Social Disasters

by Kieran Healy on September 1, 2005

I’ve written before about the sociological dimension of disasters—the fact that natural disasters are never wholly natural, because some kinds of people will be more likely to suffer and die than others, depending on how life is organized when the disaster hits. As everyone knows, social order is under severe pressure in New Orleans at the moment, and the media coverage is slowly coming around to analyzing the differential impact of the disaster. The fact that those who have been left behind, or turned into refugees, are disproportionately Africian-American, poor, or elderly is simply impossible to ignore from the media coverage. Seeing pundits and commentators react to these facts is, in a way, a barometer of their sociological imagination—their ability to see the systematic relationship between social structure and individual experience. For example, on the conservative side of the fence, the contrast between David Brooks and Jonah Goldberg (also here) is striking. Brooks is one of nature’s optimists, and his vice is a tendency towards complaceny. But he has a sociological eye, and immediately grasps the social dimensions of the disaster:

Floods wash away the surface of society, the settled way things have been done. They expose the underlying power structures, the injustices, the patterns of corruption and the unacknowledged inequalities. … We’d like to think that the stories of hurricanes and floods are always stories of people rallying together to give aid and comfort. … Amid all the stories that recur with every disaster – tales of sudden death and miraculous survival, the displacement and the disease – there is also the testing. … Civic arrangements work or they fail. Leaders are found worthy or wanting. What’s happening in New Orleans and Mississippi today is a human tragedy. But take a close look at the people you see wandering, devastated, around New Orleans: they are predominantly black and poor. The political disturbances are still to come.

Brooks’ instinct to look at how the disaster exposes power relations and tests the social order is right on target. Contrast this with Goldberg. All his instincts are that talk of class and poverty and refugees are merely rhetorical cards in a never-ending political slanging match, and his goal is to make sure they don’t get played. His immediate concern is to deny that there are any systematic differences in the experience of disaster, and to pretend it’s all just a question of partisan labeling:

Whatever happened to the idea that unity in the face of a calamity is an important value? We’re all in it together, I guess, except for the poor who are extra-special.

And again:

My guess is that it will simply be a really unpleasent time for [Superdome refugees for] the remainder of the day, but hardly so unpleasent as to sanctify them with refugee or some other victim status.

Burkean conservatives may be too sanguine about the virtues of inherited ways of doing things, but, if they have Brooks’ cast of mind they at least understand that there is a social order, and that disasters like Katrina expose its structure and weaknesses. Meanwhile Goldberg—whom I’m sure has never gone a day without a hot meal in his life—is merely vicious.

{ 56 comments }

1

pedro 09.01.05 at 9:13 am

Goldberg isn’t merely vicious. He is also stupid.

2

dave heasman 09.01.05 at 9:16 am

The other thing may be that people we consider rich are actually poor.
Fats Domino hasn’t been heard from since Monday.
Allen Toussaint (Allen Toussaint!) is stuck in the Superdome, waiting for a bus.

3

beloml 09.01.05 at 9:17 am

It’s also true that the thin veneer of civilization, as Margaret Thatcher called it, was especially thin in New Orleans, a city that was as vicious as it was charming. My friends there got out a gun just to get from the car to their house in a middle-class neighborhood.

New Orleans was my favorite city, and I’m grieving along with everyone else, but if those savages are willing to loot their own neighborhoods for TVs and jeans, and to shoot at the helicopters trying to rescue them, then what civilizing force could possibly come to bear when they’re in Houston?

4

Tad Brennan 09.01.05 at 9:44 am

Goldberg may have just as great a gift for the sociological insight as Brooks does.

He too may see that many of the consequences of this disaster amount to an indictment of Bush’s economic policies, an indictment of his disdain for the real work of governance, an indictment of his siphoning off public funds to enrich his cronies and settle his personal vendettas.

And Goldberg too may see that the political reckoning is going to come.

He is just furiously trying to lie, distort, and distract in order to change the subject and skew the rhetorical playing field.

