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Thursday, September 08, 2005

 

katrina


with the political aftermath of hurricane katrina -- which has left an unimaginable 10,000 americans dead -- now swamping political levees on all levels, the latent skepticism of our managerial elite that pervades western society in decadence has come to the fore with a vengeance. jack shafer at slate chronicles a break between the heretofore access-mad and cowing media and the central authorities that have so abused them.

The rebellion of the talking heads reached its culmination today as CNN.com contrasted "the official version" of events in New Orleans with its "in-the-trenches" account by its reporters and authoritative sources. Muted compared to the on-air growling, the Web story still portrays the government as a pack of liars, or worse, as bumbling idiots. The broadcasters' angry dispatches break with the "public face" they usually give their work: polite, patient, neutral, generous. A steady diet of such confrontational reporting would probably be as edifying as a Jerry Springer show. But when the going gets this tough—when government incompetence and lies become so insurmountable—sometimes the only way to get the story is by getting mad.
as welcome as that development -- if not ephemeral -- is, it is certainly a part of the broader onset of the age of irony and the open contempt and abject distrust of society and authority which has marked the acceleration of western decay, centuries old and now firmly entrenched, since 1918. raimondo opines:

People are mad as hell, far too mad to take seriously the liberal – and neoconservative – guff about how Katrina shows we need more government, symbolized by a strong Giuliani-esque leader who can restore "faith" in our "institutions." The age of faith in government – and leaders – is over, and a new era of skepticism is well underway. ... After dutifully wearing American flag lapel buttons during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and serving as the government's megaphone since 9/11, the American media is rebelling – and, as usual, they are reacting to a general sense of alienation from authority bubbling just beneath of the surface of American society.

Americans, in their millions, are finding that they don't like this new kind of American very much: indeed, we are beginning to find them – our rulers – quite hateful. That is one of the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. Here's another: it's time to start putting America, and Americans, first. To heck with "liberating" the rest of the world: the absurd conceit of the idea is all too apparent in light of the devastation wrought by Katrina. Our foreign policy of self-righteous aggression in pursuit of a policy of exporting "democracy" to the darkest corners of the globe acquires a surrealistic comic edge as we contemplate the apparent indifference of the authorities to the fate of Louisiana and Mississippi. As the Iraqis complain that we haven't installed working electricity in Baghdad, the lack of even more basic amenities in New Orleans makes a mockery of U.S. pretensions.

My advice to our rulers: forget that other insurgency in the Middle East, and attend to the one germinating in your own backyard – before it overtakes you.
many are shocked at the speed with which new orleans degenerated into anarchy following katrina. some compare the devastation to that which occured last year in florida -- and wonder why things this time degenerated so quickly.

some propose that the damage this time is far more complete, and the situation therefore far more desperate. but in truth the devastation that wracked florida last year was little better than this, and people were similarly deprived of services. yet it took just a few days for new orleans to slide into an iraq-like anarchy.

we can and should say why: those affected were this time primarily of what is unarguably america's most disaffected proletariat. many among them don't particularly like the west, and i can't say i blame them, considering the hand it has dealt them and their forefathers, who were stolen from their traditions and enslaved for an exercise in improved western economic efficiency. when one's understanding of society, often reinforced by hard experience, is that it works primarily against one, functions to repress and sideline instead of foster and nurture, primarily for the perpetuation of an undeserving management class, it's hard to see why order would be maintained when the power of coercion washes away.

as was illustrated similarly in the la riots in 1992 of the civil rights insurrection of 1968, the historical axioms of internal proletariats apply to the modern west in decline as they applied to all collapsing civilizations past. they are tinder to which only a match need be applied. and, lest anyone foolishly imagine me "racist" for saying so, let me further say that the same principles in varying degrees apply or have applied to muslims in europe, uighurs in china, sikhs in india, kurds in arabia, and in addition to countless others my very ancestors in the roman empire. this is not a question of genetics; it is a question of culture, particularly for a people who were torn away from theirs and forced into bondage for another, a blow from which many proletariats in history have found it all but impossible to recover from.

