Thinking For The Individual

Formerly known as 'Thinking For The People', this site offers some reflections on the state of British society and her people from the perspective of a libertarian Conservative with a passionate belief in the pillars of freedom and responsibility.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

It is still very hard to come to terms with the enormity of Hurricane Katrina. In the short history of this blog, I have always been rather slow to respond to natural disasters and tragedies of this kind, largely because I never felt I had anything new to offer other than more sympathy and emotion. But with Hurricane Katrina, I feel more confusion than emotion and more a strange kind of anger than sympathy.

The confusion is how this all happened: not the hurricane, as the force of the earth is well known to the people of the Gulf States of the USA; but the aftermath. How is it that this tragedy failed to pull together the people of New Orleans in rugged, gritty harmony, no matter what dangers came their way? How is it that this tragedy, unlike the Asian tsunami or the man-made disasters of September 11th, 2001, and the more recent attacks on the city of London, made the people of New Orleans loot and steal and even shoot and kill? Some thinkers go as far as to say that this is symbolic of how an individualist state of mind destroys society. And then I, as a conservative, capitalist, individualist question my whole philosophy and outlook on life thanks to the behaviour of a few people in the United States whose lives have been ruined.

And then you remember: what kind of fool talks politics after a tragedy of this scale? Disasters do not call for philosophical debates, but for a proper response, and a keen and determined attempt by the authorities to save as many lives as you can. But then you see the response of George W. Bush's administration, which has been at best lacklustre in recent days, offering little other than heavy-handed troops to quell the riots or the stealing or whatever else is going on down there. Bush has visited Louisiana and is due to return tomorrow (Monday), but has been criticised for only seeking a photo opportunity. It's not a good performance from the man, is it?

But then you ask: what can Bush really do? I don't know the answer. More food and clean water, yes. Somewhere for the victims to stay, yes. But then you ask: are governments capable of providing all of that to people? And then you remember not to talk politics after something like this disaster.

And then you think the unthinkable. Is the federal government failing to act decisively because many of the victims are black? As I was sat with friends yesterday evening, one of them said, "Of course, you know why nobody's doing anything about it, don't you?" It wasn't said, but we knew what she meant. But then you think: is it really possible that a western government would ignore a crisis because of the race of the victims? Am I so naive that I'm the only one who thinks it's impossible that a president and a government would even want to behave like that, and then be able to get away with it?!

And then, when your train of thought gets back to where it started, with a natural disaster that has killed so many, and reduced a society to breakdown, when you stop trying to find someone to blame, and when you've given up trying to talk about what it all might lead to in the future and what it means for our understanding of society, you can't help but look at the pictures and hear the stories of the disaster and think, "Bloody hell!"

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