Thursday, September 29, 2005

Disasters, Natural and Unnatural

If you haven't read the essay over on Harper's by Rebecca Solnit, have a look.

It's partly about New Orleans/Katrina, but wider ranging -- about disaster in general and the failure of our social policy over the past thirty-odd years in specific, how that's leading to the utter disasters we now see exploding around us. (No one could have forseen the collapse of the levees!)

My favorite bits:

Disasters are almost by definition about the failure of authority, in part because the powers that be are supposed to protect us from them, in part also because the thousand dispersed needs of a disaster overwhelm even the best governments, and because the government version of governing often arrives at the point of a gun. But the authorities don't usually fail so spectacularly. Failure at this level requires sustained effort. The deepening of the divide between the haves and have nots, the stripping away of social services, the defunding of the infrastructure, mean that this disaster—not of weather but of policy—has been more or less what was intended to happen, if not so starkly in plain sight.


When we look back at Katrina, we may see that the greatest savagery was that of our public officials, who not only failed to provide the infrastructure, social services, and opportunities that would have significantly decreased the vulnerability of pre-hurricane New Orleans but who also, when disaster did occur, put their ideology before their people.

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