The real divide in America that Katrina revealed
Joseph wrote last September:
Missing in all of the talk of the (non) response by local and federal officials to Hurricane Katrina is the analysis of the real divide in America. The divide is not so much black/white (though it does exist) but dependent/self-reliant. Other readers agree and disagree.
Traditionalists, what many in the media call “conservative,” are largely self-reliant people that use common sense, uphold Judeo-Christian values, respect their neighbors, and generally have a civic spirit that leads them to help (maybe too much) in times of crisis. Most of them vote Republican because most of them pay taxes. They would be considered “self-reliant.”
Leftists, or what many in the media call mainstream are largely dependent people that don’t use common sense, despise (or at best parody) traditional values, have no regard for anyone but themselves, and generally have a sense of entitlement that manifests itself in times of crisis. Almost all of them vote for Democrats because most of them take taxes.
The irony is that the latter group, by their own definition and admission, cannot live without the former. Like the Communists who can expropriate wealth only after “someone else” has created it, dependents can lead slovenly irresponsible lives only because “someone else” will save them from themselves. They are nothing but parasites, disrespecting the traditionalists while at the same time demanding their help. Curiously, they understand better than the traditionalists just who needs whom.
Look at the response to the hurricane. Exactly what did the Democrats on the local (and federal level) do? Well, they did just what they always do. They cried on camera, screamed that they were being abandoned, shouted that the feds should get off “their” asses, etc. And who is the “they” that are allegedly sitting on “their” asses? Well, it was the traditionalists, the conservatives, who were actually supposed to come in and do the dirty work.
Of course, for the liberal, this is completely logical. While traditionalists believe that the government exists to serve its customers—i.e., its citizens/taxpayers, leftists believe the government exists to serve its employees. The government agencies are not exactly supposed to accomplish anything. They are just supposed to pull enough heartstrings to encourage “someone else” to do something. They are supposed to give out checks to people whose only contribution to society is to not destroy it via looting and rioting. The purpose of electing Ray Nagin was not to have someone govern the city. It was a placebo so that blacks could feel good about themselves by having someone who looks (and thinks) like them in office. It is “someone else” who is actually supposed to govern in an emergency.
Consider also the New Orleans Evacuation Plan. As many have pointed out, the city had a plan but 1) never used it and 2) the plan did not specify what to actually do in an emergency. A traditionalist would consider this a failure of leadership. But the liberals would not.
In fact, from the liberal standpoint, the evacuation plan was a resounding success, one of the most eminently successful plans in history, because it achieved its real purpose. It provided make-work jobs and government checks to a welter of lumpen slobs who have neither the skill nor the desire to work in the free market—i.e., the Real World. It allowed the bureaucrats to look like they were doing something. And it attracted money to divert into the pet projects that big city machine politicians so love. If the plan did not actually save anyone, that is “someone else’s” fault. Which, of course, shows the need for ever more government spending to waste on ever more make-work jobs programs that will accomplish ever more of nothing.
The ones mainly to blame are the suckers, the “someone else’s” who, out of either fear or a misplaced sense of Christian charity, keep on underwriting this self-destructive lifestyle with their volunteer efforts and (unreturned) goodwill. Only when the dependents realize that they will not be coddled, and that the self-reliants are able and willing to use any means necessary to defend themselves against these bogus claims, will such leeching cease.
We should thank Mother Nature, not curse her. Without the headache of a Bolshevik revolution or a race conflict, she exposed the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the dependent lifestyle.
Mark D. writes:
Your correspondent wrote:
“We should thank Mother Nature, not curse her. Without the headache of a Bolshevik revolution or a race conflict, she exposed the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the dependent lifestyle.”
The opposition of the “self-reliant” and the “dependent,” as set up by your correspondent, is extremely misleading, and shouldn’t be employed.
All modern people are “dependent,” and extraordinarily so. Moderns are 99% dependent on others for the necessities of life, whether it be shelter, food, communication, transportation, security, fire protection, medical care, etc. There may be a few hundred Americans, currently alive, who a truly self-reliant, and who could provide for themselves if called upon to do so, but the vast majority can’t.
Thus, the talk of “self-reliance” among moderns is an oxymoron; it is also self-delusional. When this kind of terminology is used by moderns, it means that some people earn sufficient cash to purchase what they need, assuming what they need will be available and will be provided by others.
The test is whether a community is self-reliant as an organic whole, and can cope as a community under stress. a community, by definition, takes care of its own, and understands the web of dependency within the community and makes sure its weakest members are protected in times of trouble.
The failure in New Orleans was within a particular group of people who had no community on which to depend in a time of crisis. Their community, if they have one, failed. This is the central criticism of the welfare state: it breaks down and undermines the normal community formation that functions to protect its members under all circumstances; in contrast, the social welfare state actually provides incentives for a community to fall apart. It also misleads people to place their trust in the government, rather than in their families and their community, which is often a fatal mistake (One could extrapolate and allege this is symptomatic of modernity in general as community continues to break down; only in an atmosphere of community breakdown would some feel entitled or feel a need to indulge the fantasy that they were “self-reliant”).
I saw the pictures from New Orleans. It appeared to me that what I witnessed was not a failure of government, but a failure in community, and that failure has probably been in place for decades and nobody cared.
Your correspondent Joseph expounds upon an issue that Katrina helped illuminate for me as well. My roommate subscribes to “Newsweek” and I’ll occasionally browse through an issue when I need a laugh. Way back in September, the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina was the subject of the cover story. In one of the opening paragraphs of this story there was a quote from Barack Obama. Sen. Obama said, “These people [New Orleans residents] weren’t just abandoned by the government after Hurricane Katrina; they’ve been abandoned by their government for a long time.” This is an outstanding example of the self-reliant/dependent divide that Joseph wrote about. Obama spoke as if the mainly black residents of New Orleans were children who need the federal government to take care of them in almost all aspects of their lives. The residents of crime-ridden New Orleans are just “problem children”; their misbehavior is therefore the fault of everyone’s omnipotent parent, the federal government. I personally find the idea of a healthy, normal-functioning adult being “abandoned” to be laughable on its face. Children and pets can be abandoned; they don’t have the means to take care of themselves. This should not be the case with any healthy, grown man or woman.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 15, 2006 07:35 AM | Send
The more I thought about this quote the more I came to same realizations as Joseph. There really is a tremendous intellectual and moral divide between the self-reliant and the dependent; this divide becomes glaringly evident in times of crisis.