Yeah, he’s got his share of stupid. But in this case we may be seeing the smart. And mostly the vicious.

5

P ONeill 09.01.05 at 9:54 am

Yes the Brooks column was a pleasant surprise (or pleasent, as Jonah would spell it). I seem to recall Michael Kinsley accusing (gently) Brooks of being a crypto-Marxist, or even French, and the class-based analysis showed through. One other thing: Goldberg is either an ass or a spinner, as earlier commenters have noted. So where does that leave the status of Mickey Kaus, who has described Goldberg as incredibly talented?

6

abb1 09.01.05 at 10:29 am

Is it true that this guy’s been chosen to replace Daniel Schorr at the NPR? I’ve read about it somewhere and thought it was joke, but is it?

7

P ONeill 09.01.05 at 10:33 am

Goldberg subbed for Schorr last week, the Sat morning spot. I don’t think it’s permanent.

8

jet 09.01.05 at 10:55 am

This is a lost argument. Goldberg will easily win the public debate as the looting will leave most people with an extremely poor view of those who were left in NO. I’m listening to a shoutcast of a police scanner and the National Guard unit that went into the SuperDome is having all sorts of trouble. There’s been one guardman shoot, two more cops have been shot, who knows how many civilians murdered. And anyone trying to explain this away by using the word “class” is going to be completely ignored.

9

jet 09.01.05 at 10:58 am

You just can’t get around the fact that the “class” of people left in NO is now without ANY police search and rescue because the governor has ordered all police to stop the gangs of looters who are getting closer and closer to populated areas.

10

Cryptic Ned 09.01.05 at 11:02 am

FATS DOMINO IS STILL ALIVE??? I thought he died forty years ago.

Also in the Superdome: Abe Vigoda, Leni Riefenstahl, Walter Cronkite, Fritz Hollings.

11

Thomas 09.01.05 at 11:02 am

Well, in case anyone was concerned that the Right had a monopoly on idiocy, please see Tad’s post in this thread.

Tad, please, let’s wait a day or two before settling personal vendettas. What an ugly post, idicative of a thoroughly ugly person.

12

freddie 09.01.05 at 11:04 am

What I noticed in a very unorganized way:
1. TV…most of those wandering about, left behind: Blacks. Reason: no cars (one in 7 in New Orleans does not own a car).
2. A large percentage I saw grossly overweight.
3. Guns: many owned them before flood; many stole them during chaos: American right to bear arms.
4. Fox News: caught up with “moral issue” of looting. CNN: caught up with getting political figures to babble on about what is taking place.
5. President Bush: missing as in 90/11 till surfacing a day or so later. Flew over on way to DC! Gave speech to tell people this was terrible event but we will conquer–boilerplate from Iraq invasion, sans lies.
6. The future: many will opt for cremation as above ground coffins drift about.
7. Tourism will resume if it rebuilt but busnesses of any size will not locate there.
8. As pointed out on my blog (too modest to name) but can be found at Metafilter, serious writers for rep[utable organs wanred 4 years ago and last year of possible devestation if strong hurricane struck. Those resp0nsible did nothing–money cut from budgets!

13

Ted 09.01.05 at 11:13 am

Those Golberg posts struck me as the worst kind of conservative political correctness. Jonah doesn’t think it’s untrue that the hurricane will hit poor people the hardest. (In fact, he seems to think it’s kind of funny.) But he believes that actually talking about the disparate impact is evidence of liberal bias, and that the media should have enough restraint to ignore it.

14

ajay 09.01.05 at 11:16 am

FATS DOMINO IS STILL ALIVE??? I thought he died forty years ago.

Yes, I thought that was a joke too, but apparently Fats still lives – and still plays, too. (Or, at least, he was still alive when the flood started). He’s only in his seventies (born 1928). Hasn’t left New Orleans, where he was born, since the 80s – he doesn’t need to tour and he likes the food too much to want to go anywhere else.

