Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hobbes in New Orleans

Hobbes in New OrleansI got this picture off the New York Times website. It is a photo of two people in New Orleans preparing to defend their property and provisions from looters.

This photo reminded me of an insight I had about a month ago. My apartment building, always periously close to the Hobbesian state of nature, lost the use of its trash bin for several days. Noticing the rapidity with which a mountain of garbage accumulated where the trash bin had been, I realized that the line between civilization and barbarism is a lot thinner than we would like to believe. Canabalism lies this way, I thought.

While the nation is moved by the ongoing tragedy in Louisiana and Mississippi, for the people there, the veil of civilization has been swept away. Many have responded generously; for others, apparently, survival means each man for himself.
On a less misanthropic melodramatic note, I was listening this evening to a podcast of Rachel Maddow guest-hosting the Al Franken show from yesterday. She was really fired up over the part government mismanagement has played in the disaster. She reported on a federal government report from early 2001 that listed the worst potential disasters that could face America as: an earthquake in San Francisco, flooding in New Orleans, and a terrorist attack in New York. Nevertheless, the President cut funding for hurricane and flooding preparation in New Orleans after 9/11, instead diverting resources--including national guard troops and supplies--to Iraq. When people consider the damage from this disaster, it is not going to reflect well on this administration, which was on vacation as the disaster unfolded.


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