jesse walker over at reason has discussed katrina and its aftermath with sociologist e.l. quarantelli, who points out that the reaction of the vast majority in most events of this kind -- probably including even this one -- is not social breakdown but the expression of our innately social character as human beings. and i'd submit that this is true even in the worst of times: singular events which threaten survival remind and reinforce the moral character of men.

but these stories, one will note, are of men helping men -- not of men supporting the framework and institutions of civilization, which, mismanaged as they are, come in for yet more excoriation and mockery. these pathetic tribal bands into which people organized themselves for action represent a hobbesian degeneration of society, not its vitality. the undercurrent of disloyalty and apathy toward a bumbling and ridiculous dominant few is palpable.

but what's most notable about these stories of cohesion in the wake of katrina is the sharp contrast which they provide to our everyday existence of insular individual isolation, amorality, alienation and unaccountability -- strands of feeling that run particularly strongly in those who count themselves wronged by society. such cooperation is notable, even shocking when it appears because it is so absent in our normal lives of lawless struggle and competition.

i recall a story reported out of afghanistan back in 2001 when the american management were trying to demonize the taliban and afghanistan generally as a savage land which would benefit from forced conversion to modernity and a sacrifice of american youth. amid the endless condescensions, a reporter allowed himself to recount a bag dropped by a woman in a market -- and how everyone within earshot stopped, came over and helped her pick it all back up, only then resuming what they were doing.

in such a society, barbaric though it may be, cohesion is a daily norm. what is it in the postmodern west? an object of derision -- the "slave mentality" -- a weakness to be exploited. only when reminded in disaster of our own profound vulnerability is our hubris deflated enough to see that we all depend ultimately not on succeeding over but with one another.

when hellenic society finally collapsed in the third through fifth centuries, it was not because romans refused to help one another in crisis -- it was because they would not help one another in anything except the most dire emergencies, having lost any faith in the institutions and leadership which might have obligated them to act in spite of their judgment.

that pattern is increasingly what we seem to emulate, and the plight of the new orleans underclass under the simultaneous duress of nature and a dying society's mishandled response has highlighted it.


I have just stumbled across your blog. Thank you for this fascinating piece on Katrina, which I took care to read carefully.

I shall be back to read more, on this and other subjects.

 
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Oops, so much for 10,000 dead.

Hmm, maybe you shouldn't have accepted gov't propaganda as fact. I guess you're not that selective.

Wait, I think I see -- when it comes from Dmeocrats, it should be immediately accepted as fact. When it comes from Republicans, it should be immediately dismissed as propaganda. About right?

 
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as to katrina's casualties, a thousand or ten thousand -- awful, any way its sliced. i don't see how the count is material to the point.

as to by alleged political affiliation -- in the interests on not looking like a fool, mr talldave, maybe you should read me more before you presume to characterize my views. i'm probably close to the opposite of liberal in the postmodern sense. however, it may be that i'm conservative in a way you're perhaps not sophisticated enough to understand -- if i read your slavish, sophmoric blog correctly, you imagine clinton was bad and bush is good. i would eschew democrat and republican alike -- labels for simpleminds, in my opinion, engaged in a fictional ideological dialectic that only stupid people believe exists along party lines. both parties are mere painted shells representing of what was once a legitimate social debate between liberalism and traditionalism -- a debate that has been resolved in the triumph of fascism/socialism, the autocratic inperial management state.

note that it was the democrats who championed this state of affairs, not the republicans, who have merely adopted the mantras in order to gain political currency.

 
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in such a society, barbaric though it may be, cohesion is a daily norm. what is it in the postmodern west?

A car I was following the other day had a tire blowout. I stopped and changed the tire for the driver and her young daughter. In Arizona, barbaric though it may be, cohesion is a daily norm. Don't let big, bad Chi-town wear you down.

 
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