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THE WORST OF TIMES
Why steal TVs when there is no power?

Why shoot at policemen and rescue helicopters and neighbors who planned ahead and prepared for worst-case?

Why add to the hurt and the pain?

Is the veneer of civilization really so thin?

It's easy to sit here, so far away, in the warmth and cozy darkness of my home, with running water and lights shining in the windows and shake my head in wonder and despair. If it was my children starving and my house in a soggy pile around me, what would I do? I wouldn't be shooting people for their generators, no matter how desperate I was. Would I? If my children were dying and I was turned away, with no hope, knowing that time was running out, what would I do?

I don't want to write about this. I haven't even watched any footage on TV. The CNN website headlines and the few photos are enough to bite ragged holes in my heart. I know that if I start, I will not be able to stop, and like I did during and after 9/11, I will not be able to tear myself away from the awesome and awful evidence of our humanity.

You know, I'm not surprised, not really, at the lawlessness and chaos that has taken place, the sense of "every man for himself" and then some that was beginning to prevail in the wake of the destruction. Having read countless science fiction end-of-the-world novels, I recognize this story. The world goes to hell in a handbasket and only a brave few fight against the rising tide of brutal barbarism and selfishness.

Is it really so thin? A frail and shredding coating that we've taken for granted?

It's easy to disdain the people who stuck their heads in the sand and thought it couldn't possibly be as bad as all that, the people who ignored the warnings, the people who don't or can't or won't help themselves. It's easy to denounce the government, the authorities, the businesses and organizations for not doing enough, for not being prepared, for not moving faster. From here, it's all too easy. Someone has to take the blame and we're all searching for the one whose FAULT it is.

I've never been much of a one for giving to charities, at least not to organizations that benefit humans. My sympathies have always been with the earth, the animals: the blameless victims that are completely without defenses in the great killing dance of exploitation that humankind has unleashed. I didn't want to write about this. I don't want to view humans as blameless victims, even when some of them so patently are. It's not their FAULT that everything they knew blew and washed away; that they couldn't or didn't or wouldn't get out of the way. It's no one's FAULT. It just is.

I don't know anyone personally that was affected, that I can think of. I have online friends who I've rejoiced are safe, and real-life friends who are in shock, and I lived in Alabama for a year as a pre-teen, but I've never been to New Orleans, and only driven through Mississippi, and my connections to the area are tenuous at best. But my heart and my mind don't seem to care. They're there, along with yours, and everyone else's.

I can't put myself in the skin of someone who has watched their husband swept away from them by the rising, raging flood. I can't imagine how that dog perched on the rooftop, surrounded by water, will survive. There's no way for me to understand viscerally the thoughts and emotions of anyone who was caught, who thought it would just blow by...there are storms every year, how bad could it be?

For too many, civilization is worn like a cloak, cast off when inconvenient.

You always think it happens to others. You never think it might happen to you.

Jewelry fundraiser to help with relief efforts
Mississippi Animal Rescue League
American Humane Society Animal Emergency Services
 thoughtful
mood: thoughtful
music: Madonna—Live to Tell


Comments

I know what you mean about watching the footage and then not being able to stop. I had to push that button on my TV to switch it off because you do keep looking. I think that this hit me personally harder than the Tsunami. I don't know why. Both are equally shocking. I think that we realize that what happens to us in daily life that we can get really worked up about is nothing to what happened to those people. I think that in need and having a family that I would steal too for food or medicine. I think that it is basic survival.

My husband and I were talking about the situation right before I read your entry. I am shocked and disturbed by the lack of humanity in humanity in this situation. How does looting Foot Locker help feed your family? Why whine about how slow help is or is not coming? Why not be thankful that anyone cares to help at all? Why shoot at rescue workers and doctors when they are there to help? I just shake my head and wonder. It makes me so tired.

How does looting Foot Locker help feed your family?
Apparently such goods are being used to barter.

And can you really blame these people for crying for help? They are scared, hungry, dying. They feel hopeless and desperate. Fear does strange things to people.

