Monday, September 05, 2005

Get The Shit OUT. (Personal Ponderings...)

No news, no links in this post. Other than the links between connecting thoughts (and dots) whirling around in my head. Just my personal reflections and connections.

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Personal reflections on bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy and common sense need NOT be antithetical.


Once upon a time, I worked for one of the largest legal organizations in the country.


After 9/11, I served on a task force to help our office come up with an Emergency Plan to deal with future emergencies.


Lawyers that we were, the plan was filled with rules and details and what have you.


It looked something like this.


"In case of tornado watch, follow steps A-Z as outline below.

In case of tornado warning, follow steps A-Z as outlined below.

In case of fire alarm, follow steps A-Z as outlined below.

In case of hurricane warning, follow steps A-Z as outlined below.

In case of bomb threat, follow steps A-Z as outlined below.

In ALL circumstances, whether described herein or not, if you feel that your life and/or the lives of your co-workers are in danger, do whatever you feel you have to to protect yourself and your co-workers. Just GET THE SHIT OUT of the building and use your common sense."


We were lawyers, keep in mind. An organization of a massive number of some of the brightest lawyers in country. Obsessed with crossing Ts and dotting Is in most circumstances. Paranoid about liability if we didn't spell everything out and cover our asses JUST SO. But we also had a fucking CLUE after 9/11, that you don't just sit around and wait for paperwork to be filled out and task forces to be convened. You GET THE SHIT OUT. Period.


Now, that GET THE SHIT OUT/common sense clause... I wonder if it even exists in all of the rules and guidelines governing FEMA (and every other bureaucracy involved in this mess who has turned away supplies, thwarted recovery efforts, and blamed it on a lack of proper paperwork).


Most likely not. And why shouldn't it?


As a legal eagle in my own right, I see NO reason why there shouldn't be some kind of GET THE SHIT OUT common sense clause allowing for red tape to be ignored in cases if rapidly evolving emergencies, dying bodies crying out for help, etc.


You don't have to do away with FEMA... just re-fund them (and the levees too, while you're at it) and add some fucking COMMON SENSE to their training and regulations.


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Personal reflections on race and animalism.

Another snippet of connecting with my own past experience.


I was at Woodstock II. Surrounded by mostly middle to upper class white kids.


It was awful. They ran out of food and water the first day, the porta-potties were parked on a hill, overflowed, and when the rain came, we all had to wade through a lake of human sewage and sleep in it if we were unlucky enough to have our tents parked in that part of the camp. The camp was overcrowded, surrounded by a huge fence, and there were only a couple of ways out. People tried to get out but couldn't... it took hours for me to get through a line to what I was told was the exit, but by the time I got there, the exit was blocked. I was stuck there another night in hell.


Out of hunger and desperation and the misery of circumstances, people started turning into animals. Violence broke out all over the place. I was constantly on vigilence for stampedes.


In the middle of the night someone pissed on my tent with me in it.


I had my clothes hung out to dry, all of them ruined by the human sewage flood, leaving me naked under my tent, and in the middle of the night one of the camp guards shone a flashlight at my naked body, held the light there, and just started laughing.


I screamed. And screamed. And didn't stop screaming for maybe ten minutes.


I didn't feel human. I wasn't treated like a human being, and I didn't feel human.


Neither did the violent animals surrounding me.


All of which is to say that what I went through is not the LEAST bit comparable in degree to what the victims of Katrina went through. BUT. Even that much lesser degree of catastrophe drove (rich white) people over the edge and turned them into animals.


So think about that when you hear people condemning the looters, and yes, even the violence in New Orleans, with tinges of unspoken racism in their condemnation.


Remember that it's not a race thing.


It's human nature. Drive people to the brink of desperation, treat them like animals, deny them basic necessities of life -- food, drink, shelter, bathrooms -- and then don't blame them when civilization breaks down.


I got the shit OUT the next day.


I don't even want to talk about the health problems I had as a result of Woodstock II.


But I did want to talk about what I went through.


I saw no love, no concern for others, no compassion at Woodstock II, from the animalistic (white rich) kids surrounding me and trampling each other left and right. No pockets of people pulling together, trying to help each other. It was truly every person on their own, every person next to them a potential enemy.


There was a LOT of good that happened in New Orleans this week among the people who were left there looking to each other for help when the government failed to help them, survivors reaching out to each other, helping each other stay survivors. The stories are coming out and they're beautiful. I didn't see that at Woodstock II. At all. Animalism and brutality seemed to be the rule there, not the exception. In New Orleans, the heros vastly outnumbered the brutes.


So many lessons to be learned...

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