I haven’t had much to say the last couple of days. When I read this I was concerned that anything I would say at this point would probably result in a visit from the Secret Service.
I did want to point out a couple of things. The first a letter containing questions and a request for a hearing penned by the Government Reform Minority Office. Add to this letter the new items we’re hearing, such as FEMA sending evacuees to the wrong state, and Brown induging in polite chit-chat when a catastrophe looms.
Norm Jenson has three good videos worth a first, second, and third look. The first is an interview with Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard. If you haven’t seen this yet, be prepared — it is not something that will leave you unmoved. You may want to watch it when you get home.
The second is an editorial by Keith Olbermann, and all I can say is that I am so glad there is someone like Olbermann who can do such a brilliant job of artculating our anger.
The third is of Jon Stewart. What Stewart provides is a way of laughing ourselves out of the immobility of the grief and the anger so that we can act. Right now, we’re acting in support of the victims of Katrina. Later, we’ll be acting against those who shirked their duty, completely gutted what was once the most efficient organization in the US government, and who dismissed an entire group of people just because the people are poor, and black, and southern.
Even now, Bush brings up WMD first, when he talks about making sure we’re prepared. WMD, then natural disasters. WMD first, because God causes natural disasters, so it’s up to God to repair the damages. Let the religious organizations deal with it. The religious organizations and the states and the counties and the cities. That way, the federal government can spend more money in Iraq.
Here’s a tidbit for you: the damage in New Orleans has cost thousands of lives, including several hundred waiting to be rescued from a ferry warehouse, and the 30 old people drowned when they were left unprotected in their beds. It will most likely cost 150billion dollars to fix, could result in devestating cultural and community shifts within one of our most important cultural and transportation cities, will pollute the surrounding area for years to come–and could have been prevented if 3 billion dollars had been set aside to fix the levees to withstand a category 5 hurricane.
Not only did we not spend this money, we removed all funding to provide any upkeep of the levee this last year — a year that scientists have said would be the worst hurricane season in history.
But more on that at a later time. Right now, I’m too unbalanced to be very articulate. Instead, I’ll point you to a writing by Dave Rogers called Change. It is by far the best work he has ever done, and one of the best writings I’ve read this year. I want to quote the whole, but will try to settle for a smaller piece:
There is something that keeps a group of people together that is more than just a paycheck. We “honor” individuals within our group as a way of renewing and strengthening that thing that keeps us together. It’s about faith, which is a word that is much abused of late. It’s about keeping faith with one another, and the really important things we believe, even if we don’t think about them much. To honor someone is to keep faith with them. Honor, the noun, is the quality of having kept faith with one’s fellows.
What happened in the failures of government in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was not something intrinsic to the nature of bureaucracies or the public sector. What happened was a failure of leadership, a failure to renew and strengthen the shared faith that makes each of us a part of something larger, and hopefully, better than we are as individuals. What happened was a failure of leadership to keep faith with us.
That failure in leadership was not an accident. It was the result of too many years of too much neglect of the value of public service. For too many years, for too many people, public service has become just a means of advancing oneself in the private sector. People with something to gain, people with a profit motive, selfish, cynical people, have blurred the ideas of authority, responsibility, and accountability. All toward the end of abusing their authority to promote themselves while neglecting or ignoring their responsibilities, oblivious to the shared faith that has become the tattered and fraying social fabric that binds us together.
That failure in leadership was not an accident. It was the product of a political system that has embraced the ways and the methods of the marketplace to manipulate people, to command their attention or distract it. To craft clever, meaningless messages intended to obscure more than to illuminate. To appeal to fear rather than courage. To value appearance over substance. A marketplace in which honesty and integrity are often perceived as impediments to a healthy bottom line.
I’ve seen a lot of folks wondering what “we” can do to address this situation, and, predictably, people are focusing on technological solutions, when what we have is not a fundamentally technological problem. It’s something far less physical. It’s a crisis of faith, it’s a kind of identity crisis about who we are as a people and what we say we believe. Because there’s a disconnect, an enormous chasm, between what we say we believe and how we manifest that belief in the leadership we choose and the other choices we make. So if you want to try to begin to “solve” this problem, I’d say your time would be better spent there than in advocating a particular technology. I will note that many of those who do will be doing so while angling for some competitive advantage in the marketplace.
There is so much more — this excerpt doesn’t do the writing justice, so, please, read the whole essay.
About the issue of focusing on a technology solution to what ‘ails’ us. This was, in part, the inspiration for the post that I created, edited, added to, and eventually deleted–leaving only a cryptic ‘never. mind’. It was inspired in part by of discussions of meetings to organize ‘disaster 2.0′ — upon reading of which left me equally enraged and despondent. I am glad, now, that I pulled my writing because Dave says what I should have said.
We can’t afford to get caught up in the anger, sadness, and the despair; the amount of work and the utter indifference of the government. If we do, we’ll never change things, and we need to bring about change. It’s not a political party change because switching the Republicans out for Democrats won’t make a difference if the Democrats bring the same marketing mindset that Dave references. (Though I strongly believe the Republicans have had their chance these last few years, and have made a right mess of it. It’s now their turn to play minority, until such time as they remember who it is they’re supposed to serve.)
It’s a change within our hearts and heads. We have to, as Dave said, learn anew about how to keep faith with each other. Marketing is talking; keeping faith is listening.
Having said that, I also listened, with thanks and relief, to Dave’s post today about the feathered dinosaur. As to my opinion of the conclusions reached, Dave, all I have to say is this:
I also noticed that Tropical Storm Ophelia is blasting the area where you live, Dave, and may strengthen into a category 1 hurricane. Luckily, there’s help.
Now, that’s scary.
Stay dry and stay well, my friend. To all of you in harms way: stay dry, and stay well.