In 2017, Mardi Gras in New Orleans yields gigantic piles of trash, poisons thousands with excessive alcohol, and fosters a welfare oriented and sometimes criminal mentality, yet it is a uniquely community affirming ritual that nearly shuts down this medium-sized city and draws the attention of the rest of the world. Mardi Gras allows (especially a lot of black) people an escape from the humdrum of poverty and ordinary life. Like the Saturnalia of Ancient Rome, Mardi Gras is a time of reversal, an inversion of all the rules.
In the years 1843-1883, Richard Wagner broke all the rules of music and theatre and made new ones, many of which we still follow in playhouses and cinemas and opera houses today (such as “dimming the lights” before and during a performance, which was a brand new idea in Wagner’s day). Wagner equated hatred of Jews with love of art and civilization, especially music, and in so doing (and writing prolifically about it) he served as an inspiration for the German National Socialist movement, especially one Iron-Cross winning corporal who survived “the Great War”: Adolf Hitler.
This year the Krewe of Proteus (founded 1881) brought Mardi Gras madness and Wagnerian passion together in a torchlight parade…. and the result was stunning and extremely impressive, if not quite terribly loyal to the plot or typical imagery of the operas. But Proteus gave us an amazingly intellectual interlude in the utter squalor and depravity of most Mardi Gras events…. and one which surely went over the head of (I would estimate, unscientifically) more than 95% of the people assembled along Magazine Street and St. Charles Avenue Monday Night.
The parade received SOME local attention, e.g.: http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/entertainment_life/festivals/article_be5d1948-d9bb-11e6-ad6b-4faaff249cf7.html, but well-over half of this town speaks a dialectical variety of English which cannot be called “educated”…. and the rest of the population isn’t overly steeped in European culture—the original Opera House (the first in the United States) at the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon Street, burned down in 1919 and is now the site of a modern hotel in the absolutely most depraved and degenerate blocks of Bourbon Street…. several blocks of which constitute one of the most depraved and degenerate (and dirty) “micro-neighborhoods” anywhere in the United States… I have written before on these pages about the destruction and degradation of beautiful New Orleans after 1865, and especially in the 20th century. The City had reached its pinnacle in 1860…..and then a very destructive war happened….
But if one is the pinnacle or Zenith of all things Elite and Erudite in Western Civilization and the other marks the Nadir or even polar opposite of high civilization, what do “Der Ring des Niebelungen” and New Orleans Mardi Gras have in common?
Actually quite a bit: both exalt what can only be called “Lawlessness”, especially in the realm of love and sex…
To start off with, Wotan, in Wagner’s Ring, like his Ancient Greek Counterpart Zeus, can only be called a “philandering cad”…. I know this would be considered an insult in many quarters, but it is, statistically speaking, quite a “Godlike” or “Kingly” trait… and I confess I’ve lived that way myself for most of my existence…. although I can claim neither Divinity nor Royalty…. Wagner’s Wotan is a tragic character…. he is adventurous, generally idealistic, and seeks to build a beautiful new world (Valhalla). And yet dies as he watches his world destroyed around him….by a fire set by his daughter….well, actually a fire set by ONE of his many daughters (Brunhilde) by Erda, ONE of Wotan’s many girlfriends/paramours/liasons… whatever it is proper for the King of the Gods to call his mistresses…. (Sidebar: in the original Icelandic and Norse sagas and tales, Erda (aka “Jörð” was the mother of the thunder and hammer God THOR with Wotan, not the Valkyrie Brunhilde….)
Aside from Wotan and Erde, Wotan also fathers the lineage which ultimately overthrows him—the Walsunga….first a male-female pair of twins, Siegmund and Sieglinde, who are separated in early childhood and meet once Sieglinde is married to a very beastly, babbitty, bourgeois bore by the name of Hunding…. “Naturally” or unnaturally, Siegmund and Sieglinde rapidly become an item one Spring AFTER (not in spite of, but because of) recognizing each other as long-lost siblings, and they have a child. (Wotan’s wife Fricka, the goddess of Marriage [NOT love, but marriage] compels Wotan to kill Siegmund to avenge Hunding’s loss of his wife…. and Wotan’s daughter….to Wotan’s son…. talk about conflicts of interest, you know…. NO modern lawyer would ever know what to do with the Walsung estate…. IF Brunhilde’s immolation had left anything, which it didn’t….
Siegmund and Sieglinde’s lovechild….(Sieglinde dies in childbirth)….is SIEGFRIED… destined to become the boy who knew no fear… the Dragonslayer… and, not coincidentally, Brunhilde’s “POSSLQ”…. at least for a while….
Now any competent sociologist will tell you that families JUST LIKE WOTAN’s typify the underclasses everywhere, as well as the extreme upper classes (e.g. the British monarchy). But especially dysfunctional families are well-known as characteristic of the black community….in Chicago, South Central Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and New Orleans, and these are the families who most enjoy watching and trashing the Mardi Gras parades.
A substantial number of middle-class to upper class and truly, traditionally, elite Uptown New Orleans White Families and a lot of middle class white tourists from Peoria, Princeton (Illinois), Paris (Texas), Portland, Poughkeepsie, Punksetawny, and every other real or imagined “Pottersville” (cf. “It’s a Wonderful Life”)…. create some illusion of “racial balance,” or at least “diversity.” But the overwhelming majority of the parade viewers on the street, “throw collectors” and Mardi Gras celebrants generally are mulatto (mixed race) and black African-Americans….and their culture clearly does not have any credal element that dictates “Cleanliness is Godliness.”
So the Krewe of Proteus has done something amazing…. they have made a brilliant parade out of the operatic tetralogy that inspired the Third Reich, and all its dreams of a thousand years of racial purity and Aryan supremacy…. and brought it to New Orleans where almost nobody understands it or “gets” anything about it.
Why did they (the Krewe of Proteus) do it and what does it mean? “The Advocate” states that Proteus has a long tradition of operatic support….but this just isn’t enough. Proteus was founded when Richard Wagner was still alive (albeit near the end of his life… within a year of the date that Wagner’s last opera Parsifal premiered on July 26, 1882, at the Festspielhaus in beloved Bayreuth….)…
All I can promise you is that I intend to find out…. And write more about this when I have more to report…. I confess I have a suspicion, a hope perhaps, that Krewe of Proteus is sending a highly concealed “Alt-Right” message that the same kind of elite which formerly ruled the West is still alive, and well, and hiding in New Orleans, biding its time for an opportunity to seize power once again…. in the land of pioneering “Third Way” Americans like Huey Long and Gerald L.K. Smith…..