Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Name:
Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

1.9.05

Arrogance

I've been watching CNN and Fox News (yes, Fox) cover Hurricane Katrina. So far it appears that at least the media hasn't completely politicized it. Sure, some people on the street are pissed off at the mayor of New Orleans, and some blogs are whining about various piddling crap, but that's what blogs do, don't they?

As you can tell by the title of the post, I have thoughts. They may be new thoughts, or they may be recycled thoughts. They may be inappropriate, they may make people angry, but they're my thoughts. I'm more than a little pissed off about the aftermath of the hurricane.

Interestingly enough, I have read two different posts about how we should give up on New Orleans. This one I found at the the Disgruntled Chemist, while this one I found at Ace of Spades. As the Chemist points out in his post, humans are arrogant. Just read the response to the second post: the woman who doesn't want to give up New Orleans calls those who do "pussies." Charming.¹

This is an intriguing idea, although it won't go anywhere. Cities don't last forever, after all. Just look at Quentovic and Dorestad. (Okay, those examples are from 1200 years ago, but the point remains.) Andrea (the "pussy" woman) says she has a sentimental attachment to N'Awlins. Well, there's that. But the fact remains that it's a stupid place to put a city, it had poor defenses against flooding, and the United States government will probably do very little to address the reasons why this particular hurricane was so devastating. That's where the arrogance comes in.

Humans are a particularly arrogant species. That's what makes things like Katrina so interesting to me. I am sympathetic to the thousands of people who have lost their homes and the thousands who lost loved ones, but at the same time, stuff like this fascinates me, because of the reaction to it by our leaders and by "normal" Americans. Let's look at what is going on in the Gulf states and how we created the problem.

Yes, that's right. I'm blaming humans, or more specifically, human arrogance. You'll note I'm not blaming our fearless leader, although he deserves some of it. This goes back further than his little regime, though. First, the location itself. Only human beings could be so idiotic as to put a major metropolitan area between two large bodies of water on an isthmus that is below sea level. Who thought that would be a good idea? Second, we have destroyed the wetlands and natural defenses in southern Louisiana and relied on manmade levees. All the water has nowhere to go except right to New Orleans, because we can't have swamps around the city - where would put the Wal-Marts? Third, and this is where I will pre-emptively blame our president and government, we won't learn any lessons from this. If we abandon New Orleans, then Mother Nature has won. Instead of examining why this happened and how we can prevent it, we'll throw billions of dollars at the city to rebuild it and make the levees a little higher. Instead of wondering if the rash of bad hurricanes recently has anything to do with global warning (and to be honest, there is debate about it, and I'm not smart enough to know what's right or not), we'll chalk it up to an "act of God." In the wake of the disaster, with gasoline prices skyrocketing even more than they have been, will we look at how to decrease demand for energy, or invade Iran and Venezuela? (We didn't look at how to decrease demand for drugs, so why should we with energy?) We won't do any of those things, because we're arrogant.

This isn't a purely American phenomenon, of course. The Netherlands are one bad month of rain away from being a swimming pool. Venice was founded because the people on shore were frightened of roaming invaders, but for some reason, when the invaders left, the Venetians decided living on, not near, but on water was pretty cool. Ask any Venetians these days why they're all renting, not buying. People worldwide cheerfully return to the slopes of volcanoes and settle down, convinced it won't blow again. We live in the moment and we think nothing can happen to us.

Does this mean we shouldn't live anywhere where natural disasters could strike? Of course not. We do, however, need to understand the nature does not really give a shit whether humans are around or not. We have thought several times in the past that we have mastered nature, and it just keeps fucking with us. Ask the 1500 dead on the Titanic whether we mastered nature. Ask the victims of the tsunami last year. Now, ask the people on the Gulf Coast.

This ties in with a lot of other things going on in the world today, if you'll allow me to vent about other crap.² Let's look at every liberal's favorite topic, the "war" in Iraq. This is a supreme example of human hubris. We went in without thinking about ANY consequences except the positive, rather pie-in-the-sky ones: Iraqis will love us; Iran will run cowering into a small hovel; democracy will spread like wildfire. Sure, those are nice consequences to consider, but humans are so arrogant that we rarely consider the possible negative consequences. That's fine when, say, you make wedding plans on the same day that your alma mater plays Michigan, but it's not okay when it leads to the death of 2000 Americans and thousands of Iraqis. I don't agree with the war, obviously, but what bothers me more than the fact of the war is that Bush and Co. never even thought about what might happen if it didn't go swimmingly. We've seen this sort of thinking before. Do the words "World," "War," and "One" have any meaning to this Administration?

