Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Some Thoughts on the Recent Unpleasantness

Come on folks. It was not only forseeable but inevitable that a major hurricane would one day hit New Orleans. Every city on the Gulf Coast is a potential and eventual target for a killer storm. The day before Katrina slammed New Orleans the experts were predicting total disaster, including flooding. Not only do I remember this, I made mention of it in my blog prior to Katrina making landfall. As bad as the aftermath of the storm was, some of the predictions made prior were much worse.

The televised "experts" didn't just figure this out as Katrina came barreling down on New Orleans. The potential for calamity was always there. Someday a major earthquake is gonna shake San Francisco. Someday a violent eruption will bury the towns around Mt. Shasta in volcanic ash. And oh yes, someday a big hurricane will hit New Orleans.

The question then is why didn't New Orleans and the State of Louisiana have a plan in place for such an eventuality? Why wasn't the order to evacuate enforced and the evacuation better organized? Why didn't Mayor Nagin call for help sooner? Why didn't Governor Blanco mobilize the National Guard earlier? Where was FEMA in the hours before the inevitable finally occurred? Basically, why did everyone drop the ball?

Not that anyone really cares - now it's all about apportioning blame. Should it be laid at the doorstep of complacent and corrupt Louisiana politicians? Naw. How about those New Orleans residents who didn't heed repeated warnings and behaved abominably in the aftermath? Heck no! We can't blame those poor unfortunate victims. Is it all FEMA's fault? Maybe, but I doubt that's gonna satisfy anyone. Of course President Bush will be blamed, at least by people who are inclined to do that sort of thing anyway.

I think the true lesson of Katrina is that disaster preparedness is something that nobody really takes seriously. Government doesn't, your fellow citizens don't, and you can't expect either to save you. The ones who suffered the most in the aftermath of Katrina - the poor who remained in New Orleans - were relying on others to come to their rescue. Thus their inertia when the time came to evacuate. Their inaction in the face of disaster (and the misery they subsequently endured) was a consequence of their conditioned dependence on public assistance. Why evacuate? Help is surely on the way! Such faith is almost touching, although pathetic is a word that better suits it.

People who believe that government is the answer to all their problems are bound to be disappointed. Truth is, catastrophes like this are inevitable and we have an obligation to ourselves to be ready for them. As a famously useless New Orlean's cop recently told a tourist who was seeking help, "it's every man for himself!" Or maybe Jack Nicholson put it better when he said "The truth? You can't handle the truth!"


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