A bad week for human nature

What a week for the misanthropes, eh? They’ve got to be hoisting a few glasses of grape (bitter as they may be) this holiday weekend and smugly toasting their own validation from recent events. Whether it’s the de-evolution of the rule of law into the law of the jungle in a major cultural center in just 48 hours (how’s that for “punctuated equilibrium”) to fear and rumor stampeding people to their deaths or to gas lines, it’s a great time to be smarter than everyone else. Ah, human nature – you gotta love it!

And as if the main course isn’t satisfying enough, there’s also the floor show — a cavalcade of finger-pointing, ass-covering and political hay-making all high-kicking across the room — all while bodies still bob in the waters of Pontchartrain. Human nature, again!

For that matter, they may still be pulling bodies out of the Tigris. The disaster in Iraq was one of those things that happens around the world, like a famine or an overloaded ferry capsizing, that makes us, in our human nature, say “I’m glad nothing like that can happen here” — until Americans riot over cheap computers or the levee breaks.

When it happens close to home there is nothing so predictable as the cries that that the whole situation was, itself … predictable. Yesterday Jeff Jarvis tapped his baton on an operetta entitled “More than a tragedy – a scandal“, launching commenter choruses of “they should have seen it coming” (they did, but – darn that human nature – didn’t leave), global warming (it was a hot day in Galveston in 1900, too) and “Bush was on vacation” (as was Congress and 90% of the French, for that matter, which is every bit as relevant) and it’s all Bush’s fault (because we can’t get troops and supplies into place overnight in a disaster area the size of Britain that has little functioning infrastructure). Of course, that’s all human nature, too.

Just as it is human nature for certain criminal elements to always try to get away with whatever they can — even in ideal conditions — when they think no one is watching or can do anything about it. How shocking is it, then, to see this sort rise up and run amuck in the absence or abdication of most controls? It does make one wonder, however, if missions to feed and deliver supplies to the weak in New Orleans will resemble our efforts to get food past the warlords and to the hungry in Somalia.

Hurricane Katrina is a large-scale natural disaster exacerbated by the usual dark comedy of human error. The current situation is not a Republican or Democratic Party failing (it would even happen to the Green Party if they ever get their hands on the levers, which they will no doubt use this event to try and do). It is a failing of our human nature that leads us time after time to choose short-term gain or convenience over the long-term benefit even when faced with a demonstrably “when” not “if” scenario. You know, scenarios like a sub-sealevel city in a hurricane zone, or a densely populated major metropolitan area resting on a fault line … or the implosion of the Social Security system.

All in all, it’s enough to make you pull the covers over your head and wait for God to hit “reboot” … except for the better angels of our human nature that draw us together and lead us to pray and to give, to go out of our way to help the suffering. It’s what drives the majority of us to say, “What can I do to help?”

Granted, there will also be the minority who ask, “What can I get out of this?” or who delight in celebrating how much like animals we humans are, or can be. I guess I understand their point … hearing or reading them tends to make me start to feel a little hairy myself.

NOTE: Earlier I mentioned the Comments section to the Jeff Jarvis post. While there was a lot of nuttery going on there, responses by people identified as Eileen and Petro were excellent and bear reading for their insight and ability to focus on the real issues at hand. Along that line, please read this link from that section that provides an insider’s detailed explanation of the logistical hurdles an operation of this kind entails.

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