The arrogance extends to human knowledge. A poll that was just released shows 64% of Americans favor teaching intelligent design along with evolution and "letting kids make up their own mind." Yeah, that's a great fucking idea. First, why do people pretend they understand everything? Most people, I would bet, think this is a good idea because they have no idea about how evolution works. They don't like science, they don't get science, and so they believe that ID is science. Let me give you a clue: it's not. Therefore, it shouldn't be taught in science class. Also: I have taught high schoolers. We shouldn't allow them to decide what kind of clothes they should wear, much less whether evolution is correct or not. I'm sorry to be snotty, and I know at least one of my ex-students reads this, but a good 90% of high schoolers can't decide whether they should rent Scary Movie 2 or Scary Movie 3 on a weekend night. In our arrogance, we have decided that children have the capability to decide something like this. Not only that, but ID itself is arrogant. We DO NOT want to believe that we evolved, because it messes with our "special" place in the universe that me believe we occupy. Our place in the universe is hammered into us by religious types, the same types who, suspiciously enough, are behind intelligent design. If we embrace evolution, we have to accept that the only reason human beings and not dinosaurs are running things on this planet is because of a lucky comet smacking into us a while back (or something like that). Intelligent design, which is really a fancy word for creationism, confirms our special place in the universe. It makes our arrogance holy.

Of course, the rebuilding of the World Trade Center (the Freedom Tower) is another example of arrogance. Oh, I know that if we don't rebuild it, the terrorists win and all that shit, but to build a target seems to me the height of hubris. Again, we shouldn't just abandon the cities and go live in trees on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, but it's kind of like Timothy Treadwell - you poke the bear, the bear turns on you. I'm not saying we shouldn't poke the bear, but we shouldn't be surprised when the bear turns on us. Because we're arrogant, though, we're surprised.

So what will we get? We'll get Congress voting to give $10 billion dollars to relief efforts. We'll get George Bush flying over the wreckage looking pensive and melancholy. We'll get the governor of Louisiana saying defiant things - as if the hurricane cares. We'll get debates over whether or not the New Orleans Saints should play football to give the people of the city something to take their minds of the disaster.³ Will we discuss a holistic plan to prevent this from happening again, or at least lessening the impact? No, because "holistic" is some fancy word academics made up that means "Communist." If we abandon N'Awlins, after all, the terrorists win. Will we study if the hurricanes are getting worse and if there is a human reason for it? Shit no. God gave us dominion over this big blue marble! (Notice again that I'm not saying it's true - I just think we should study it). Will we learn anything at all?

Probably not. Tits-for-beads will be back in business in a few years, and the alcohol will be flowing freely. Because now that it's happened once, it can never happen again, right?

¹ I suppose it's not the time nor place to wonder at a woman who insults people by calling them pussies. I guess it's like ethnic groups that are allowed to make fun of "their own." Somehow I have a feeling if I started calling people "pussies" I'd lost my miniscule female audience, which is, let's face it, how it should be. Anyway.
² And, hell, it's my blog, so I can!
³ Given the Saints' history, maybe not that good an idea.

10 Comments:

Blogger Ashley said...

I agree with your post. My meteorology/climatology professor always ranted about how it should have been "criminal" to develop and settle, New Orleans. What is happening there is Social Darwinism - 100%. The poor, the elderly, and the sick, and in some cases, the unwise, are all suffering. I am not suggesting that any of these people are intrinsically inferior, but they were/are truly susceptible to the results of this horrible disaster. Very sad....

1/9/05 5:27 PM  
Blogger N said...

Can Bush's war on terror be blamed for some of the lawlessnes and desperation? Absolutely. Funding wasd cut from New Orleans disaster relief prep packages advised by Clinton staffers and those funds diverted to the Iraq quagmire.

See this story

1/9/05 7:00 PM  
Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

Interesting post. I was reading some commentary after the flooding along the Mississippi River a few years back that suggested that people oughtn't to be building salong a river that floods periodically, and thee seems to be some logic to that. But itsn't the same same sort of hubris when one builds cities in a desert, where the homes become vulnerable to wildfires and the citizenry to water rationing? And there are other examples.

2/9/05 5:09 AM  
Anonymous leapin said...

I wouldn't call planning the wedding on the same day as PSU/UM as "hubris;" I just forgot to look at the schedule, that's all... :P

2/9/05 5:57 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

That's a good point, Roger. But we're talking about New Orleans, damn it! Wherever people live, they have to account for nature and try to live in some symbiosis with it. We certainly don't here, and whenever anyone mentions a water policy, people freak out. In 20 years I'll be blogging about how no one lives in Phoenix anymore because all the water is gone.

And Dave, it's totally hubris. You thought you could play GOD!!!!!

2/9/05 7:26 AM  
Blogger layne said...

"Shit, they're below sea level" was my first thought when this thing started.
Being a jaded Canadian, I'm fairly desensitized to things like bureaucratic hubris, political irresponsibility, and community prejudice, but Katrina's aftermath makes ambivalence impossible. The complete breakdown of the community breaks my heart, and I'm simultaneously relieved and pissed that I don't have cable CNN or FOX. I wouldn't leave the house.
Did anyone catch the with radio interview of NO's mayor? Powerful stuff.

