September 09, 2005

note: this article is massively opinionated and may offend.

so far, i haven't written anything about hurricane katrina here, but i'm still thinking about it every day. mattgreen and i talked about the things we would absolutely have to take with us if we were evacuated from our home, and here's the list:

box of photographs
computer hard drive
paperwork (birth certificates, passports, financial documents)
pink teddy

that's it. our entire house is full of stuff, and it turns out that four items you could fit in a small box are all we really need. it's pretty sobering to realise how much stuff we own that is irrelevant/replaceable.

mattgreen says that i'm a ghoul for being so interested in katrina, and maybe he's right; i'm always fascinated by human stories. i don't think there is too much point in trying to work out who to blame. everyone says the aid came too late, but none of the weblogs i read even mentioned katrina until 2 september, which makes me think that nobody realised the true scale of things until it was too late. if people had been posting, "why aren't the government doing anything?" on 29 august, maybe that's fair enough. there should have been better emergency planning, but what's the use of saying that now?

having said that, the one thing i strongly believe is that the usa's gun culture made this a far worse disaster than it would have been if it happened in england. i haven't seen any commentary about this on the web at all. average members of the public just don't have guns here. that makes a huge difference and would avoided some of the problems with looting. it's much easier for armed police to control a huge crowd of desperate people (like at the superdome) if those people are not armed themselves. i honestly believe that british people, even the so-called "underpriveleged", would have handled the situation completely differently. as usual i think america should change their gun laws; as usual i'm sure they won't.

although the scenes from new orleans are pretty desperate, i think it's important to keep things in perspective. i don't think british people should be donating to the evacuees from katrina: they're from the wealthiest country in the world! if we have money to donate, how about we donate it to the poorest countries in the world, the ones where children are dying because they don't have enough food, where basic medicines are not available? i am certain that the people displaced by the hurricane will be helped by america, and within months they will at least have their basic needs met. i know that people in the third world will still be dying because their basic needs aren't being met: in a month, in a year, in five years. what's more important?

Have a look at this photo diary from someone who was there.

There's a lot of photos but it's worth going through them all in order. It helps explain why the aid was delayed - the flooding didn't really start until the third day.
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