Monday, April 24, 2006

Spengler on Katrina. Who is this guy?

The inimitable Spengler, anonymous scribe published in the Asia Times, has done it again. He opines on the Katrina refugees from New Orleans as follows:
On a smaller scale, Hurricane Katrina emulates Chinese circumstances for the poor residents of New Orleans, the destruction of whose homes is the best thing that could have happened to them.
What he’s doing here is comparing the mass migration of poor Chinese from the countryside to China’s industrializing cities to the mass migration of poor New Orleans residents to rich urban centers around the country. The Chinese migration was forced by their government. The New Orleans migration was force by a big wind and high water.

Spengler makes two wider points here. First, he does not decry the loss of the “New Orleans” culture. That culture was propped up on the backs of poor people. He draws an apt parallel with tortillas.
Many beautiful things will disappear because poor people no longer will suffer to make them. One simply cannot find decent Mexican food in the United States, in part because traditional Mexican cuisine requires vast amounts of labor. Machine-made corn tortillas never will hold the savor of the hand-made article, but Mexicans migrate to the US precisely to escape a life of making tortillas by hand.
Well spoken, er, written. If we know this, then why aren’t we moving these poor people from poor urban centers to rich urban centers? And the answer to that brings us to his second point: The Chinese moved their people by government fiat. We can’t do that here. New Orleans residents were moved by an ill wind. That’s expensive.
Given the incidental costs of major hurricanes, there probably are cheaper ways to accomplish this, eg, simply pay them to leave.
Ok, so why don’t we do that? Because the politicians who "represent" those poor folk won’t permit the loss of the constituencies that return them to their halls of power election after election. If all the po’ black folk were allowed, or forced -- however you wish to look at it -- to elevate themselves into the middle class, what would Carl Levin, Jesse Jackson, Ted Kennedy, Charles Rangel, Al Sharpton, Al Gore, Louis Farrakhan and Cynthia McKinney have to do? What if the black folk began to listen to and follow Jesse Lee Peterson, Star Jones, Michael Steele and Ken Blackwell or -- Gasp! -- George Bush? We can’t have that, can we?
This is difficult to accomplish in a democracy, to be sure, for the elected representatives of immiserated black Americans form a bloc large enough to thwart legislative attempts to better their conditions. Were the urban poor dispersed into the rich regions of the country, they no longer would vote as a bloc for the sort of congress members who now conspire to keep them poor.

It was the great luck of the poor blacks of New Orleans that a great wind came along to carry them away from servitude to their political leaders. The Black Caucus of America's Congress keeps urban blacks as political hostages, much as the regimes of the Arab world have exploited Palestinian refugees, whom they refuse to take in, and expel when convenient.
And how do some Katrina refugees view thir new homes?
"I love New Orleans, don't get me wrong," one of the Katrina refugees told the New York Times. "But I thank God we are in Atlanta."
Spengler adds this slight caveat:
Will more money make them happier? I do not think so, any more than the loss of traditional Chinese culture in the globalized urban jungle of the coastal cities will make Chinese peasants happier.

What it will do, however, is enable them to contemplate their unhappiness with a sense of empowerment. People with money, education and opportunity may be as miserable as any illiterate dirt farmer, but they have the means - how did Thomas Jefferson put it? - for the pursuit of happiness. Whether they choose good or ill is not up to this writer. But it is a vicious form of condescension to condemn people to perpetual poverty in the name of preserving traditional culture.
Spengler. Who is that guy? Yeah, I know. A racist, right?

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