2/9/05 8:15 AM  
Blogger Krys said...

I know we discussed this last night, but was it horrible that my first thoughts about the tragedy in New Orleans were about the lost architecture & antiques? People come & go. Most do so without contributing anything worthwhile to society, but those gorgeous antebellum homes can last for hundreds of years.

I just can't imagine all that beauty gone forever.

When I read the newspaper, I began to realize the magnitude of human tragedy & the horror of losing your family. In light of that, losing your home & possessions isn't such a big deal. There are worse things...like having your child disabled in a car accident!

On a lighter note...Wow kids can decide what is fact & faction with regards to science? I wish I had thought of that in high school. I would have said that I don't believe in Physics! Gravity? Sheesh! Everyone knows that the reason we're not all flying around is because God wants it that way!

That just made me think of The Simpsons: Homer commenting on Lisa'a defective perpetual motion machine. "In this house we obey the laws of Thermodynamics, young lady!"

2/9/05 9:14 AM  
Blogger Roxy said...

Very excellent points, Greg.

2/9/05 9:26 PM  
Blogger The Cynical Mind said...

I have admired your posts (past and present), but I have to say that your post has some invalid (as well as valid) points. New Orleans is the ideal place to build a city. It is between the Gulf of Mexico (the entry point of alot of goods going to the midwest), and the Mississippi River (the river that connects the midwest to the Gulf of Mexico). New Orleans started off as a land that was at sea level. If it was originally below sea level, it would be a lake (theres no places that are surrounded by 3 bodies of water, yet arent lakes). The reason that New Orleans is below sea level today is because that it was originally a swamp, with very saturated soil. Once people started building on it, the land began to sink. To prevent flooding, the powers at be at the time (I don't know which elected officials at what time decided to build the levees). Why did they build a city on swamp land? Probably because there was little planning into the whole Manifest destiny thing the United States had going on. Of course, theres alot of places that are between 2 bodies of water, and arent sinkiing. Like New York City (my home town). Granted New York isnt on much swamp lands. And I don't think we should abandon a city just because of a Category 5 hurricane. We didnt abandon Oklahoma City after what McVeigh did. We didn't abandon the United States after George W Bush was elected, and why should we evacuate New Orleans? I mean, if we can survive things like domestic terrorism, or domestic idiocy, then domestic incompetence, I mean a hurricane shouldn't be a problem (sorry, I got sidetracked).

3/9/05 10:16 PM  
Blogger john sweet said...

I shant get too involved with views and political ideals...

It was my understanding though that New Orleans is only surrounded by water because the mighty Mississippi had been diverted around the city. And, this is not the first time the city has flooded and lives have been lost. It has happened at least three times in the past, though the cost of human lives was not as great as it was this time.

What sickens me more is how the entire disaster is being used as a smokescreen and blanket excuse for rising gasoline prices. What a load of bullshit. We were coming upon the holiday weekend and gas prices were going to be raised anyways (supply and demand folks). However, the hurricane came along and caused us to shut down 90% of our offshore oil drilling operations in the gulf which supplies us with 20% of our oil. With the American populace fleeced into believing that oil is the answer to everything, gas prices were catapulted to the same prices Germany paid some five years ago.

Oil and that lost twentyish percent is not the problem. The problem is our ability to refine. We have not built a new refinery in decades. Our methods are outdated. In a world where computers have new technology released on a weekly basis, we remain in the stone-age as far as our capabilities at refining are concerned. To make it worse, instead of taking steps to build refineries (because we know oil and gas are finite... why invest?) or come up with technologies to increase production or work "smarter, not harder" we instead go all in for coal (I believe Krys had something to say about this over at Angry Liberal Mommy) and nuclear power (let's build more facilities that require high levels of security in case of terrorist attacks and cost more than twice what it takes to build in order to decomission them and clean up after them).

A majority of the American populace is fleeced whenever they hear the words "democracy" (why try to spread democracy to other countries when we do not live in a democracy ourselves?) and "oil" (again, you hear "oil" and just expect to pay ten to twenty-five more cents a gallon for gasoline).

And, of course, now the finger-wagging has begun as concerns relief efforts along the coast, but especially in New Orleans. Politicians, civilians, the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, the President... oh, yay. Let's saturate television and radio with it all. It's just not worth the hassle. It does not matter on whit who is right(eous) in the matter. We will wave a flag, talk about terrorism, release some of our oil reserves, moan about rising gas prices and the Middle East (never mentioning capitalism or making headway in research of alternative energy sources)... and before you know it America will be back to normal.

With it's head blissfully in the sand.

Uncle Monster

4/9/05 6:58 AM  

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