No, we are not in a position to judge the vitims.

At least there are ALSO people who are helping, people who are trying, and people who are caring to balance things out, hopefully.

Yes, there are, of course. Thank God for them! I just wonder sometimes what would happen if those making the most noise just stopped and joined forces with those that are helping. Kind of like, put up or shut up.

(Anonymous)
the worse of times

Is the veneer of civilization really so thin?- I think so-www.pseudarthrosis.com

Re: the worse of times

What a sad and disheartening thought. What I hope is that even if it IS thin, people will find after a very short interval it is NECESSARY.

VERY well written. Thanks for posting. Lots to think about.

You said so much that I've been feeling so well.It is hard to write about it. Hard to try to put words around something that is so kaleidoscopically multidimensional. There are so many issues crashing up against each other--of poverty and poor leadership and poor decisions and foolishness. But in the end, in the moment, when the water is there and the destruction, it is no one's fault. And yet how respond is our fault, our responsibility. It is the poor, the elderly, the homeless who will face unimaginable gaping holes in their lives now. And it's the least we can do to send money and prayers. The most we can do? I guess try to write and talk about the things we dont want to write and talk about--for fear we'll say it all wrong.For fear our emotions will show the messiness of it. But it is messy and talking about it, writing about it, is what you and I know how to do to try to change things. Thanks for your articulateness today. I needed to read what you wrote to put things in perspective.

PS--I want to send you the fish painting, by the way. The one on my website that you liked so much. I've been trying to think of what work I'd like to send for the art book you said you were putting together a while back, and the fish seemed just right, especially since you enjoyed them. Please send your address again.

Are you serious?! Do you have ANY idea how much I was coveting that beautiful fish painting of yours!? I sat and looked at it for 15 minutes and then went back the next day and gazed again. I just LOVE it.

I agree with you about how multidimensional it is, and how trying to talk about it and wrestle our minds around a way to cope, even for those of us who are not directly affected is still important. I agree 100% that it is people's RESPONSES to such an event that are what matter, not who to blame for it happening or how its effects could have been minimized. Finger-pointing never helps.

Here's my address: Liz Slaughter-Ek, Platanvägen 25, S-24032 Flyinge, Sweden. And THANK YOU!!!!

(Anonymous)

I am absolutely one of those people who will watch 24/7. I try not to, I know it isn't good for me... I just can't help it. I blame the former newpaper reporter/journalist who resides deep inside me for intial curiousity and desire to know, and then the human being, the bleeding heart liberal, the raging (but mostly hidden) political beast all get sucked in and I'm completely torn asunder. It's an awful thing and everyone in my "real" life knows about this tendancy of mine and constanly warn me against it. My mother has called three times in the past two days to tell me to turn off CNN and turn on music instead. "You get too sad..." he says, and it's true. But this time round, I'm more mad than sad. And I have finally reached the point where I can turn it off... over saturated. I don't have the capacity to feel any angrier at a governement which should have been there, done more, bungled this hopless... I don't have the capacity to feel any more sorrow than I have already felt and still function.

I think we must be careful not to judge too harshly. The people who were left behind in New Orleans were the poor, the infirm, the elderly, the very young... people who did not have the money or the means to evacuate... some who were blantantly stupid and thought they could ride it out and a whole lot of angry junkies and criminals who made the whole thing so much more savage and ugly. But my heart still breaks for them, all of them, and I've got to tell you... I would absolutely steal for those I love, to protect whomever I could. I absolutely would. And I would not frame it as looting, I would frame it as survival.

You wrote about it better than I could, then I've been able to will myself to do. I just can't seem to write about it at all, even if I wanted to. xo wee

I totally know what you mean about being careful not to judge too harshly. Some people are SO angry and are raging around, nearly spitting with outrage, flinging blame left and right. I can't make that sort of judgement myself, partly BECAUSE I haven't watched/heard enough, and partly because I just can't. I STILL don't want to write about it.

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