Friday, September 02, 2005

WHEN LEVEES BREAK - or "I know what it means to miss New Orleans" PART II

A levee is a barrier built to prevent overflow. A literal levee prevents an overflow of water, a flood. Figurative levees are barriers to others things; for instance, a police force is a "levee" against the "flooding" of crime. When there is no police force - or when the police force is seen as weak or unwilling to use force - criminal elements "overflow" - all hell breaks loose. And this is as tough to contain and drain as real floodwaters.

After the liberation of Baghdad, in the absence of a police force willing to use deadly force to maintain order - all hell broke loose. Now, in central Iraq, (including Baghdad) similar criminal sociopathic elements reek havoc and prey upon the general populace, trying use genocidal terror to create the chaos and power vacuum they need to establish the jihadist tyranny they crave. (THEY WILL FAIL.)

Now, in New Orleans a criminal sociopathic element is also reeking havoc upon the populace, exploiting the chaos caused by the levee failure to loot and rape and pillage and desecrate their own city. And for what: a passing selfish moment, a false sense of personal power and an inglorious glory.

We have seen this many times before - after the Rodney King verdict in 1992 in LA; after Hurricane Hugo, to name just a few recent examples. They are criminals "acting out" and they should be squashed.

Commentators who argue that the root cause is either the poverty of the perpetrators, or their hopelessness, slander poor people everywhere.

The "root cause" is BAD PEOPLE; people who are amoral and immoral - and NOT class, NOT race, and NOT creed. NO class or or race or creed is immune from people who are bad. There are criminals in every race, every class, and every creed. LOOK AT IT THIS WAY: if 15% of America is poor, then are 15% of Americans criminals!? Of course not. Poor people are most often victims of crime. And the poor suffering people stranded in Nawlins have been victimized again by the criminal element that has been hampering the relief efforts. So, WHAT'S THE ANSWER?

Applying brute force and unabiguous moral clarity to the rogues. Tolerating NO lawlessness. Rudy Giuliani cleaned up NYC this way. For too long, Nawlins has tolerated too much mayhem and lawlessness. They're suddenly reaping what for decades they sowed.

I KNOW: I lived in Nawlins, years back - when it was safer! And even then - nearly 30 years ago - you could walk 2-3 blocks in any direction and be in danger of losing your life. Part of the reason was that desperately poor and neglected people were scattered thoughout Nawlins: it's part of the levee/slavery heritage; except for the 9th Ward and the newer projects, there WERE no "ghettos"; poor people lived adjacent to planations all over the city, plantations that grew like spokes off the levees. WHITE FLIGHT since the 1970's has exacerbated the situation, and made the CITY of New Orleans poorer and poorer. The local and state government's response to this was permissiveness and the pernicious policies of LOW EXPECTATIONS. The result: a profusion of bad behavior swamped the urban poor: high incidence of teen pregnancy, of highschool dropouts; and crime.

This was NOT benign neglect. Neglect is never benign. It was MALIGNANT NEGLECT. The poor were neglected as much as the levees.

Now, eveyone should see that it was not benign; we should see that DECADES of laissez faire policies and (for all intents and purposes permitted) corruption and ineptness (born of low expectations) have left the ENTIRE city vulnerable to its worst elements - elements which probably INTENDED FROM THE VERY FIRST HURRICANE WARNING to remioan in the otherwise evacuated city JUST IN ORDER to loot.

MORE than the levees will have to be rebuilt.

The city will have to rebuild a sense of moral outrage and an intolerance for crime and anti-social behavior. Only a chastened city, with new found moral courage born of moral outrage will have the fortitude to rebuild. The city whose charm exploited the sexy allure of the liminal and the spicy scent of danger, must re-awaken or redevelop in itself more temperate and more subtle and more sophisticated enticements.

In Nawlins - a city of rich blends, this will lead to the creation of a new and "odd blend." There will have to be more overtly Puritanical standards, and an more intensified Protestant work ethic (in business and government). And this must be achieved while protecting the "le bonnes temps roulets" attitude and the cultural gumbo/racial melange which almost always ONLY arises from a relatively open society which encourages cultural exchange and experimentation.

I believe this new hybrid can be bred. If it doesn't, then the literal and figurative bayou will reclaim Nawlins, swallow it up and leave posterity only a legend of what once was.

I'm praying that the people of New Orleans (and the surrounding parishes) rise to the occasion. Just as the levees are rebuilt and the floodwaters held back, so too can their churches and schools and civic organizations "rise up" and take control, drain the city of its foul waters, and revitalize that lovely, that sweet, that sweet and pungent tropical city. Together - with a new spirit that is as strong as the mighty Mississippi, and that is just as intolerant of crime, corruption and ineptness, and that has an ambition as strong as the region is diverse - they can cook up a future as deliciously rich and as fascinatingly complex and as tantalizingly satisfying as any gumbo or etouffe or bourbon cocktail, and as intriguing as any Jazz improvization, and as complex as the jasmin, honeysuckle and stale-beer laden music-filled air itself.

It won't be easy. In the meantime, I'm praying for all the suffering people, in Nawlins and along the Gulf Coast - that their suffering is soon ended. Godspeed.

UPDATE: Nicole Gelinas at CITY JOURNAL (hat tip POWERLINE) has a great essay which reiterates some of my themes. Here's an excerpt:

The vicious looters aren’t the face of New Orleans’ poor blacks. Their victims are: the thousands of New Orleanians who made their way to shelter before the storm, and who rescued others and brought them to shelter during and after the storm—but who now cannot get the help they desperately need. This week’s looting was predictable. When Hurricane Georges, another potentially catastrophic storm (it spared New Orleans at the last minute) was about to hit in 1998, I foolishly refused to evacuate my Uptown apartment. More than one person said I should evacuate not due to the storm, but because looters would terrorize the city afterward. Was this week’s looting preventable? Failure to put violent criminals behind bars in peacetime has led to chaos in disaster.

Like I said. And RTWT. More HERE.


Pastorius said...

Hi Reliapundit,

I don't know if you know it, but I posted an article with the same title today. I think you may be interested:


Hope you like.

Pastorius said...

Thanks for the link. By the way, I agree with EVERYTHING you wrote in your comment on IJPP. Morality is an educational process, best handled by parents. No doubt.

And property owners do have the moral right to protect their property when lawlessness breaks out.

alena said...

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I have a Hurricane Katrina blog. It pretty much covers hurricane related stuff.

Thank you - and keep up the thoughts!

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Anonymous said...

Be prepared for the next hurricane update or find another one that's similar. As the Boy Scouts say: "Be Prepared"!

Chris Moonbeams said...

Hi there, just wandering the blogosphere and I found your blog. I really enjoy how this all works.

This is one to watch.

Many thanks,

pictures of the Hurricane Katrina