Sunday, September 04, 2005

Angry and Sad

I haven't seen a television report in about a week now, as I'm at the farm and the reception is terrible here. I am grateful to not hear the pundits and the disaster cheerleaders brought to us by CNN, FOX, NBC, ABC, etc. This Internet world, while there is much to sift through, can also be a useful tool to weed out the bullshit. We choose our own perspective, I suppose. And today, I hope to find action and compassion.

I found this post today on my screen (George must have been surfing late into the night because I don't remember when he came to bed).

This is from a blogger in Bangladesh:

Daniel Brett writes a striking post "What America can learn from Bangladesh":

"Last year Bangladesh faced a natural disaster which was an altogether larger disaster than Hurricane Katrina and the casualty figures were probably lower than the casualties sustained in the New Orleans disaster. But the disaster was contained due to the survival instincts of the Bangladeshi people, their ingenuity in the face of adversity and their culture of hard work. Rather than shoot and loot, Bangladesh immediately used its modest resources to limit the impact of the floods before international aid arrived.

The fact that the economy was able to recover from the floods so soon is a testament to the ability of Bangladeshis to pick themselves up and go about rebuilding.

The Americans have never really faced such adversity...Bangladeshis place great importance to social and family ties and these have brought them through a multitude of natural and man-made disasters. Bangladesh's experiences show us that, in the face of disaster, money does not make society more cohesive or better organised."

I fear the response of the looters. What is it about human nature that all civility breaks down as soon as law & order enforcement no longer exists? Yet, from the comments above, perhaps it is not human nature that is at question, but the society from which it comes. Perhaps these folks down in New Orleans have been disenfranchised for so long that they feel it is not really their community which they destroy with their madness.

Bangladeshi blogger Mezba has things to say to the Americans which may cause heartburns to many but can these be denied?:

"We, the rest of the world, still hold the Americans to a higher pedestal than the rest of us. Like it or not, Americans are still considered a standard of excellence.

* They put a man on the moon in 3 days, but the aid took 5 days to arrive.
* Congress stayed up all night to pass the 87 billion dollars needed for Iraq’s army, but did not pass an aid bill for New Orleans since the last 5 days.
* When National Guard officials were needed to stop looting and anarchy in their home state, they were off doing the same in a foreign country thousands of miles away.

And who is suffering? Society is judged by how they treat their poorest, their weakest, and their most vulnerable citizens. The people left behind in New Orleans are certainly those. I hope, for their sake, the American government gets its act together.

Shame on us. This is more than embarrassing, it is immoral.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Dominique, we are parying that the situation gets better soon.

    Here is an interesting discussion on why society cracked.

    I hope all concerned learns from this to prevent such mess in future because we have to get on with our lives.

  3. Thanks Rezwan for your thoughts and prayers. I had read the article you linked to above and found some of it quite disturbing. I can't fully accept that this madness is the result of low IQ levels. I'll leave this one for the social scientists to fight it out (I am not one), but here are my thoughts...

    There is still an ongoing debate over whether the IQ tests are a valid measure of intelligence. Much ado has been made of the cultural bias that exists in the test.

    If the test is a good measure, is it low IQ that causes societal breakdown when disaster strikes? Or poverty? I realize there is an argument that there is a causal relationship between poverty and IQ, but even if that were true, I believe that there is a place in a well balanced society for people of all levels of intellect.

    For example, the United States used to have a thriving manufacturing sector. Much of that is now exported to various countries over the world to find the cheapest labor. We used to have an abundance of decent paying labor jobs that didn't require a high level of education (or IQ possibly). One could go to work and feel the satisfaction of earning his pay, could support his family, and be a productive member of society.

    Today, unskilled labor jobs are typically at the rock bottom of the service sector: flipping burgers at McDonalds for minimum wage or scrubbing floors at WalMart. These jobs seldom offer insurance benefits, and a family of four would be better off getting public welfare than working 60 hours a week for poverty wages.

    I can't imagine there is any satisfaction from either of those scenarios. And the person accepting welfare is no longer a productive member of society.

    This, I think, is part of the breakdown. Why not rape, pillage, and plunder when you've got nothing to lose?

    I do appreciate the Addendum and caution from Razib. And thank you for providing this link. It is certainly grounds for an interesting discussion.

    Be well.