among the washed out remains of their neighborhood to celebrate the passing of a prominent member of the community when a tour bus rolls up, complete with tourists snapping pictures. Asked to show some respect, the chagrined driver drives off, leaving the bewildered band of mourners to wonder, what the hell was that? Who has the money to go around the world and intrude on other people’s funerals? Yet who is regarded as marginal if not bizarre in the wider world?

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