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Of anarchy and thin veneers...

Following the horrifying stories that are unfolding in the aftermath of Katrina, it is difficult for the mind to single out any one of them as more tragic than others. I listened to a woman cry on the radio because her dog was left behind in her apartment and her apartment was washed away; I watched a video clip of seven little children rescued and transported to Houston but their mother is missing; Sick, elderly and disabled victims who have died because they couldn't be helped in time; People have lost their homes, loved ones, jobs - Life as they knew and enjoyed it - is no more! Overnight - with just one stroke - Mother Nature has wiped the slate clean for all these people and so dramatically changed their lives that it is difficult for even the most empathetic amongst us to feel their angst!

Amidst all this tragedy emerges an even bigger one - the ensuing chaos, looting and anarchy. In the days of yore when Time stretched endlessly and I devoured books, I read and reread Lord of the Flies at least 10 - 12 times. Instead of the mind getting numbed by how each boy evolves and catapults the novel along its' inevitable path of destruction and disintegration, I have come to realize that it only holds up a mirror to the society we live in and thus - I can bear to read it no more.

New Orleans now seems to have become Golding's island! Were he alive today, he'd probably have reminded us all that he "told us so" decades ago - that the dividing line between civilization and primitivity is a very thin one - that the beast cannot be killed because it is within us, not without - that Man may have walked millions of miles away from his primordial roots but can step back into it in a matter of minutes.

How long, I wonder, would it take for the veneer of civilization to be peeled away from each of us - what would our threshold be when our lives are stripped bare of all sense and meaning - when we see our family suffering; when we don't know when, if ever, we'll have a roof over our heads - when fine dining doesn't just fade away into a distant memory - when we can grouse again about fighting traffic and driving to work every morning - when the clothes on our bodies are not donated by charity ?!?!

The tsunami devastation last year was a thousand times greater in magnitude than Katrina's - changing not just lives but even topographies of entire regions - yet most of the emerging stories were about the humanity that was awakened in many - there were stories of pillaging and plundering but in terms of ratio these were negligible. I keep wondering about the disproportionate disparity between the two disasters - I wonder if the tsunami-affected areas were so steeped in poverty already that many of the victims didn't really have the luxury of losing anything significant - while there are no easy answers, the toughest one to face is - what would we do if confronted with the same plight - how long would it take for our veneers to crumble and our inner beasts to awaken?!?!


Posted by bkelley on 2 September 2005
It also had a lot to do with how fast military and security forces were deployed in what was primarily a humanitarian role. However, you're less likely to try something when you aren't sure when a heavily armed military helicopter is going to show up over the tree tops.
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