A world without care seems like a very ideal world to live in, but so does making your friend touch an electric fence until he passes out on the ground. I used to think that living in a society where a “You do you just as long as it doesn’t affect me” mentality was a relatively smart way of going about things—until I went to New Orleans, LA. If you haven’t been to NOLA, as the locals call it, the best way to describe it is a modern day Wild Wild West. Do you remember the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean when Captain Jack Sparrow and Gibbs were talking in the tavern on Tortuga Island, and everyone around them was acting like wild dogs?! Well, that is what my experience in New Orleans is like.
Let me tell it this way: I had just arrived to my host family’s home and was waiting outside for them to get home. A man walked by, and if you know me, I try to talk with everyone I see. So I started up a conversation with this man, talking about the neighborhood, his life, and New Orleans. After our conversation was over, he walked across the street to the Corner Store and made a drug deal. I knew it was a drug deal because one, this isn’t my first rodeo, and two, I could hear them talking! All this within just twenty minutes after arriving in New Orleans. When my host arrived we went to the local brewery because they were giving away free craft beer! As we walked around I noticed the city blocks all across the town were divided up like a wealthy and poor checker board. One block would have run-down houses, and the next block would have million dollar homes. At the brewery everything was seemingly normal other than the fact that I was surrounded by mullets and untamed mustaches dressed in feather outfits, neon cloths, and capes. Just by the sight of people I felt like I was on the set of Moulin Rouge. It was fantastic!
If you have ever heard of NOLA then you have heard of Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. As soon as we turned the corner to walk down Bourbon Street, we were immediately bombarded by strip clubs, drunk people, more drug dealing, and even men and women who would have been wearing nothing but their birthday suit if it had not been for the strategically placed scraps of cloth. It blew my mind that women could walk around topless. One lady was wearing daisy dukes and nothing else. Her “shirt” was a couple of stars around her nipples drawn with sharpie, and she was going around asking men to come with her. As an outsider, I see this as a woman who has been so sexually mistreated in her life that it has desensitized her to the point where walking around topless and offering herself to men was just the normal routine. To a native of New Orleans however, this was just another part of their culture.
Later that evening we decided to get a beer and simply people watch from the bar balcony on Bourbon Street. If you have never taken the time to sit somewhere for a couple hours and just watch people go by, I highly suggest it. We stood there watching thousands of intriguing (and intoxicated) people walk by. Below us I saw a palm reader, homeless people, several wedding parades, and everyone else caught up in their own little worlds. If anyone in the mass of street wanderers would have opened their eyes to the things around them they would have noticed the palm reader was being trafficked, forced to hand over her earnings to a man who would show up after each new client and verbally abuse her before walking away with the money. They would notice some of the homeless stealing things out of purses and rummaging through trashcans, while others slept on the sidewalk. They’d see how the wedding parades were trashing the streets, and a well known biker gang called “The Bandidos” was rolling up. They might have even noticed the bricks of drugs made visible as the gang members took off their cuts (a crew’s vest with their patches) and put their jackets/gloves into their saddle bags.
This city is in a constant state of a “You do you” mentality, and we have this throughout its history. This was seen very vividly after Katrina. When the hurricane hit, the city was in chaos. Pillaging, fighting, murders, and diseases ruled the streets. People were fighting rather than building. Federal police had to quarantine citizens so the chaos didn’t break out into the surrounding cities. So many unexplainable deaths happened after the hurricane that no one knew what to do. People were shot for trying to leave the city, and people were shot or robbed if they stayed. The city was in a complete “You do you” state of mind, driven by selfish greed, and yes, it did affect those around them. Now I have no idea what NOLA was like before, but from what I have been told it has gone back to the same ways of old. To me, the things that happened after Katrina still carry well into today and make the city the “thrill” that it is. Tourists love it because they won’t pay attention to the corruption going on around them so they think it is a great party town. A sick government nurtures that outlook. The locals are too scared to stand up because they fear for their lives or of being thrown in jail. Heck, I will probably be ridiculed for even saying something about NOLA because people want to continue to be oblivious.
There can be no such thing as a “You do you as long as it doesn’t affect me” mentality because someone will always be affected by what you do. We see this all over our society. We have people who are in a perpetual state of choosing to be oblivious to the problems around them. Choosing to be numb and passive towards these issues is the same as ignoring them, which in turn drives the issue to continue. William Wilberforce, an abolitionist, stated “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”