Thursday, March 18, 2010

"We know where our hearts are. Right behind our wallets..."

"... Yes, and that's where they're staying."
In the recent New Bedfidgian kerfuffle over a restaurateur/motelier vandalizing the last whale oil refinery in the universe, certain individuals who notice these sorts of things are suitably distressed and have made their annoyance known.
This is the right thing to do.
But not in this stagnant backwater whose invertebrate denizens are tickled whenever a strange foot steps in and kicks up a few unnoticed larvae for devouring. nom nom nom
Assiduously assuring the provincialist SouthCoast "There can Be Only One" rule, those who disagree with the distressed are defending every move of the developers in unattractive cavorts, sending off e-mails to their donors, making calls to patrons, writing overwrought letters to the editor filled with ungracious sophistry, insisting that no opposition will be abided because "nice people are doing a nice thing for us," all the while ironically accusing detractors of being "naive." They are indecorously falling over themselves to both quote and overstate each other in unctuous and humiliating lionization of the saints of providence who have brought a great miracle, the FIRST HOTEL EVAR (except for the one that was across the street ten years ago) to the part of the waterfront that is sometimes referred to as "Downtown New Bedford."
But it may not be called "New Bedford" much longer because New Bedford's de facto leadership is clearly trying to change the name of The Whaling City to "Stockholm."
Because they seem to be exhibiting symptoms common to a certain syndrome described in the wikipedia as

a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors that appear irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims.
Yup.
Victim sees captor as giving life by not taking it? Check. Captor as the only provider of victim's basic needs? Check. Victim is isolated from others? Check. Captor overplays own importance as provider? Check. Victim relies on captor for "special" item or consideration ? Check. Victim overreacts to small kindnesses from captor? Check.
I'm making a diverting jest, yet my burlesque feels a little uncomfortable since I know all of the players, and admire ... some of them. And I do not paint the hospitality company as a perpetrator of a crime or bad guy. This is a well-known local family, well-connected to the community, and to the area's lame-brained media and thuggish political machines. (UPDATE 031910 12:00 Apparently acquainted with the Attorney General. TY Anonymous commenter.)
So... the term "Ardent Dartmouth Preservationist" is the newest "zinger" going around the club. I see them in their Nantucket Reds as they peer over the rims of their Mount Gay and tonics (or just tonics, if they're condescending ex-soaks) and get real hawhaws from the exploits of those whom they perceive as mere obstructionist history buffs with no understanding of the way things work nowadays.
Things aren't supposed to work for bookish types.

(Watch all the parts. The narrator is noted Spaulding Grey impersonator Jonathan Rosen.Note disparaged historians in credits.)

From my vantage point -- a distant vaguely-interested one that had been hoping for a sleazy motel with a cool Tiki lounge -- there's just too much noise around that construction site, and it's not constructive noise.
When the thing was announced, the public was told that the building was "an old ice house that's a fish plant that made cat food." But I changed my opinion of it when it was found to hold an environment that no longer exists. I didn't have the enthusiasm to suggest that a museum be fashioned there, but gosh: a tryworks...
News -- which is transitory and usually incomplete -- is made by those who can frame their story best, sometimes loudest. Historians have to sort out the obvious prejudices, personalities, mischaracterizations, and "adaptive re-use" of the facts.
Historians are the people that newsmakers dread most.
Which explains the rancor in their attacks.

5 comments:

Karie said...

LOVE that you found this 4-part 1981 "documentary" by/about New Bedford. For SO many reasons!

Funded by HUD. Clear class-war sided. A hopeful Mr. (not yet Mayor, but WHALE "agent") John Bullard. Familiar facades, and faces. Credits including Peggi, among other names we know and see today, or have lost. That and SO much more is revealed.

I really appreciate your sometimes challenging take on this very strange-City.

How are/can/will we frame our story now? Tomorrow? Surely, I hope not "loudest." But also maybe a bit less historically-pleading, yet preservation-wise. And definitely more collablortive, considerate and kind.

PJ said...

Thank WestIslandWeather.com's ML Baron for the vid. He's the best thing about local radio, and I find myself almost hoping for bad weather so I can hear him talk about it.

It was interesting to hear Sarah Delano talk about how New Bedford had a bad self-image in 1981. It's a generation or two later, and that insistence upon this real or imagined "bad self-image" still pervades the system as a means of control.

It's a common dysfunctional family dynamic. Dad sees the smart son holding him dead to rights, so Dad slaps the kid around. You can live in a really special place, but a mean spirit chains you to the dirt.

Karie said...

Mean spirit. You nailed it!

THAT is what New Bedford needs to DITCH in order to move FORWARD!

Anonymous said...

Thought you'd appreciate today's headline in the Standard Times: "Westport function halls to pay restitution, fine in tips case"

PJ said...

Thanks, er, 10:36. I posted the link to the Herald News.

I'm sure that little family business will be careful with wages from now on, especially at the new place.