Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Storm After the Storm

Never thought I'd print capitalist apologist David Brooks here. But it is as an enlightened analysis of the spirit enveloping LA and MISS as I've seen so far. He recognizes the revolutionary potential these tragedies bring forth.

September 1, 2005
The Storm After the Storm

Hurricanes come in two waves. First comes the rainstorm, and then comes what the historian John Barry calls the "human storm" - the recriminations, the political conflict and the battle over compensation. Floods wash away the surface of society, the settled way things have been done. They expose the underlying power structures, the injustices, the patterns of corruption and the unacknowledged inequalities. When you look back over the meteorological turbulence in this nation's history, it's striking how often political turbulence followed.

In 1889 in Pennsylvania, a great flood washed away much of Johnstown. The water's crushing destruction sounded to one person like a "lot of horses grinding oats." Witnesses watched hundreds of people trapped on a burning bridge, forced to choose between burning to death or throwing themselves into the churning waters to drown.

The flood was so abnormal that the country seemed to have trouble grasping what had happened. The national media were filled with wild exaggerations and fabrications: stories of rivers dammed with corpses, of children who died while playing ring-around-the-rosy and who were found with their hands still clasped and with smiles still on their faces.

Prejudices were let loose. Hungarians then were akin to today's illegal Mexican immigrants - hard-working people who took jobs no one else wanted. Newspapers carried accounts of gangs of Hungarian men cutting off dead women's fingers to steal their rings. "Drunken Hungarians, Dancing, Singing, Cursing and Fighting Amid the Ruins" a New York Herald headline blared.

Then, as David McCullough notes in "The Johnstown Flood," public fury turned on the Pittsburgh millionaires whose club's fishing pond had emptied on the town. The Chicago Herald depicted the millionaires as Roman aristocrats, seeking pleasure while the poor died like beasts in the Coliseum.

Even before the flood, public resentment was building against the newly rich industrialists. Protests were growing against the trusts, against industrialization and against the new concentrations of wealth. The Johnstown flood crystallized popular anger, for the fishing club was indeed partly to blame. Public reaction to the disaster helped set the stage for the progressive movement and the trust-busting that was to come.



Blogger jsb said...

Actually, being exposed to capitalist, business-friendly towns like Houston & Baton Rouge are going to turn a lot of folks into entrepreneurs, industrialists and the like. Their are opportunities that a tourist-driven economy could not provide for folks in New Orleans who were left to substandard schools and jobs in the ghettoes. If anything, this will jumpstart the capitalist spirit in these displaced persons. A revolution may be brewing, but not the kind you old-line marxists think is brewing.

9:06 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

First off, I think few cities are as business-friendly as New Orleans. It is top 5 for having a low business failure rate and not far behind the cities you mentioned in Entreprenuer's list.

But really think its wishful thinking to join Barbara the "they'll be better off homeless" crowd. With no insurance, no money, no nothing, away from everything you knew, I think coming up with the cash to start a business is the last think on folks who had jobs that don't exist anymore. Even people that has small businesses will be lucky to get the help needed to rebuild with the fine print in these insurance contracts.

And you almost make it sound like New Orleans was unique in its awful schools, jobs and neighborhoods. I'll tell you most would rather be in ANY Ward of NO than the 5th Ward of Houston.

It is your small government revolution that has ended.

12:34 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home