Monday, May 02, 2011

About cities, and New Orleans

David Simon, creator of "The Wire," has been giving a lot of interviews lately. In this one, with, he talks about the role of cities in U.S. society and politics.  Because this is a blog for a family newspaper, I've had to delete some expletives. He's talking about his latest HBO show, "Treme," set in New Orleans:
"This show, if we do it right, is an argument for the city. For the idea of American urbanity, for the melting pot, for the idea that our future can’t be separated from the fact that we are all going to be increasingly compacted into urban areas, though we’re different in race and culture and religion. And what we make of that will determine the American future.
I listened during the last election cycle to the rhetoric about small town values and where the real Americans live. I thought to myself, “I’ve never heard such b-------t in my life.” Rural America’s not coming back. That idea was lost with the Industrial Revolution. And yet with more than 80 percent of Americans living in metropolitan areas, there are still demagogues who want to run down the idea of multiculturalism, of urbanity, being the only future we have. We either live or die based on how we live in cities, and our society is either going to be great or not based on how we perform as creatures of the city."
 And here, he talks about why New Orleans is unique among American cities:
 "... Corruption is endemic. Yet, people came home and they continue to come home. This city comes back because it's New Orleans.

The rest of America, with some small exceptions, has been bulldozed and rebuilt and then bulldozed and rebuilt again. Our places have become interchangeable. Here, everything from the architecture to the way in which people eat, the way in which they talk, the way in which they do business, the way in which they dance, the manner in which everything is set to a parade beat, they're all from here. There's no place like it.

What city has given the world more in terms of American culture than New Orleans? There is none. Not New York. Not L.A. Not Chicago. Not anywhere, in the sense that African American music has gone around the world twenty times over, and it's continuing to evolve. It is our greatest cultural export."


Anonymous said...

The Wire was a great show. Maybe Simon will create a show about Charlotte one day. One episode could be about the editorial page editor of the daily paper. Seemingly a liberal, he crusades against cuts to public schools, while he went to Duke and Harvard.

One scene could show him in the stripped-down newsroom of the post-layoffs Observer. He's worried about the community, and about the survival of the venerable Observer. Then the next scene could show him teeing off in the Pro Am tournament at fabulous Quail Hollow.

consultant said...

True, true and true.

The corporate logo has taken over American city and suburban life to the point where its only unique feature is how it all looks the same.

In this decade, not in some distant point in the future, in this decade, the contraction of modern American life will occur. Because it's going to happen rather quickly and without good leadership, the trip down hill isn't going to be anything like the trip up the hill.

I get paid to tell people what's next. But for the last 15 years most of my clients have had a difficult time hearing what's next.

Over this and the next decade, we won't live in the cities, we'll live where we can. Life is going to get tough. All of this will happen after the next big event: natural disaster, pandemic, war. I'm thinking a war between us and one or more "enemies" that we can't even imagine today. Us vs. Europe, Us vs. China & Japan, Us vs. Russia & Europe.

Folks, it's about resources. Always has, always is about resources-energy. Who has it, who doesn't.

Any place that is not well situated, resourceful and lucky will become a difficult place to live. Get ready for a lot of change. My suggestion: ditch the health club membership and start walking again, or riding your bike. Get to know your neighborhood or move now to a new place. The mountains or off in the woods somewhere? Only if you have the skills.

The problem is most people don't have the imagination to see a new deal.

As the lyric goes, " I guess that's why they call it the blues."

part-time teacher said...

Quite a dire comment. Meanwhile, Chief Rodney Monroe and Editor Taylor Batten stride the lush fairways of the Quail Hollow club beside their faithful caddies, on a course completely cleared of pine cones, while beer-buzzed patrons punctuate the atmosphere of the hallowed grounds with an ocassional "We got him!"

Anonymous said...

Gee, Consultant, your description of what we should all be doing sounds a lot like what's going on in my neighborhood--lots of walking, bike riding, neighborliness. Community garden nearby that provided us with a great salad for dinner tonight. But wait--I live in the suburbs. I thought I read on this blog (and often on posts by consultant) that the suburbs were dying and were terrible places to live.
Interestingly, Mary's next blog post (to which right now you cannot post) says the fastest growing place in America is a suburban town. How'd that happen?

Anonymous said...

Odd that the fastest growing areas in the US are also those with the highest concentration of America's most endangered demographic-- white households with children.

tarhoosier said...

You can be the fastest growing when you start from a very low base.

Jumper said...

Funny a few years ago, telecommuting was sure to send lots of people back to the small towns. It may yet, I guess.