The East Coast’s hurricane left vignettes demanding consideration, seems to me. The first is this image: Staten Island, a section of New York flooded, shocked and apparently immobilized. The next is: Gasoline, an unpretty picture of our dependence upon fuel. That’s followed by: Public Housing, another view of dependence with some 49,000 people reverting to apparently infantile behavior, defecating in hallways in reaction to the loss of water and power. And finally: 3 Days’ Wait, still another view of the storm’s destruction and people attempting to deal with it. A lot to reflect upon…
The first thought coming to mind is the fragility of our civilization. Our dependence upon transport, power, shelter and other amenities is made obvious when nature spasms and even more so when we destroy them ourselves in our conflicts. How can we name ourselves ‘sapiens’ and still build cities on seashores, floodplains, earthquake faults, in swamps and on unstable slopes, restoring them grander than before when they’re destroyed again and again? A wonder… Perhaps we’ve a gene passed to us from the ants.
And why do we invest so lavishly in furniture, decorations, clothing and ‘collectibles’? Examine any of the linked photos of people’s furniture and belongings piled on the ground in front of their flooded homes, ruined. Or in the cases of the 80 or so houses that burned during the flooding, reduced to ash. There seem better ways to dispose of hard earned wealth, though I’m no exception to such unwisdom, just curious. We are strange creatures.
It seems notable that the hurricane Katrina that damaged New Orleans (with the help of government levees) was so differently received by the city’s population than was the also devastating flooding of the Midwest not long ago. The folks in New Orleans were indignant, not at nature, but at government and expected to be saved and restored. You never heard of the travails of the Midwest; the people did what they had to do and that was the end of it.
New York/New Jersey seem a mix of the two. Career dependents in the public housing continue dependence, awaiting the government’s arrival and complaining that it hasn’t come and cared for them soon enough. They demonstrate their indignation by urinating and defecating in the hallways of the waterless buildings they inhabit and clearly do not respect. Others are helping each other and looking for ways to start cleaning up the mess. But one has to wonder, if there were no government, no Con Ed, no catastrophe responders, how many of these folk would survive? Americans once prided ourselves on being able to do what was necessary, upon our ability to take care of our own. We were referred to as: “can do” Americans. I haven’t heard that used lately, have you?