Monday, September 05, 2005

A Tale of Two Cities 

August 2005, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA: Katrina, perhaps the most devastating Hurricane to ever hit a coastal city in the United States has caused human suffering unlike any other in recent history. Images of a major US city literally underwater, and its resulting effect on the poor of that city have been on an endless loop in the mainstream media. The images of poor people, disproportionately black, have been shown to the world, where the residents who for some reason or other were not able to leave the city, are highlighted looting local stores, huddled in masses of over twenty thousand, and worst of all dead lying untended on the streets.

The major challenge the Bush Administration has to contend with is the lack of Federal Government response to a disaster that was forecasted to be extremely severe.

“"If it were a Category 4 storm, the scale and scope of what we would do would be much greater," Hosler said. "We would have more emergency response vehicles already pre-positioned the area. We would have more Red Cross kitchens identified and ready to open."

In fact it was known that the levee system surrounding New Orleans could not support any hurricane measuring a category 4 or better. Further, the rising waters were also known to be an aftereffect of the hurricane not a separate natural disaster as some government officials have been trying to portray. The result is the virtual drowning of an entire metropolitan area whose effects on the economy can only be speculated upon.

What Katrina has managed to do very effectively, as if its winds had a metaphysical force to extend over into the ethereal world, is to blow off the thin veneer of seemingly stable social society. The winds have blown the wool that shields the eyes of the American public and has exposed the true ugly skeleton of racial, social and class exclusion, that naturally manifests itself into the guy we see floating bags of looted beer on makeshift rafts made from the flotsam of what used to be other peoples homes. The question to ask is what condition were these people living under to have them now take advantage of what may seem like an opportunity? Can a governments will to help its citizenry be inferred by the actions it takes under trying times?

February, 2005 Vargas, Caracas, Venezuela: In February of this year, 6 months prior to the Katrina devastation the Venezuelan government also faced a challenge. Heavy rains in the mountainous region of Vargas are caused massive flooding. The Venezuelan government, however, had its finger on the pulse of the storm. When conditions got to the point where action needed to be taken to avoid a repeat of the devastating 1999 mud and rock slide that killed up to 30,000 people, it mobilized and proceeded with a coherent plan to evacuate its citizens using the nations resources to ensure their safety.

Perhaps the Venezuelan Governments actions were guided more out of weariness at a repeat of the 1999 catastrophic loss of life. But then any land mass along the Gulf area is prone to severe weather, as the US knows all too well by the several hurrcanes that have caused damage in Florida. Many times natural disasters promote the growth of economies. The devastation on one hand terrible as it may be will be cancelled out by the need to rebuild which takes money loaned and money spent. Wherein lies the heart of action in saving peoples lives? Where is to be found the act of consciously helping, at any expense? It is not hard to see why The Venezuelan Government leads by example in offering aidto even its staunchest critic. Perhaps it is in this governments nature to extend a helping hand.


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