Do You Remember What It Was Like To Be Human?

Since the beginning of days people have prophesied about the end of days. There’s no way to make someone your slave without first becoming a slave yourself. It used to be that in order to capture a slave you had to become a slave to an idea that would make someone else less human in your eyes, and as a result you’d become less human in the process. In this virtual era, you can enslave someone from your phone in under 140 characters. There’s no blood involved anymore. It’s a timeline — a ticker tape of nonsense posing as news.

Even the greatest of human beings are dehumanized by us deifying them. That gives us an excuse to not aspire to the higher realms of our consciousness because we create the myth that certain attributes are unattainable. It’s also easy to blame someone else for your inability to evolve, when no one can ultimately stop you but you.

Fundamentals. It all comes down to principles. What makes us human? Is living enough? The more we venture into the virtual realm, the less human we become. Take away the tactile experience and we become androids. When we eat genetically modified organisms or foods nuked in a microwave that kill off all nutrients, we don’t get any fuel for sustenance. How long can we survive like this? Or have we always survived like this to some degree?

Let’s take my city of New Orleans, for example. There have been a lot of rumblings amongst locals about how the influx of post-Katrina gentrifiers are changing the character of the city and they’re creating a new New Orleans that is devoid of its true character. Is the problem really the New New Orleans, or is it that maybe the Old New Orleans wasn’t that great? This is not a slight to what I love about New Orleans, but a sharp criticism of what I found to be problematic about New Orleans decades before August 29, 2005.

Bottom line: You don’t have the right to bitch about the appropriation of a culture you didn’t care enough to preserve. Moreover, you have even less of a right when you are amongst those who have helped contribute to its demise. And as opposed to some people who look at the problem 4 or 5 steps down the line, my focus is at the root of the despair. Before I can blame the transplants on Frenchman Street for their parodies on traditional New Orleans music, I must first look at my peers and predecessors as to why many of them never took the time to study Armstrong seriously.


All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song.

— Louis Armstrong

It’s not economics that’s the problem, it’s education. Information is free, but if you don’t want it, what good is it? We have to start caring more about culture, not because of how much money it brings in, but because it’s what makes us alive. I remember the tail end of when you could hear great music on Bourbon Street. Yes, it was a tourist trap back in the day, but you had many of New Orleans’ finest musicians as representatives. Most of those legendary artists got replaced by common cover bands, DJs, or souvenir shops. This happened way before the flood. The writing was on the wall by the ’80s.

Many New Orleanians are focused on campaigning against the new noise ordinances put in place by the newcomers. The gentrifiers have been instrumental in shutting down music in some neighborhood venues and on the streets of our city. I’m not calling any names, but some of these bands need to be shut down. I think it’s better for the music to not be represented at all than to be represented poorly. Campaigning on having our musicians respect the ancestry and moving the art forward would be a better investment.

It used to be that people could hear when a band was wack. You don’t need to be a musicologist to understand the culture. Phoning it in is the new in the zone. We’d rather see 20 mediocre bands down at the strip on Saturday night than two great bands elevate the landscape. It used to be that the elders decided who was next in line, now the polls from the local entertainment periodicals are the arbiters.

The difference between doing a piss poor job and a stellar one is not that big of a difference in terms of time, but in terms of focus and determination, they’re worlds apart. If you’re not going to commit yourself to a job, at least be humble enough not to accept it. If quantity is what’s most important to you, please step aside to make room for those who prioritize quality.

Whatever little humanity we had left over after the advent of the tell-a-vision, the inner-net has come to claim. It’s natural for us to be human. Babies come into the world in touch with themselves, get disconnected by false ideas, and spend the rest of their adult lives trying to recapture the original spirit.

It’s hard to de-vice once a device has you in a vice. A little advice: Don’t be fools for tools. They are a means, not an end.


— Nicholas Payton aka The Maharaja of #MFCOMN


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