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Hold on one goddamned minute here....

So I have been of course following the news in the aftermath of Katrina, and the explosion of commentary on the government's handling (or lack thereof) of it all.

I will freely admit I've been strongly on the left side of the debate up till now. FEMA has screwed up, and badly. As far as I've been able to tell, state and local (Democratic) officials have been doing everything they can, but have been hamstrung at every turn by the federal level.

But in the last day I've seen some extremely chilling commentary coming from the left, at least as horrifying as the sheer callousness shown by the right.


"Greyhound's nearly 2,000 buses could have gotten them all out--but commandeering private property is the act of a civilized nation, not the leaner, meaner, tough-break United States." (emphasis mine)

Commandeering private property is the act of a civilized nation? WHAT. THE. FUCK?! Does anyone, *anyone* else see the sheer ironic horror in this statement?

Now, I'm not necessarily arguing with his point, that Greyhound buses should have been used to assist the evacuation. But to use this statement as a basis for it, to equate being civilized with the abrogation of private property rights, just boggles my mind. This country was founded on the right to own property, the right to control it without the government coming in and siezing it whenever they felt like it. The entire progress of western civilization from the Magna Carta onward has been away from rule-by-force, and towards the power of the individual to do with his property as he sees fit. And now this person says that's not civilized? EXCUSE ME?!

Yeah, I'm a little incensed here.

The next snippet:

"The heart of progressive-liberal values is simple: empathy (caring about and for people) and responsibility (acting responsibly on that empathy). These values translate into a simple principle: Use the common wealth for the common good to better all our lives. In short, promoting the common good is the central role of government.

The right-wing conservatives now in power have the opposite values and principles. Their main value is Rely on individual discipline and initiative. The central principle: Government has no useful role. The only common good is the sum of individual goods."


This one's a little harder to dissect, but it still made my skin prickle when I read it. Let's look at the comparisons one by one:

Liberal principle #1: Use the common wealth for the common good to better all our lives.
Conservative principle #1: Rely on individual discipline and initiative.

I'm sorry, but if I have to pick one (and I don't think these are mutually exclusive!) I'm going to have to come down on the conservative side.

Liberal principle #2: Promoting the common good is the central role of government.
Conservative principle #2: Government has no useful role. The only common good is the sum of individual goods.

Not necessarily going to disagree with L#2, though defining "common good" is a tricky one. I'd prefer to define the role of government as to protect the rights of individuals. But C#2? How on earth does that follow from C#1? And how on earth does it bear any relationship to the way our goverment is acting? I daresay Bush&co would say the government has a very useful role, namely to take over, er, "spread democracy" in other countries, and to, er, protect the interests of corporations. (No, I don't like Bush, can you tell?)

There have been many criticisms of the left that all they do lately is point fingers at the right, without coming up with a plan of their own. It may be the above statements are an effort to change that, but by gods, if that's it? I wash my hands of them. They seem to be saying that government has every right, even the responsibility, to sweep away individual rights in favor of whatever it views to be the common good.

Funny, what with the detainment camps, and preventing private enterprise and charity from coming in to help, and treating all of the refugees like criminals lest they run riot, I'd say that "liberal" principle is what's at work right now down there.

Here, in my mind, is the central issue. The government promised one thing, and delivered another. They said they'd take care of things, but turned away assistance even as people were dying en masse for lack of support. The social contract has been breached, and *that* is the problem.

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sophiaserpentia
Sep. 9th, 2005 08:04 pm (UTC)
I've washed my hands of "left" and "right" myself.

Frankly, people on all ends of the political spectrum are responsible here. Blanco, Nagin, AND Bush, all responsible. The "left" is barely recognizable from the "right" these days, anyway; Dems and GOP alike buy into the hidden agenda of neo-colonial oligarchical collectivism.

In an emergency, whatever resources are right there and available should be used. It's callous to sit on resources you aren't using for your own survival, when you know someone else needs them to live. Actually this goes to a point i made a while back. The critical flaw in the idea of "self-determination and self-sufficiency for all" is that we do not start out with a level playing field, and people, left to their own devices, will take what they feel entitled to take, regardless of who is hurt in the process, meaning that ultimately, there is no way for humankind to spontaneously climb out of the pits of sexism, racism, and classism.

Ted Rall is a lightning-rod, to be sure, but he has a point; we've been outdone by Cuba with respect to our hurricane response. Cuba rarely has any hurricane deaths and they are right there in the middle of hurricane alley -- because they can move 1.9 million people, with pets and major appliances, away from the low-lying areas. Contrast that with Haiti, which had thousands of deaths and months of unrest after Hurricane Georges. Louisiana should not look like Haiti after a hurricane.

The racist and classist "you're on your own" Ayn-Randism permeating the United States has risen into public view like a bloated corpse floating in flood waters. The aftermath of Katrina looked like Haiti after Hurricane Georges. Is the United States going to accept that?

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