15

Martin L. Martens 09.01.05 at 11:22 am

In a live interview today on CNN, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chernoff complained about ‘all the people who stayed behind’ even after the mandatory evacuation order was given. He seemed to feel that these people deserved to suffer because they didn’t leave when they were told to leave. It does not appear that he can think of the possibility that these people did not have the means to leave. They didn’t have vehicles and could not afford to go stay at a motel somewhere outside of the hurricane’s path.

16

Firebug 09.01.05 at 11:23 am

Who the hell gives a shit about looting? Anything that isn’t taken will probably be destroyed by the flood waters anyway. The redirection of police from rescue efforts to protecting Wal-Marts is an unconscionable exaltation of property over life, and an example of the racism that still suffuses the Republicans today.

Fuck the Republicans. I hate them. With all my heart and soul I hate them.

17

jet 09.01.05 at 11:24 am

Someone needs to write a post about what a cluster-fuck this operation is. 4 years after 9/11 and I’m listening to the police and military try to figure out how to have their 11:00 conference call over the police scanner. How much did we spend on the Dept of Homeland Security to resolve these types of issues?

18

Thomas 09.01.05 at 11:27 am

firebug, you’re an asshole and an idiot. There’s no evidence that Walmart’s are the sort of property being protected. Rather, there’s been a fair amount of talk about protecting hospitals. You know, with sick people. Your exaltation of the liberty to steal over the rights of sick people is wonderful stuff, but save it for another day.

19

shinypenny 09.01.05 at 11:29 am

Apparently we’re not even allowed to criticize the government for its lack of preparation for this crisis. Or at least those of us on the left aren’t.

My favorite bit:

I no longer see the Left as a set of political opponents. I understand them now to be what they are: An uncompromising, barely human mass of malignancy, that exists only to be crushed electorally and culturally once and for all. Or, as a wiser man than I put it, The Evil Party.

Nice.

20

jet 09.01.05 at 11:30 am

Firebug,
You’re an idiot. The breakdown of society is why there are so many murders going on. I just listened to a sheriff on the radio asking for a medivac from anyone who could hear him for two officers who were shot. Not stopping the looters is why evacuation flights from the Superdome were shortly stopped. The military convoy going to teh superdome had their lead truck attacked in an attempted carjacking. Who knows how many cops and soldiers will be killed outright by the lawlessness. And who knows how many more civilians will die because the cops and army are busy dealing with the looters (or just shot by teh looters). So you are off your rocker. It should be fuck the looters and idiots like you who blame Republicans for AIDS, the tsunamis, meteor showers, and the last eclipse of the sun.

21

pedro 09.01.05 at 11:33 am

thomas: if you knew what you were talking about, you wouldn’t call tad brennan a thoroughly ugly individual. My guess is that most conservative readers of left2right would cringe at your invective.

22

Thomas 09.01.05 at 11:41 am

pedro, I’m sure Jonah’s friends and family love him, too. I don’t really care what you think of Tad, or what the fine conservatives over at left2right think of him. I think he’s ugly, because he’s using this tragedy today to settle political vendettas and score political points. You might find that sort of thing appropriate, interesting, attractive, necessary, or wise. I don’t. And I won’t hesitate to repeat myself on that point.

23

abb1 09.01.05 at 11:44 am

I thought that looting was just ‘stuff’ that ‘happens’ when people are free, not a big deal. Now I am confused.

24

Crystal 09.01.05 at 11:47 am

Re looting: I can sort-of excuse people who are desperate to get water or diapers or other necessities from looting, say, a Wal-Mart. I don’t think it’s really right, nor do I think it would be excusable under most circumstances, but if you’ve got kids and the kids are crying because they are hungry, thirsty and poopy, what are you going to do?

On the other hand, some of the looters were trying to break into Children’s Hospital. Children’s Hospital. That’s just beyond the pale. Those poor sick kids must have been terrified as it is. I don’t care how disenfranchised people are, trying to loot a hospital is really low.

25

jet 09.01.05 at 11:54 am

abb1,
Because the situations are so closely related. Being a citizen of New Orleans is exactly like being a repressed Shi’ite in Iraq. You are frigg’n brilliant man. I haven’t seen incite like that since the Warren commission.

