Tuesday, September 06, 2005

"I hope that lesson is not lost on anyone.."

It's nearly impossible, and bloody infuriating, to keep a handle on the myriad government failures pertaining to Katrina. The Agitator has been trying (sample: "The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows.").

He also points to this quote at Catallarchy:
Rarely has it been so clear how much we, the ordinary people of this country, are better than our rulers. I hope that lesson is not lost on anyone, of any political persuasion. We are better than them and there is no good reason anymore – if ever there was – to keep on putting up with their lies.

Which gets me back to where I was on Friday, I suppose. I had a bit of a debate with Sacamano at this post (& in the comments) regarding whether we, as citizens, are still free to organize to help out our neighbours, distinct from whatever efforts the government is undertaking. Over the weekend, more news came out that would certainly seem to bolster my position (basically, that government management is actively excluding independent collective action). There was the news that the Red Cross was barred from New Orleans. Even more stark, this:
"We've tried desperately to rescue 250 people trapped in a Salvation Army facility. They've been trapped in there since the flood came in. Many are on dialysis machines," said Maj. George Hood, national communications secretary for the relief organization.

"Yesterday we rented big fan boats to pull them out and the National Guard would not let us enter the city," he said. The reason: a new plan to evacuate the embattled city grid by grid - and the Salvation Army's facility didn't fall in the right grid that day, Hood said in a telephone interview from Jackson, Miss.

"No, it doesn't make sense," he said.

Not so much, no. This old Reason piece by Glenn Garvin has been linked here and there: it's a debriefing of the Hurricane Andrew recovery, but also serves as a handy program to follow along with (ahead of) what's going on now:
Unbelievably, they began broadcasting appeals for everyone to stay away from the hurricane zone; disorganization, rather than hunger or thirst or illness or misery, became Public Enemy No. 1. Better that the battered residents of Florida City swelter in 95-degree heat without ice than suffer the indignity of disorganized ice.

Heaven forfend. At any rate, I'll try to make my central plea again:

Over the weeks and months ahead, we the people will be receiving various assurances that our own local, provincial/state, and federal jurisdictions are prepared to deal with disaster. There will be plans, committees, etc. to assure us that things will go as smoothly as humanly possible when the shit (or where I live, the snow) hits the fan.

It is simply not enough for us to say "Whatever", make that blah-blah motion with our hands, and go about preparing ourselves and our own families for the big one.

We need to insist that our leaders concede that they cannot be prepared for everything, and that even the best plan cannot be comprehensive. We need to insist that our leaders concede that government is but one element of the reaction, relief, and recovery required in a disaster, and correspondingly, that the citizens of our civil society will need to help each other. Above all, we need to insist that our leaders concede that government is not the solution to every problem, and that they start acknowledging that this is reality, and not a mere consequence of finite government resources.

Civil society is not some bothersome thing that gets in the way of effective government management. I'll close with Julian Sanchez:
..for pretty much everyone short of the anarchists, preventing the collapse of civilization into a huge Hobbesian clusterfuck makes the list — whether yours is short or long — of things governments are supposed to do...

Indeed. But past arresting the bad guys and other specific collapse-prevention activities, it's time to start giving we the people a lot more credit for our capacity for good.


At 9:23 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I read through the mountains of material blaming one agency or another (or all of them) I've often considered the idea of terrorism. By definition is this not a terror-like state induced by another? Is it not also the ability of a terrorist to change the "normal" way of life? Isn't that W's buzz-phrase, that the war on terror is to protect the American way of life? Well then I have just one more question ... do you think the people of New Orleans' way of life have been preserved by funnelling all the FEMA resources and disaster cash under the Homeland security department's terrorism-only wing?
Have the terrorist not, in fact, succeeded in instilling terror, lawlessness and a major adjustment in the American way of life? It's like a kid who wants attention from his parents by doing bad things and the parents respond by putting signs up around their home saying "Johnnie is a bad boy" and then cancelling their holidays and Johnnie's afterschool activities and anything that could possibly distract him from continuing to BE A BAD BOY. Then they are surprised when these tactics have an adverse affect on the rest of their family.
I'm sure the war on terror has smoked many a bad dude out of his bunker, but it has also destroyed many an American life in the process. When will W wake up and realize that they are in fact terrorizing his country and HIM by controlling his actions and restricting his ability to properly protect his country?


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