KatrinaAngela | September 4th, 2005 | 9:45 am
We have been keenly watching the news and reading online posts from the states over the past week. As we look at the terrifying devastation and loss of life in NO from our vantage point halfway around the globe, it’s as if our government has put its incompetence on display for the entire world to see. (As if we needed another example of our colossal stupid arrogance in handling matters of crisis.) We already knew that Bush, our fearless leader, was neither of the two. But the delay of any kind of response to the crisis, and the late, inadequate and fumbled attempts, is inexcusable and immoral. Reading the cautious headlines and newswires, the reports of official response to the crisis don’t match the severity of the pictures we see. We can only muster hope that the American public will demand accountability in the weeks and months ahead. We fear that New Orleans is already a lost cause, but we hope that public response to the humanitarian failures will have real grassroots effects.
We are particularly struck by the utter lack of empathy displayed by those in power for those in need. Of course it simply echoes most of our economic and social policies, but has a way of magnifying it to a glaringly strong message about who matters and who doesn’t. In fact, we have been observing for some time now that we have a culture that is increasingly incapable of empathy– the dominant ethic being one of no government, no taxes, and no responsibility toward others in our community, especially not to those who don’t share our racial and class identities, or any other part of the hegemonic dogma and closed system of beliefs that seem to constitute the level of awareness of the average voter, and particularly those who enjoy positions of power. Why is it so hard for people to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, to identify and respond to the needs and pains of other people?
This lack of empathy resonates very strongly for Eric and I, now that we are part of a culture that has a far stronger sense of the public good and of social responsibility. The Australians ask with amazement, “how could this happen?” It would be hard to imagine the Australians not responding swiftly and effectively to a disaster on this scale, and certainly not turning away the efforts of thousands of citizens who volunteer to help. This also resonates for me in what I am doing now in my professional life– which is to try to help companies and organizations find pathways back to the customers and employees– the people they are supposed to be organized around and for, but almost inevitably become distanced from. Looking for empathy is a real theme, and it’s clear that this is something we must actively cultivate and value. What if we approached public policy from such a perspective? It might allow us to start understanding problems in a way that we could actually develop more effective solutions.
We’re so very sorry for the tens of thousands left to suffer because of the buffoonery of the administration. Our hearts go out to all the people whose lives have been devastated by this event.
You can make a donation to the relief effort here.