August 30, 2005
Katrina: Purity Redefined
The media is abuzz with news, analysis and coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
I view part of the coverage as essential (especially to folks who are most impacted by the storm and need information on what to do, where to go, etc.) -- but I can't help but feel like a vulture...a horrible, ineffective voyeur watching and listening to the coverage from the safety and comfort of my apartment.
Hundreds of people are dead.
Thousands more are without homes, food, power, water and information.
Millions are in the dark tonight – scared and afraid.
Fear must be palpable.
A quick search for the meaning of the name Katrina yielded a response that is frightening and fitting. Katrina means purity.
Nature, in-and-of-itself, is pure. It simply exists. It is motiveless even at its most destructive.
We cannot say the same thing for people.
I'm dismayed by the coverage of the looting occurring through parts of the South – I keep seeing images of folks walking out of a tore-up Walgreen’s with some Similac, water and Pampers in hand. The images make me angry. For a variety of reasons.
Looting, as Webster's defines it, means to rob especially on a large scale and usually by violence or corruption.
So -- if the theft of goods from a tore-up Walgreen’s is looting, what do we call the actions of the individuals on Wall Street who financially benefited from the surge in oil prices today after news of Katrina's impact?
Wasn't that looting, in a way? It seems a bit corrupt to financially benefit from a violent, natural disaster. And motives – more than meteorology – impacted those decisions.
Living and breathing people – just like the New Orleans' looters -- made the decision to increase their profit margins today by selling oil at higher prices. I imagine those folks have a lot of loot in their pocketbooks right now, seeing that oil soared above $70/barrel.
I imagine some folks are going home tonight a helluva lot richer than they did when they went into work this morning. But I bet it's not the folks living in New Orleans.
Now, I dunno about you -- but my ass is broke.
I just ate my last piece of frozen chicken and all I have in my refrigerator is some Kool-Aid and half-a-bottle of Plum Sauce. My pantry has some Ovaltine, some Kraut Juice and some flour in it. If a storm swept through the South Side of St. Louis with the intensity of Miss Katrina, I wonder what I would do?
If I were stuck in a devastated urban area with no electricity, no food, no water and a can of Kraut Juice, I might stroll on out to a busted-up Walgreens, too.
Naw...I'd hit Starbucks and the cigarette store...
I don't know what I would do, honestly.
And today I’m having a very hard time understanding the difference between looting a Walgreen's for Similac and leveraging a portfolio of oil futures. I am having a hard time understanding the difference between hardcore theft and compassionless profit.
I doubt I’d steal if I were in the situation so many folks are living in right now…but I have to concede that adversity and destruction will bring out the worst in people.
But so will indifference and greed.
Posted August 30, 2005 08:28 PM
Has anyone noticed that people cite the fact that there are not enough refineries to supply the demand for gas (the main desired byproduct of oil refinement) and because "the big easy" had so many refineries, gas prices are going up. However, can anyone explain to me, why the price of unrefined crude oil (of which output has remained largely unchanged) keeps going up? It's because they think you're stupid and can’t engage in critical thinking skills. What is the value of oil if it cannot be refined into things we need? Thus, why does it accrue in value when it’s just going to sit in holding tanks anyways?
Instead of bike riding and interrupting the traffic of gas guzzling machines, thus burning more oil than it saves, (I mean how many people see a gaggle of bike riders impeding traffic and think "gee what a swell idea", before they scream "get outta the way you bike riding piece of Sh!T!), I think we should focus on regulating the oil industry from price gouges and search for alternative technologies like Bio diesel, hybrid cars, hydrogen and the like while making it profitable to do so. Why is Exxon getting a piece of that half billion dollar charity check (recently approved in the energy bill which does nothing for the USA in terms of energy efficiency, lowering emissions or getting us off the middle-east teet), and not the auto industry to help subsidize the manufacture and research of high efficiency vehicles?
So instead of ruining someone’s day by contributing to the traffic jam in Times Square, ride your ass over to a rally that promotes more progressive thinking about energy consumption. Force the government and the auto industry to take note the people are demanding we rid ourselves of dirty foreign oil burning means of transportation. Perhaps they will do what they are supposed to do and serve the people they are supposed to cater to (especially if there is money in it). You have to demand it in order to get it. However, you must also connect your demands with something that is practical, attractive and makes sense. Stopping the traffic of energy inefficient vehicles, upsetting the normal commuter, doesn’t link the actions with the desired message. You’re just pissing me off unless you look great in spandex.
-- posted by: tim on August 31, 2005 02:35 PM
I look at it this way: I can't condemn "looters" who are taking food, water, diapers, formula and medicine -- in other words, the necessities needed to keep themselves and their families alaive and reasonably healthy. That's survival, and you can bet your ass that if a storm devestated my area, I'd be doing whatever was necessary to keep my family intact and alive.
I can even see taking guns and ammo, because civil society is broken, at this point, and likely to stay broken for a long while. "Protection of self and family" falls into the above category, in my book.
Now, assholes stealing jewelry, luxury goods (and who the HELL needs a big-screen TV when there's no damn electricity, and won't be for MONTHS?), and generally running amok ARE LOOTERS, and deserve to be punished.
-- posted by: CrankyProf on August 31, 2005 09:56 AM
Right on, Rob. But there IS a difference...what's happening on Wall Street isn't against the law (though maybe it should be). Looting for necessities is one thing, but a lot of what is going on in New Orleans is looting of jewelry, appliances (what the hell people...you don't have POWER!), etc. It's sickening to see that in my former hometown. To the previous poster...I'm sorry you don't believe in God, but if you did you would know that God does not hate and he sure as hell doesn't give a damn about political affiliation.
-- posted by: Lila on August 31, 2005 09:24 AM
I can't help it, but every time I see the footage, all I can think of in my head is:
"See, God hates people who can't read and vote for Republicans."
Then I realize I don't believe in any gods, there are a few people worth saving in LA and MISS and I go back to my tea and think about why people insist on building homes on the sides of unstable hills prone to mudslides (CA) or at the base of a river delta (New Orleans).
-- posted by: Drub on August 31, 2005 03:19 AM