26

brainwidth 09.01.05 at 12:01 pm

It’s not just the pundits, either. Although most of the residents of unaffected parts of Louisiana have been more than generous and opened there cities to the refugees, some are not so welcoming. For example: “These are not high calibre people,” said a Lafayette restaurant owner. “The worry is they are going to bring crime and gangs. I saw one woman on the television saying she was going to enroll her kids in Lafayette schools. It could ruin these areas.” My comments here.

27

Simon 09.01.05 at 12:03 pm

Of course the social dimension is crucial to understanding this disaster, but I am far past the point that I could believe the likes of Jonah Goldberg actually cares a whit about understanding or responding to the horror in NO. And the media sings the same old song: blaming the poor is apolitical, blaming the incompetence of (Republican) government is treason.

Lyrics of TV Smith’s “Expensive Being Poor” to follow…
And the car is off the road but I never had a car. And I pay more for my food ’cause the supermarket’s too far.

It’s expensive being poor because everything costs more, knocking on a closing door, it’s expensive being poor, someone throw me down some crumbs I will eat them off the floor, it’s expensive being poor but I look good when I get desperate.

And the box is on the fritz, it’s a black and white, or was, I tried taking it to bits now the picture’s just a grey fuzz.

It’s expensive being poor because everything costs more someone pick me off the floor, it’s expensive being poor, how can I live with what I did when the cinema’s six quid? It’s expensive being poor but I look good when I get desperate.

Let the good times roll Into a bottomless hole with job, friends and future my ideal home furniture, let the trumpets sound as my house falls down.

And the dust begins to clear and I’m lying on the ground, and I’m standing on a path in an unknown part of town, and the path leads me away over hills and out of sight, in the blazing sun by day and the hanging moon by night, and I wind up in a place where I never have to count, and I never see the waves as I push my leaking boat out.

It’s expensive being poor because everything hurts more, knocking on a bolted door It’s expensive being poor. Someone throw me down some crumbs I will eat them off the floor, it’s expensive being poor, but I look good when I get desperate.

Same old song.

28

jet 09.01.05 at 12:05 pm

brainwidth,
Those sentiments are surely outweighed by things like this.

29

abb1 09.01.05 at 12:05 pm

I suspect that some people living in a country with the highest incarceration rate on the planet may at times feel as repressed as citizens of Iraq, though.

You probably are not from one of those communities where a male child born today has a 50-50 statistical chance to end up in jail, but try to imagine.

30

brainwidth 09.01.05 at 12:08 pm

Absolutely, jet. And as I noted on my own blog, the resentment I have seen here in Lafayette has been far outweighed by generosity. Some of my co-workers are volunteering at the Cajun Dome, which has taken in thousands of refugees, and we are all helping out where we can. This is the deep south, though, and racial tensions are always close to the surface.

31

pedro 09.01.05 at 12:18 pm

thomas: you are being extraordinarily childish. I hope you realize this.

shinypenny: as a member of the “barely human mass of malignancy,” I actually think the title of the piece was even better than the passage you quoted.

Politicizing Tragedy or The American Left and Human Filth: Distinguish If Possible

32

beloml 09.01.05 at 12:18 pm

Why would tourists want to go somewhere that’s a rebuilt fabrication?

33

sd 09.01.05 at 12:29 pm

firebug:

Pound sand asshole. The desire to quell looting isn’t about putting property rights above human life in our value system. Rather, in any mass disaster, some people will suffer and die. When looting is rampant, search and rescue operations cannot be conducted because emergency response personnel are in danger of being shot. Thus the people who suffer and die are disproportionally the old, the infirm, children, and others for whom a timely resuce is critical (and, by the way, almost all of these people are black). When the government makes a decision to shoot looters on the spot, a few (relatively) innocent people die right away, but order is maintained and search and rescue can go on efficiently, which save many, many more lives. Not to mention the fact that when cities explode into lawlessness violent crime goeas way up. Rape and murder rates are much higher in looting situations than they are in similarly distressed situations where public order is maintained.

