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?!?!

 

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