There may be a dumber idea…but I’m not sure I can think of it.

I totally get the fact that we’re a sensation craving, superficial society (how else to explain the Double Down?) but I still get surprised by some of the more wild ideas out there.

The latest (h/t boingboing) is something called ‘L.A. Gang Tours‘.  Yes for the low, low price of $65 (usually $100!) you get:

…a true first-hand encounter of the history and origin of high profile gang areas and the top crime scene locations in South Central, Los Angeles. Each tour bus for LA GANG TOURS will have a guide from the South Central areas who has gained hands-on knowledge and experience of the inner city lifestyle.

So, in other words, you get to ride around in a bus while somebody tells you that some dude got shot here over some bullshit grudge or over there because some other dude tried to sell some bad weed…

Is this something America and the rest of the world is really calling out for?

Now, I will say that it appears the motivation of the organizer is quite good.  He states the goal is to:

…create jobs for the residents of South Central, Los Angeles; to give profits from the tours back to these areas for economic growth and development, provide job/entrepreneur training, micro-financing opportunities and to specialize in educating people from around the world about the Los Angeles inner city lifestyle, gang involvement and solutions.

Hey, I’m all for that but this is a bit exploitative of the community and does have some risk.  I can only imagine the subtle forces that could create all sorts of problems.  Will headline grabbing news of violence or gang activity attract pathetic thrill seekers and gawkers?  Might that drive more outrageous activity, especially if any of the money ends up going to some of these gang members?  I suspect it might, directly or indirectly based on this statement from their website:

Your participation allows the success of a cease-fire agreement between three of the largest and most notorious gangs in L.A. history. This agreement will allow young people and children safe passage (gun fire free safety zones).

I’m not sure why you couldn’t look for other ways to get small business opportunities to residents of South Central.  The fair trade movement could be a goal but it would require a shift in thinking that everyone can jump into the high skill, education reliant economy in one jump.  If we could get cities to quit building all these moronic mega-projects in the hopes of ‘revitalizing’ their cities (it’s like they went to the Stalin and Chairman Mao school of the Great Leap Forward) and instead accept the fact that many of their cities are going to get smaller, not have a significant manufacturing base or a pool of highly skilled workers and deal with it.  Identify land which can go to pasture and encourage small scale (boutique) farming to feed the booming organic/local food markets.  How about manufacturing of handicrafts and small cooperatives for light manufacturing or semi-skilled labor?

Look, I’m neither an economist or an urban planner and I shouldn’t knock somebody for trying to improve the community.  If this is the best we can do, however, I think we’re in some trouble.


2 responses to “There may be a dumber idea…but I’m not sure I can think of it.

  1. Agree with the characterization of this as a dumb idea. Follows up nicely with the Sex and the City bus tours in Manhattan. To follow up on your good idea, there are already is a pretty big community gardening effort ongoing in the LA area:
    I did see a preview for a documentary, though, that the city tried to shut down the largest community garden in the greater downtown area that provided opportunity for several hundred small scale farming projects. Not sure what the final result was, looked like the city was going to win the battle…seemed pretty short sighted to me.

  2. I grew up in Los Angeles. I find this shameful,
    The powers that be [locally] have always treated S/Central as if it were their own little Gulag. Now this is making it as if it is a tour through the Zoo. They have never paid any attention to this community. A liquor store on every corner. But people have to take a bus for miles, and miles to find a grocery store.

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