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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 9/6/2005 11:25:44 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/6/2005 11:37:36 AM EDT by thompsondd]

Rebuilding New Orleans -- and America
Thomas Sowell

September 6, 2005

The physical devastation caused by hurricane Katrina has painfully revealed the moral devastation of our times that has led to mass looting in New Orleans, assaults on people in shelters, the raping of girls, and shots being fired at helicopters that are trying to rescue people.

Forty years ago, an electric grid failure plunged New York and other northeastern cities into a long blackout. But law and order prevailed. Ordinary citizens went to intersections to direct traffic. People helped each other. After the blackout was over, this experience left many people with an upbeat spirit about their fellow human beings.

Another blackout in New York, years later, was much uglier. And what has been happening now in New Orleans is uglier still. Is there a trend here?

Fear, grief, desperation or despair would be understandable in people whose lives have been devastated by events beyond their control. Regret might be understandable among those who were warned to evacuate before the hurricane hit but who chose to stay. Yet the word being heard from those on the scene is "angry."

That may be a clue, not only to the breakdown of decency in New Orleans, but to a wider degeneration in American society in recent decades.

Why are people angry? And at whom?

Apparently they are angry at government officials for not having rescued them sooner, or taken care of them better, or for letting law and order break down.

No doubt the inevitable post mortems on this tragic episode will turn up many cases where things could have been done better. But who can look back honestly at his own life without seeing many things that could have been done better?

Just thinking about all the mistakes you have made over a lifetime can be an experience that is humbling, if not humiliating.

When all is said and done, government is ultimately just human beings -- politicians, judges, bureaucrats. Maybe the reason we are so often disappointed with them is that they have over-promised and we have been gullible enough to believe them.

Government cannot solve all our problems, even in normal times, much less during a catastrophe of nature that reminds man how little he is, despite all his big talk.

The most basic function of government, maintaining law and order, breaks down when floods or blackouts paralyze the system.

During good times or bad, the police cannot police everybody. They can at best control a small segment of society. The vast majority of people have to control themselves.

That is where the great moral traditions of a society come in -- those moral traditions that it is so hip to sneer at, so cute to violate, and that our very schools undermine among the young, telling them that they have to evolve their own standards, rather than following what old fuddy duddies like their parents tell them.

Now we see what those do-it-yourself standards amount to in the ugliness and anarchy of New Orleans.

In a world where people flaunt their "independence," their "right" to disregard moral authority, and sometimes legal authority as well, the tragedy of New Orleans reminds us how utterly dependent each one of us is for our very lives on millions of other people we don't even see.

Thousands of people in New Orleans will be saved because millions of other people they don't even know are moved by moral obligations to come to their rescue from all corners of this country. The things our clever sophisticates sneer at are ultimately all that stand between any of us and utter devastation.

Any of us could have been in New Orleans. And what could we have depended on to save us? Situational ethics? Postmodern philosophy? The media? The lawyers? The rhetoric of the intelligentsia?

No, what we would have to depend on are the very things that are going to save the survivors of hurricane Katrina, the very things that clever people are undermining.

New Orleans can be rebuilt and the levees around it shored up. But can the moral levees be shored up, not only in New Orleans but across America?

Link Posted: 9/6/2005 11:37:16 AM EDT

Throwing out the thugs
Rebecca Hagelin

September 6, 2005

This famous, selfless cry for the safety of others is best associated with the tragedy of the Titanic, when thousands lost their lives in the frozen waters of the sea so many years ago. Not unlike the rising waters in New Orleans, where the ocean began to fill its natural territory after man-made walls that held it back for so long failed, so the mighty waters of the North Atlantic engulfed the damaged vessel that sought to defy nature's icebergs and open waters. But, unlike New Orleans where dry land was nearby, the Titanic was a lone ship, in the middle of the vast waters, filled with helpless souls who had nowhere to go save too few lifeboats.

