Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina and Her People

(P1) Philosophical

Where there is no vision, the people perish.

-Proverbs 29:18-

This is not a political statement. In fact, in (P2) Political, I will call for bipartisanship of the first order. My former philosophy professor, Jacob Needleman, has written one of the more profound and important books of the decade. I wondered when I'd mention it here. The horrific aftermath of Katrina calls all Americans to the task of self-reflection. What does it mean to be American? What is the truth of America? These are the questions Needleman tackles in his book The American Soul (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, NY 2002).

His premise is that the soul of America, its greatness, issues from its great ideas as in those of Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, Douglass, Roosevelt, Kennedy, etc. The paucity of great ideas today gives us a starting point in our desperate search for America's lost soul.

It is ever so sad that it might have taken America's worst natural catastrophe with its horrendous displacements, deprivations, and loss of life to get Americans truly thinking once again about who we are and what we're about.

(P2) Political

But for starters, it's going to take more of the material than the abstract to help the millions displaced and destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. This effort must be totally bipartisan. Recriminations are out of place at this point. The time to review will come soon enough. For now, here are a few places for us common folk to begin our efforts

(P1) Poetical

Sneaking Out The Horseman

We live here right next to dying people,
next to awful tribulation and misery,
and it’s not just that we all act
as if it were no concern of ours,
but we’re even protected, spared
any possibility of coming into contact with it,
or seeing it.
And now they’ll sneak the horseman out
while we’re eating supper or breakfast.

- Thomas Mann –The Magic Mountain-

And with the Austrian horseman gone,
the knowing reader asks both “why” and “where”
The “why” is mostly philosophical,
how the horseman came to ride,
how the horseman came to die.
But to ask him “Wither goest?”
presumes that he too is a poet searching.
Only art attempts to plumb this depth;
Where he’s going, to a horseman spreads before him
jointly chosen by both man and mare,
but is not all of this in every way rhetorical
- ever since they snuck its rider out
while we picked at either supper or our breakfast –
like seeking knowledge from the horse’s mouth?


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Anonymous said...

Just one comment about this monstrous situation: Money is desperately needed right now. Husband of one of my staff members is with FEMA, working on the disaster. Above all he recommends not sending any goods -- that jams things up -- but sending money through Salvation Army, Red Cross and Catholic Charities. The NY Times has on several occasions said that Catholic Charities works most efficiently in situations like this. He also says that almost all religious organizations have charitable arms that are pretty effective. .. . In a few months, schooling for children in the area is going to create a massive challenge. The education community has been pulling together on this since the first day, and that's very encouraging. Chiara

Michael Matthews said...

I think the turmoil is too predictable...people think I am a pessimist, but I
might be more objective about these things than otherwise thought... America, especially corporate America, keeps pushing the limit of the natural boundaries, building, digging, dredging to ward off the forces of the Earth and, really of the Universe...this is a "no-win" battle...right now there will be a great back lash...they (the right) will keep
pushing the envelope....they will go back to Lousiana and just build bigger levees...and they will just keep pushing bigger projects to drill and consume more oil,
fueling global warming more and more....we can't seem to live even close within our envionmental means...theconsequences are dire...

Ian McCarg wrote a book in the 1970s called "Design with Nature". The book is an eloquent appeal for designing our architecture, our highways, our urban conform with the very real cycles and living reality of a vibrant necessary life-sustaining planet on which to live. (Read This Book!) In my recollection, McCarg even provides an environmental perspective for design that would be exceedingly relevant to protecting against such horrible calamities as the one at hand.

I was just walking down the street in Berkeley, and had the following epiphany: No matter what popular culture does in our lifetime, we can choose to live within our means, conserve energy as best we can, drive cars that pollute and thereby contribute to global warming as little as possible, and admit that our material indulgence has to come to an end. We can also have compassion for the victims and provide support to them in any way we can based upon what we have or are capable of doing and giving.

Micael Matthews
Berkeley, CA

luciabrawley said...

From my MSNBC chat online with citizens of Alabama. It seems that Alabama's cities are really split down the middle on the race question inherent in the relief situation and Kanye West's heartfelt acknowledgment thereof (I begin by responding to some seriously racist undertones in people's discussion of K.W.):

Not only is Kanye West a talented, dapper and reknowned Hip-Hop artist, but he exercised his 1st Amendment right to Freedom of Speech, that was later violated when NBC cut his brave words in the Pacific Time airing. Mr. West had the courage to stand up in this milk-toast era, when nobody dares dissent publicly anymore, and voice his support for all the impoverished, predominantly African-American people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama who did not have cars or even the finances for bus fare and were provided with absolutely zero means of obeying the mayor's orders to evacuate. Why has the military arrived only now? Why weren't they there to instill order and facilitate evacuation beforehand? Please don't tell me the government didn't see the same weather reports we all saw, portending the worst hurricane this country has seen, totally demolishing New Orleans. It is largely the bodies of poor black people washing up and the living black people who are stranded, now. If this were Upper-Middle- and Middle-Class White people, stranded and relegated to squalid, undignified and dangerous conditions, they would have undoubtedly been provided with a means of escape and instant relief. Oh, yeah: they wouldn't need it because they're Upper-Middle- and Middle-Class, so they have cars and bus fare. Bush only empathizes with the Upper Class. From the swankiest part of Connecticut, not Texas, he was born into the utmost privilege and access imaginable and has never struggled for a cent, a grade, a job, a loophole from going to war, or his own survival. So how could we expect him to empathize with, or foresee the disenfranchisement and endangerment of, poor black citizens of the very so-called "democratic" country he is purported to "represent." The lack of foresight, care and equanimity that this administration has exhibited in this disaster comes as no surprise, since it is the same dearth we have witnessed since the day Bush stole the office in 2000. Kanye West was not disrespectful this evening. He respected himself, his country and his people enough to tell it like it is. He had compassion for poor black people that Bush certainly has never had. And he challenged all the citizens of this great country to exercise the same compassion for our fellow citizens, regardless of color or creed.

luciabrawley said...

From another blogger on MSNBC:
Posts 33

The levee system is about 100 years old. It's all over the news that Bush's administration cut the funding to the Army Corps of Engineers to upgrade the levee system. Watch/read the news. Bush and his adminstration has really screwed this country up. I miss Clinton. His only problem was keeping it in his pants. . . that I can deal with. Death of too many Americans I can't.

Edward Coletti said...

Lucia, thanks for the Kanye West blogs. I'd heard about his remarks but saw only a bit of them on the West Coast. Kind of stupid of the administration and NBC to cut out the "offending words." Now that will be the talk of the world. One thing missed in the comments about black folks that you sent us is the numbers who die in our wars, the same wars that Bush and his cronies avoided. Should I be proud of having served in Vietnam? Prouder than hypocritical politicians who dodged it but still hide behind the flag. Finally, with regard to the comment about Bill Clinton, I think he also abandoned his base when he went for so called "welfare reform" and subsituted "managed care" for "healthcare." You might also be interested in Ariana Huffington's remarks about him in her blog today.
She referred to him as Bill Clinton, Suck-Up-in-Chief
Posted September 2, 2005 at 9:40 p.m. EDT

What the hell was Bill Clinton thinking, standing there next to President Bush and providing verbal cover for the administration's ludicrous claims that the problems plaguing New Orleans were unforeseeable?

He even defended the administration's catastrophic response to Katrina. When asked on CNN whether the federal response was fast enough, Clinton bobbed, weaved, and fell back on this utterly absurd claim: "You and I are not in a position to make any judgment because we weren't there." C'mon, Bill, "...we weren't there"? I know this sucking up business is hard, but you've got to do better than that.