It’s strange being a tourist in the south. The contrast, both now and in the past, between rich and poor is so strong and more visible than other places. We’re in Natchez, touring old mansions of the rich, meanwhile driving around and seeing the present poor. We can’t blame the south, but it’s just more obvious here, then and now.
A rich planter with hundreds of slaves building a mansion, importing furniture and the latest paintings from Europe, having his kids totally privileged and meanwhile hundreds of human beings work long and hard days in awful weather to support that life style. In some ways it’s no different than Wall Street traders today, unproductive people who’ve managed to insert themselves in a crossroads of where money flows and thus grab a share without actually doing anything while the rest of us actually do something. These planters worried about their houses and parties and families and social positions, not running their plantations (all done by the hired hand mandarins). But the nobodies back then were actual slaves. Maybe their relative economic condition was no worse but they were enslaved, property, unable to make any decisions for themselves. Maybe being poor here today is pretty bad too, but at least there is some “freedom” which is still a lot better than in 1830. It just is not justifiable today to have these differences.
I believe that some people do actually contribute more and therefore maybe are justified in having a bit more, but there is no way the planter/bondtrader class’s “work” justifies the differences in compensation between those who actually do the work. It’s depressing to see this. Of course I’m just somewhat feeling white guilt, somewhat assuaged by the fact that as a tourist I’m leaving some California global money behind in a southern tourist spot, but all the people I see, rich and poor, are my fellow countrymen and I hate to see the huge gap that is more visible here than other places.