Saxophonist John Doheny was born in Seattle Washington in 1953 but has spent much of his adult life in Canada, primarily in Vancouver and Toronto. After early experiences accompanying strippers in bars and cabarets he became a professional R&B sideman in the late 1970s, touring and recording with artists both prominent and obscure. In 1991 he returned to Vancouver and began a program of intense musical study, both in academe (Vancouver Community College, the University of British Columbia) and in the more informal area of performance. He asserts that "all human intercourse is either an opportunity to learn or to teach. Everything that I know about jazz performance (to the extent that I know anything at all) I owe to those players, teachers and students who have suffered to share the bandstand and the teaching studio with me." Since 2003, Mr. Doheny has been a permanent resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, but makes every effort to spend summers in Canada because "it's too damn hot down here then."

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Nanny State.

One of the most consistantly irritating tropes pointed our way post-Katrina has been the notion that the botched response to the Federal Flood was not an example of abysmally bad governance, but a symptom of the "culture of entitlement." In this paradigm (which seems to exist, as far as I can tell, only in the fever swamps of the neo-conservative mind) a large "underclass" of welfare recipients, accustomed through the generations to a life of leisure on the dole and deprived by the "nanny state" of the will towards self-sufficiency, simply sat on their behinds before and after Katrina and waited for "the government" to do everything, down to and including wipe their asses.

Now, there's a few things about this scenario that don't make sense, starting with the fact that "welfare," as we knew it in the past, simply no longer exists in this country since the welfare reforms of the Clinton administration in the 90s. It's very difficult to qualify to receive assistance and almost impossible to stay on it for more than two years, even if you have small children. So the idea that, say, public housing is somehow a repository of welfare bums lying around suckling at the public teat doesn't really fly. Most people in the projects, at least as they existed pre-Katrina, worked various types of minimum wage (and in the case of some service industry positions, sub-minimum wage) jobs. Viewed this way, public housing could been seen as a taxpayer subsidized labor pool for certain types of industry, mostly service and tourist oriented. It certainly goes a long way towards explaining the post-Katrina labor shortage in those areas, since 'the projects' have yet to re-open.

But on a purely anectdotal level, I got a nice little lesson in how this stuff works today as I rode my bike over to Tulane to check on my office for the first time since Gustav. Passing through the areas off Orleans Avenue in Mid-City, people were hard at work clearing brush and dealing with downed trees. In fact, when Darlene and I got back late yesterday afternoon to our pad on St. Philip, our neighbors who stayed had almost completely cleared the street and storm drains of debris. As I pedaled past Palmyra and Jeff Davis, I saw some local guys had jerry-rigged a winch with a rope and a Buick sedan, and were hauling a downed tree out of the road.

Further on towards Tulane, I saw the only really substantial damage on my route. A bar called Leroy's Place, at the corner of Audubon Court and Olive street, had suffered a total collapse of it's streetside wall, filling the road with brightly painted aquamarine blue bricks. But the place had never re-opened after Katrina and had been listing pretty badly of late. I wasn't too surprised to see it topple.

As I got closer to the university, the neighborhoods became more affluent and there was more crap on the street. Trees, brush, a couple of downed power lines. I saw a soccer mom type in a huge SUV drive into a street blocked by a downed tree and just stop, as if confused. After about three minutes, she backed out of the block and drove away.

Compared to the ghetto neighborhoods the streets were quite empty. It finally occurred to me (after I realized these more affluent neighborhoods had power) that everyone was inside enjoying the air-conditioning.

And waiting for someone else, 'the government,' or maybe just the hired minions the wealthy pay to do these things, to come and clean up the mess for them.

Comments on "The Nanny State."


Blogger Proud2bHumble said ... (2:44 PM) : 

Appreciated your comment at Ta-nehisi:


"Palin's white-trashiness is obviously a marketing consideration, since her starting salary as a mayor was $75,000 and her husband works a solid, union administrative level job for British Petroleum. We're talking a family that's had an income well into six figures (at least) for many, many years. This type of income puts them more in line with a certain type of new-money southern gentry, folks whose families have gotten fabulously wealthy in the oil industry generations ago but still hold close the signifiers of the yeoman class; beer, barbecue, and country music. As a musician I've had the misfortune to spend a fair bit of time around these assholes, and the way they talk among themselves can be real bad for your blood pressure. Their attitude towards actual working class whites (and blacks) is one of sentimentality mixed with contempt. When the chips are down, they know who to stand with on the yard, and it ain't with the trailer trash. They are either genuine Brahmins, or aspire to be."



Blogger Cameron said ... (10:59 PM) : 

The attitudes possessed by the Average American (and Canadian) are quite pathetic. Those in the ghettos aren't there by choice. And they've worked their asses off compared to the middle and upper class. If they could afford post-secondary and work hard to get out of their situation, hell yeah they would. But instead they have to work hard just to survive. Meanwhile, the suburbanites are bitching about the price of gas on their paid day off work as their kids are off at school waiting for class to end so they can get home and be lazy for the rest of the night. Your experience driving through the neighbourhoods is a great parallel.

It's disgusting that anyone would
believe any of the crap that Conservatives, Republicans, and bloody Christian Fundamentalists spit out in order to guarantee the prosperity of the rich and the hardship of the brutally poor.

But it's all good, as long as there's "Freedom" in "The Greatest Country in the World".

If I have to put up with any more conservative governments, either in Canada or it's neighbour country for the next decade, I swear I'm moving to Europe.



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