The harsh reality that dreadful day in 1912 is that most of the passengers would die, and they knew it. Yet, amid the panic and impending doom, the accounts of survivors remind us of a time when civility and honor were more important to many than survival itself.

So how is that in fewer than 100 years we have digressed to a society where, when disaster strikes, the story is marked by a display of the worst side of human nature rather than the best?

Could it be that in a pop culture where the gangsta style is "hip" and is reflected and perpetuated in everything from violent rap and hip-hop music, to the clothing styles, to the language and gestures used in "normal" communication, to the negative attitudes toward females and children, that the "style" isn't just a fashion trend but has actually become a way of life for some? In other words, in a culture where many people dress like gangstas, talk like gangstas, and strut like gangstas, should we be shocked and horrified that they start engaging in gangsta crime when given the opportunity?

I can't help but conclude that if the tragic natural disaster in New Orleans had occurred in a culture that had daily practiced the Golden Rule, rather than the Gangsta Rot, we would have seen more scenes of neighbors helping neighbors and far fewer scenes of neighbors preying upon neighbors.

This is not to say that lawlessness ruled the past week in New Orleans. The fact is, it didn't. The story of the flood is filled with heroic acts of selflessness, and of desperate neighbor helping desperate neighbor even while death loomed around them. And the amazing generosity from countless Americans -- in and near the disaster areas, as well as around the nation -- is a testament to the goodness of the American people.

Still, the raping and beating and pillaging and murdering that shocked the world, for many now define not just New Orleans, but American culture.

It's time to ask ourselves a few obvious questions: Why do we as a nation produce and embrace a pop culture that glorifies rap and hip-hop music, that teaches men to prey upon women and engage in senseless violence, and that is now, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's recent survey on media and youth, the number-one music choice of teenagers from all races and every socio-economic status? Why is it that we produce, en masse, hedonistic movies, television programs, and Internet content? Why is it that we continue to make ever more graphic and violent video games for our children? Why have we allowed such selfish messages to have such a powerful voice in our culture?

Mind you, I'm not advocating government censorship, but rather pleading for social and parental rejection to replace the current proliferation and acceptance of such barbaric and destructive messages.

Other key questions -- a bit different but entirely related -- for the good people of New Orleans and taxpayers everywhere to ask of Louisiana and federal officials is: Why is it not only common knowledge but also accepted practice that organized crime and gangs hold much of the power and control much of the commerce in New Orleans? Will New Orleans return to business as usual? Or will you uplift the entire community by throwing out the thugs and their vile wares for which New Orleans is infamous? When you think about it, the values of the thugs involved in the post-Katrina crime wave really weren't all that different from those that have flooded sections of New Orleans with societal sewage for years.

Once the immediate danger has passed and the cleanup has begun in earnest, we must, as a nation, ask ourselves many questions. Along with the formal investigations into what went wrong with the local, state and national emergency plans (or lack thereof), we as citizens must also explore how our failure to teach civility, decency and morality gravely compounded the problems of an already horrific disaster.

The stories of the heroic figures of the Titanic and the civility that marked their lives and culture should not be lost. Now is an excellent time to use the lessons of history to build a better future for our children.

Link Posted: 9/6/2005 4:58:50 PM EDT
I found these articles to be spot on.
Link Posted: 9/6/2005 6:42:03 PM EDT
Nice essays! Too bad looters can't read because they went to 'gubment schools.
Link Posted: 9/6/2005 7:07:12 PM EDT
Compliments to the poster of these articles. The articles did not pull any punches; Ms. Hagelin's essay says it all...
Link Posted: 9/6/2005 7:51:41 PM EDT
Talk about hitting the nail on the head.

Hope you're feeling better.
Link Posted: 9/6/2005 8:13:23 PM EDT
Good post...

The Sowells were defenders at Gonzales and at the Alamo, the last name on the wall.
Link Posted: 9/6/2005 10:38:39 PM EDT
Excellent- Articles hit the nail on the head
Link Posted: 9/6/2005 10:44:39 PM EDT
tag for a later read.
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