And as has been pointed out here, its not just convenience stores and home electronics retailers being looted. Hospitals are being looted at gunpoint.

34

dave heasman 09.01.05 at 12:37 pm

“FATS DOMINO IS STILL ALIVE??? I thought he died forty years ago”

He was alive Monday. I’m sorry it seems like a joke to you, but it personalises it for me. You see, I’m from England, which certain Conservative Americans tell me is a very poor and useless near-Communist country, and I really didn’t see why I, poor, should contribute to a fund for America, rich.
But now I see that two (at least) great and successful American artists don’t have the resources to escape this. I found/find it hard to believe.

35

nolo 09.01.05 at 1:05 pm

My guess is that it will simply be a really unpleasent time for [Superdome refugees for] the remainder of the day, but hardly so unpleasent as to sanctify them with refugee or some other victim status.

Yeah, except for the dead people, either there or at the convention center. Jonah’s fatuous comments should haunt him, and saying so isn’t about scoring political points. It’s calling it like it is.

36

Maynard Handley 09.01.05 at 1:13 pm

“abb1,
Because the situations are so closely related. Being a citizen of New Orleans is exactly like being a repressed Shi’ite in Iraq. You are frigg’n brilliant man. I haven’t seen incite like that since the Warren commission.”

Your attempt at sarcasm, IMHO, backfires badly. Surely if anything this has shown us just how little the various US govt bodies actually care about the poor (and if they are black, so much the better). An evactuation plan that basically starts with the premise: ” if you can’t afford a car and a motel room, go ahead and die; we don’t care” is not quite the same as actively rounding up people and shooting or gassing them, but it’s not a whole lot different is it?

37

nolo 09.01.05 at 1:17 pm

Oh, and if you think Goldberg’s not vicious, check out this recent Corner posting:

ATTN: SUPERDOME RESIDENTS [Jonah Goldberg] I think it’s time to face facts. That place is going to be a Mad Max/thunderdome Waterworld/Lord of the Flies horror show within the next few hours. My advice is to prepare yourself now. Hoard weapons, grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents. While you’re working on that, find the biggest guy you can and when he’s not expecting it beat him senseless. Gather young fighters around you and tell the womenfolk you will feed and protect any female who agrees to participate without question in your plans to repopulate the earth with a race of gilled-supermen. It’s never too soon to be prepared.

The link’s here.

38

mighty iguana 09.01.05 at 1:20 pm

I do not see what the fuss is about about Goldberg’s comment. We may not know how many middle class people will lose their livelihoods or become destitute on account of this flood. As much we can say that poor people will suffer more because of this flood, how is the poor people suffering some how worse than the middle class suffering? Every body loses in this flood.

39

nolo 09.01.05 at 1:22 pm

Once you’ve digested it, consider this: Jonah’s remark about “unpleasent” [sic] conditions at the Superdome was Jonah’s response when he was criticized for making “Mad Max” jokes.

40

Firebug 09.01.05 at 1:27 pm

If the government is unable to provide food and water to the people stranded in New Orleans, then they must obtain it themselves. I find it difficult to believe that even the right-wingers are justifying the shooting of stranded people trying to get food and supplies from abandoned stores, but I suppose I shouldn’t be; “Property uber alles” has always been the guiding principle of the right wing.

Americans are finally learning that, when Republicans are elected, people die – especially poor people, especially black people. God, I hope that this tarnishes the image of these scumbags enough that no Republican will be elected to national office for the next hundred years. The only thing that has made me more ashamed of our nation than this pathetic response to poor people dying was Abu Gharib.

I hate Republicans. I hate them with all my heart and soul.

41

Dan Simon 09.01.05 at 1:27 pm

The fact that those who have been left behind, or turned into refugees, are disproportionately Africian-American, poor, or elderly is simply impossible to ignore from the media coverage.

