Misguided Missile

I went to see a friend’s band play Saturday night. The show was at Southport Hall. I didn’t know it was a benefit sponsored by Common Grounds, but was happy to see that I was paying a $15 cover for a good cause. I had heard of this group on the radio or on T.V. before, but never really knew what they did. Apparently they are volunteers from places afar that have come here to gut houses. Now, of course you know, this is not going to continue in a happy direction, that, unfortunately, is how I roll. This dude comes out of nowhere and sits next to us and the conversation follows thusly:

The guy was very hippyesque, if you know what I mean. He starts to talk about what his organization is doing and what they intend to do in the near future. Hey, that’s cool. All is good so far. You got it together daddy-o. Then, he describes where he is living in town. He is living in the 9th ward and gutting homes on a daily basis. Great dude, way to go!

He then begins to describe his confusion on why the people here don’t help others like he is doing. Fwadooosh! The shit just hit the fan. I consider myself an amateur historian about this town, and I emphasize the word amateur. I try to describe to this bonehead, the facts about this city that he has just come down to only three weeks earlier. He didn’t seem very interested. He wanted to blab some more about how horrible his living situation was, and how he feels the suffering, and wants all of us to chip in and gut houses. “I’m living in the 9th ward now. It is really horrific there!” Why isn’t anyone living here helping them?” he said. Who’s them and why am I all of a sudden an uncaring prick?

I tried to explain to him that most locals, although they may have what seems to be a normal life back, are struggling to put everything back together again even still. Just because their house is rebuilt, doesn’t mean their life is. Maybe happy citizen has major credit problems now, or is still trying to open his business, or trying to regain a fraction of his former clientele. Who knows? But who the fuck is this guy to pass judgment on the people here? He could go home tomorrow to his normal life, we can’t. That is not an option we have at the moment because this is where our lives are and have been forever.

He told me that if this had happened where he was from, his city would have been rebuilt in 5 days. What? Are you fucking kidding me? What trust fund, mommy let me go help the poor, planet is this guy from? Does he realize that 80% of the city was fucked, not just the ninth ward? Then he starts to tell me about how the government blew up the levees. Shut the fuck up, you retard. This is the information you are getting from the locals? Or are you a fan of folklore? He didn’t know shit about anything. Of course, he then started to spew generalizations at us. Everyone here is a racist, no one here helps the poor, and, no joke, his biggest beef was that this city did not have any vegan restaurants. I can’t make this shit up.

He then started to complain about the fact that there was a low turnout for the show. Ummm, you do realize that there are approximately 9 thousand things to do in this city on a Saturday night, and the city is at less than half capacity. I’m sorry only a handful could muster the strength to make it out here. They must be uncaring racists because they decided to stay home and watch T.V. because $15 dollars for the cover may have just been enough for them to cover their electricity bill this week. This guy was a total douche bag. He had no clue. I’m not knocking what these guys are trying to do, they represent what is good about this country, but they have to keep a cup check on who they send out to represent themselves.

Hail Ming!
Long live the Revolution!
The End

5 Comments so far

  1. Cade Roux (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2006 @ 6:07 pm

    People like that need to get a big case of STFU.

    But then again, this guy is thinking like it’s a commune. Fact is, it is a capitalist society and we all get to choose our jobs. Leaving aside the undoubted failings of a not-very-level playing field of opportunity, some choose careers which lead to them eating out in restaurants a lot which pays the living of other people who choose to serve in restaurants. If either choose to do the house gutting and quit their jobs en masse, it affects the other – not to mention all the other people in between.

    It’s a vast self-organizing network of interdependencies that we allow to govern itself. We can try the central planning approach, but I think Katrina demonstrates that that is not a very good mechanism.

    But that’s a fundamental contradition in society – there needs to be wealth redistribution to fulfill the social contract and there also needs to be incentive to achieve. It’s ain’t going to be solved by a smelly hippie with zero real world experience.

    Not sure where he comes from, since N. Korea and Cuba don’t let people out very easily.

  2. Hannah (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2006 @ 7:21 pm

    As with every other group created to help the poor, the needy, the victims of this world, you’re gonna have a handful of assholes. I believe you met one of them.

    Be clear that I am not for or against any of them, I just know that there are assholes everywhere.

  3. Aaron (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2006 @ 11:20 pm

    In my limited experience with Common Ground, I was always impressed with the breadth of the group’s mission and its relative effectiveness (In the weeks after the storm, Common Ground opened and operated a health clinic on the West Bank, treating literally hundreds of citizens). So, yes, the core mission of Common Ground and its relative success are laudible. That being said, because it accepts and provides lodging for any and all volunteers (from anywhere in the world), it naturally attracts a shit-load of hippies and children looking for a vacation. These folks tend to come off as immature, misguided and cringingly idealistic. Oh well — I’ll put up with that minor annoyance in exchange for the vital work they’re doing.

  4. Ray (unregistered) on October 23rd, 2006 @ 11:37 pm

    I’ve worked with Common Ground a few times, and by and large they’re real practical, no-hippy-bullshit types. Some of them don’t really get to see much of the city outside the ninth ward and so they get a skewed perspective on things, and some of them bring the sort of natural mistrust of authority that any activist college student is going to naturally have, but they’re good folks. And for the most part they don’t see many locals outside of the Lower Nine neighborhood activists and a few Tulane students helping down there, so it’s understandable that they might draw some erroneous conclusions. This guy might have been a douche, but just educating them is probably all it takes for most of them.

    If you ever get a free day and the energy to do it, I’d recommend going down and gutting with them for a day. I got to talk to a bunch of them during breaks and got to share a local’s perspective with them that hopefully they can take home with them when they leave.

    I can’t speak to the vegan thing. When we gut with the Arabi Wrecking Krewe it’s almost all locals, so we eat real food, po boys or Popeyes or something.

  5. Hunter (unregistered) on October 24th, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

    You know what, I’ll agree with the guy to some degree. I’ve worked with Common Ground for a total of over five weeks and in that span of time met about two other locals. While I don’t think it’s fair for berating people for not going down there themselves due to jobs, personal problems, etc., the amount of local support they get there is dismal. Most of my acquaintances haven’t even driven into the 9th ward since the storm (if at all) and a lot of them are students who don’t have other shit to take care of.

    For a lot of uptowners (not the majority necessarily, but plenty), things being back to normal would mean Camelia Grill reopening instead of finding a house and a good job with steady customers. I wish people would at least spend one Saturday with Common Ground just to begin to get a sense of scope.

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