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Posts Tagged ‘Hurrican Katrina’

Humpty Dumbty

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

New Orleans

Came across this astounding quote from Dubya as he addressed the US nation from Jackson Square in New Orleans on September 15. He said “We have witnessed the kind of devastation no citizen of this great and generous nation should ever have to know.”

Er … hello … Earth calling George … is the man aware that he lives on a planet, along with the rest of us, on which astronomically powerful forces of nature are a simple fact of life? And that the hurricane season is an annual event? And that there’s nothing he can do about it – except perhaps take climate change seriously?



Wholly human

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

New Orleans under flood waters

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated …
As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness …
No man is an island, entire of itself every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls it tolls for thee.”
John Donne

Have just caught up with the widely circulated account of the experiences of Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, two paramedics attending a conference in New Orleans at the time Katrina hit.

Some pertinent excerpts:

“By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the “officials” told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City’s primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City’s only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, “If we can’t go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?” The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile “law enforcement”.

“We walked to the police command center at Harrah’s on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, “I swear to you that the buses are there.”

[…]

“As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

“We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.”

[…]

“From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. “Taking care of us” had an ominous tone to it.

“Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, “Get off the fucking freeway”. A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

“Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of “victims” they saw “mob” or “riot”. We felt safety in numbers. Our “we must stay together” was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.”

What this account exposes seems absolutely key to the wider events unfolding in the US and Europe. It reveals the extent to which our precious “civilisation” is just the thinnest of veneers. Nothing more than a mask. It reveals the terror of those with power when faced with the disempowered appearing to flex their muscles, when all they’re doing is doing what they have to to survive. And it reveals the ridiculous extent of mankind’s hubris in imagining that a natural event of such magnitude should be something that someone somewhere should have “under control”.

This is something that no amount of resignations, inquiries, finger-wagging and blame-laying is going to address because it’s endemic in western society and is an inevitable consequence of a mindset that regards itself as superior to nature and to other races or classes of human being. And this isn’t just a matter for the likes of Barbara Bush, it’s a matter for each and every one of us. For as long as any of us at any time is convinced that we know better than nature, that we know better than another person what’s good for them, that we’re right and another is wrong, that people from other races or classes are somehow lesser human beings than we are, then we get a society that reflects all that back at us writ large. The ultimate expression of such attitudes is wholesale genocide, which is something that’s been played out with disgusting frequency over the years on peoples that frequently have a far greater heart-felt understanding of civilised behaviour than we do … which is partly why they get stamped out. It’s oursociety that is savage and barbaric. Thoughout our colonisation of the world, we have never adequately appreciated the societies we came across. What we mostly saw in them was our own reflections. And now, in the murky waters of New Orleans, we see those same reflections staring back at us yet again.

This mindset has prevailed for centuries and has now been imposed on most of the world. If things are ever going to change for the better, then as far as I can see it’s our thinking that we have to overturn. Everything else flows from there.

This is why we should hold onto our civil liberties at all costs – to that thin veneer that gives us at least some illusion of civility. If the panic-driven shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in London didn’t make it clear enough, then the events in New Orleans should. Personally I’d far rather take my chances with the looters and the terrorists than I would with twitchy and armed law enforcement that sees everyone as a potential threat, and is so obsessed with control that it’s blind to human need and a response that’s appropriate to the circumstances.

Is it any wonder we have such disasters when we ignore the lessons from nature? Is it any wonder that people resort to looting and shooting police if they’re being denied help and prevented from obtaining the most basic needs for survival? Is it any wonder that we’re the target of terrorists when our foreign policies are neither respectful nor ethical? Mirrors do reflect. Chickens do come home to roost.

“How could there be any question of acquiring or possessing, when the one thing needful for a man is to become-to be at last, and to die in the fullness of his being.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry



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smeddum.net - Blog: Confessions of a Serial Prover. Weblog on homeopathy, health and related subjects by homeopathic practitioner Wendy Howard