World To End Tomorrow: Women, Minorities Hardest Hit

42

abb1 09.01.05 at 1:37 pm

God, I hope that this tarnishes the image of these scumbags enough that no Republican will be elected to national office for the next hundred years.

You never know, Bush might just get a much needed boost in the polls out of this. Wouldn’t surprise me. And then anything that happens with the economy and gas prices now is not his failt, of course.

43

james 09.01.05 at 1:41 pm

firebug: If the Republican party has the power to create storms the size of Katrina your screwed anyway. No one cares about people taking food or water. The Governor of Louisiana got on television and said as much. Hospitals are being robbed. The fact that you are ignoring this suggests you do not care about the situation.

44

Firebug 09.01.05 at 2:07 pm

BUSH TO NEW ORLEANS: DROP DEAD

45

Firebug 09.01.05 at 2:09 pm

Other posters have claimed that looting of food and water is being condoned, just not looting of other items. Well, someone forgot to tell White House spokescritter Scott McClellan:

“McClellan: I think you heard from the president earlier today about his zero tolerance. We understand the need for food and water and supplies of that nature. That’s why we have a massive effort underway to continue getting food and water and ice to those who are in need. There are ways for them to get that help. Looting is not the way for them to do it.”

In other words, people should hope that the authorities can bring them food and water, and if not, then they should drop dead rather than violate Wal-Mart’s sacred Property Rights(tm).

Fuck Republicans.

46

Andrew Brown 09.01.05 at 2:24 pm

Dave Heasman has a point that matters. On any serious scale, Allen Toussaint and maybe even Fats Domino are worth more than the entire Bush administration and anyone who has ever written in its praise. That’s what civilisation means.

47

sd 09.01.05 at 2:45 pm

firebug:

Over the past two days looting in NO has periodically gotten so bad and so violent that it forced the authorities to temporarily suspend search and rescue work because rescue workers were in danger. Earlier today a gang of looters starting shooting at a rescue helicopter. As a result of these delays, it is highly likely that people died. Poor black people. Elderly people. Children. Policemen have been shot by looters. National Guardsmen have been shot by looters. The fact that looting is occuring is almost certainly causing many people – who are overwhelmingly poor – to stay in their homes rather than evacuate because they are scared that their homes will be looted. There have been incidents of looting at hospitals – where armed gangs have stolen medicine and critical supplies. As a result, patients have suffered and some will probably die.

But hey, I guess its OK for all those people – all those poor black people – to die and suffer so we can Stick It To The Man ™.

48

luci phyrr 09.01.05 at 2:54 pm

but if those savages are willing to loot their own neighborhoods for TVs and jeans, and to shoot at the helicopters trying to rescue them, then what civilizing force could possibly come to bear when they’re in Houston

Since I doubt that the people waiting to be resuced are the actual people shooting at helicopters and cops, I’m not sure who “they” refers to here.

Jet says: “the looting will leave most people with an extremely poor view of those who were left in NO.

Well, maybe. But doesn’t that take some tendency to see everyone who looks a certain way as part of the same “group”. How does “looters”=”people needing to be rescued”? Is this some kind of statement of collective punishment for those who can’t keep others from their race under control (i.e., not looting)?

“Anyone trying to explain this away by using the word “class” is going to be completely ignored…You just can’t get around the fact that the “class” of people left in NO is now without ANY police search and rescue because the [...] gangs of looters.

What does the fact that rescue operations were hindered because of security and looting concerns have to do with believing that disasters might have a social component? If you’re saying that poor people might be less likely to be rescued b/c of security concerns in their neighborhoods, I guess that’s a fair point. But there could also be differential effects across poor/rich neighborhoods from the original flooding, due to infrastructure owing to political power differences. It’s kinda pointing out that people lives “aren’t” equal. Impossible to rectify completely, but perhaps troubling to some, in a democracy.

