It’s awful, watching the events unfold, but it’s twice as bad watching humanity descend to the level it has in the past few days.

The devastation Katrina has delivered is beyond anything I can properly imagine as, thankfully, I’ve never been near a hurricane of any magnitude or pretty much any kind of natural disaster of that scale. I’m not sure how I’d react to being in the conditions some of the people in that area have been subjected to, the stories coming out of what is happening to the people who took shelter in the Superdome stadium are disgusting and horrific.

There has been criticism of the President, troops are now on shoot-to-kill orders and the word “anarchy” is writ large across most headlines. There are complaints that “We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can’t bail out New Orleans.”. Why has this gone so so wrong?

All of the above acts as a preface to my current thoughts, which nestle uncomfortably aside sympathy for the people affected and disbelief at the way the disaster was handled. Remember, they had DAYS of warning that this was going to happen, this did not need to be as devastating as it was, more people COULD have been evacuated. This is, as we are constantly reminded, the most powerful nation on earth, yet the government and the people didn’t do enough.

But beside all that, I’m still struggling to understand why people are reacting in the way they are, fighting against each other, shooting at rescue vehicles, rapidly descending to acting as “animals” with rape another horrid backdrop in many of the stories. Aren’t these events supposed to unite, to tie people together in a common “let’s get through this” spirit? Or is that the reserve of the Europeans, the countries who’ve endured wars and many terrorists attacks on their own soil, who know that you MUST act together to get through these times. The bombings in London proved that spirit is still there and whilst I’m not trying to paint a glossy picture, nor pander to stereotypes, I’m at a loss and groping to find a reason why human beings would act in such a way.

Is America in that much trouble? Is this all it takes to push parts of the country off the edge of the slope? Within America there is outrage, widespread disbelief and the rest of the world looks on, sympathetic.

But surely somewhere there are heads shaking, sadly amazed and terrified at what they see. Where is the worlds “most powerful nation” headed? Should we judge a society, a country, on the actions of the few? William Golding must be turning in his grave. Of course there are reports of “good people”, people struggling to get through this, acting together, and retaining their dignity where possible amongst the chaos.

I’m not trying to make a particular point here, I’m just dazed by the events. The initial apathy of another Hurricane – they’ve got plenty of time to board up and ship out if they need to – the first reports on the scale and damage – yikes, that’s pretty bad – then the reports of the aftermath, the conditions, the looting, the killings – what the hell is going on over there? – and still it continues. Hopefully conditions will improve soon.

The Red Cross are taking donations, the world’s press are at the scene, hopefully things will calm down soon.

See Also:
“In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City.” – Salon article (requires viewing an ad to get at the entire post).
Mayor of New Orleans speaks – passions running high.