Who knows how many cops and soldiers will be killed outright by the lawlessness. And who knows how many more civilians will die because the cops and army are busy dealing with the looters

If lefties’ first thoughts, right after a disaster, were, “look how this screws the poor, it’s not fair,” I’d say that’s a odd perspective. An academic studying the second and third order, differential effects due to socio/economic factors, seems a different phenomena. Just as a rightie emphasizing looting by undesireables in the face of a disaster killing hundreds also seems an odd choice of emphasis. The reason New Orleasns is fucked is *not* because of lawlessness hindering rescuers.

49

luci phyrr 09.01.05 at 3:06 pm

Just one more point. New Orleans is 67% black. City data from the census. The US, overall, is about 12%. If all the pictures are of black people, that’s a big reason why, all by itself.

50

dave heasman 09.01.05 at 3:21 pm

” On any serious scale, Allen Toussaint and maybe even Fats Domino are worth more than the entire Bush administration and anyone who has ever written in its praise..”

Irma Thomas is unaccounted for, too. The Nevilles are all safe, but their houses, everything, is gone.

51

Ben P 09.01.05 at 3:25 pm

Yeah, I’m going to have to back firebug here.

Looting is, lets just say, hardly the biggest concern right now.

52

Dale 09.02.05 at 4:49 am

sorry to barge in to the middle of a conversation here, but you guys amaze me. when mozambique flooded a few years back, we (south africa)in conjunction with other governments, were airlifting people off trees. mozambique! one of the poorest countries in the world.

now in america a city goes bang and you’re debating the appropriate manner in which to reply to conservatives?

you should be asking how come your country left its citizens to *find their own way out*. let me repeat that…the extent of your evacuation plan was to set a date and tell people. What was the expanded plan? to encourage them to book early?

don’t you get it? your government, republican, democrat, whatever, currently ranks you *below mozambique* as far as spending on you is concerned. that would worry me.

53

Jeff Smith 09.04.05 at 5:58 pm

This seems wildly overblown. Condi has to have a day off sometime and even if there are forms to fill out from the Canadians (and they do love forms even more than we do though, in my experience, they also tend to ignore them more often), probably the next person down the chain can do it.

This strikes me the same way that people ranting about the salaries of the president and congress do: it is focusing on a tiny tree instead of a large forest. Government is all about corruption. Guys with guns (er, the power to tax) take stuff from some people and give it to other people, usually under the pretense that it in some way aids the other people. Low salaries for elected officials or sour looks when they take a day off is not going to change the fundamentals of the system and, indeed, serves mainly to distract attention from them. It is trivia compared to the fundamental corruption that defines the system, even in relatively well run systems like that in the US (and not like that in Louisiana).

Plus being lectured by someone from South Africa, which is standing by while Mugabe decimates his country, is a bit rich even for the comments section on a blog.

Jeff

54

dale 09.05.05 at 4:27 am

hi jeff

I don’t run mugabe or zimbabwe, and trying to duck my point, or dismiss it on those grounds is a crude argument ad hominem, as well as being cheap.

i work in development aid in sub-saharan africa, so i’m familiar with the scenario of disaster recovery and the deployment of aid.

i am also capable of distinguishing between the government and the citizenry, something that you seem unable to do. if i were to conflate them, i might say:

being lectured by someone from america while the government of that country decimates afghanistan and iraq, actively campiagns for the destruction of the elected government of venezuela, and washes its hands of its dying poor in new orleans, is a little rich.

my point stands: your government fails you in its most basic responsibility, *internally*, now, as well as externally – that of protecting citizens from harm – and you just stand by. that’s your business, but don’t think anyone anywhere else buys the idea that it’s a meaningful position you take. you bought a lemon.

as for the fundamental corruption of government: i think we agree. though, i think you assume, extrapolating from your experience (US), that corruption’s a necessity, and therefore need not be noted. if that’s true, that’s it’s a triumph of your system that you think so.

55

dale 09.05.05 at 4:28 am

as for my first post – yes, I was amazed. it shows.

regards

Dale

56

dale 09.05.05 at 5:10 am

never mind, guy. the debate’s irrelevant.

Dale

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