Reason and Feeling About Haiti
Anyone who professes to be a caring human soul cannot watch the pictures and stories of devastation coming out of Haiti since the January 12th earthquake and not “feel” something profound. Human suffering is not something that anyone but the most depraved and evil among us would take pleasure in. Can we just get past the feeling to the reason part of the situation, though? I mean can we stop trying to place blame for natural disasters on the actions or inactions of specific human beings?
Natural disasters are bound to happen, but I have seen far too many of these real crisis situations turned into opportunities for political points, and that, frankly, sickens me. That’s a feeling based on reason! The ground had barely stopped moving in Haiti before politicians and celebrities were rushing forward to publicly denounce policies and lack thereof as the reason for all the suffering now going on there. That’s not news! “If – then” scenarios do not help ease human suffering, nor will they prevent future natural disasters from happening. Why? Simply, people in power do not learn what they should learn from bad policy decisions or flawed thinking about how to deal with immediate concerns.
First of all, for anyone to think that people caught up in a natural disaster deserve what they get requires an infantile thought process. For anyone to think that comparisons should be made between results of natural disasters is just asinine. That requires the worst of apples and oranges comparison. You can compare only small parts of these scenarios with any accuracy, but in the end, still, human suffering is not adequately addressed in doing so while the disaster aftermath is current.
I’m sure the suffering of the survivors of the San Francisco earthquake in 1989 and the current suffering of Haitian survivors did not and is not taking into account that the political blame game holds all the relief cards. The earthquakes measured about the same on the Richter scale, and the most damage was done where the least attention had been paid to risk from such a disaster. It took hindsight to assess those risks in San Francisco and build back stronger those areas that did the most damage to human life.
Comparing the loss of life in the 1989 quake and that of the recent quake in Haiti is instructive only if you plan (or planned) to rebuild and/or stay in either place. Since the fault lines that caused the devastation weren’t/aren’t going anywhere, all these considerations are relevant.
Let’s move now to another natural disaster where comparisons are being drawn – all of them reactionary political comparisons. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States in late August of 2005. It was devastating in damage and loss of life, with the worst of both being caused by floodwaters from breaching of the levies that usually hold back the waters of the Gulf of Mexico from the city of New Orleans.
Here again, people had choices to make – rebuild or leave.
Almost a year prior to Katrina, September of 2004, Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast, first coming ashore in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and is still rated as one of the most devastating natural disasters to hit the United States. Ivan did not receive nearly as much press as Katrina, even though five states were declared disaster areas.
There have been other earthquakes and hurricanes here in the U.S. in recent years past. We could all learn much by researching how each of these natural disasters was measured in human suffering and property loss, but the real learning should come in trying to understand the social implications of politicizing reactions to disasters. What good does it do? Does it insure that next time (and there will be a next time) disasters will be handled differently? Resources will be distributed with greater compassion? People will acquire a deeper understanding of gratitude and/or feel a greater sense of loss? Are these reasoned assumptions or just misplaced “feelings” of prioritizing right over wrong?
Looking to government for relief from human suffering has always been and will always be a big mistake. The more the mistake is made, the more real suffering will actually be caused by such an attitude. Reason requires us to think about risks we choose to take. Feelings demand that we take certain risks in order to pursue that often elusive happiness of which we dream. Government cannot and should not actively interfere. Government should never equate to charity, but it does, doesn’t it? If government were designed as truly a charitable entity, there would never be enough resources to operate a “proper” response to natural disasters. The more “needs” met by government, the more will be expected. Why do you think politicians can never get it right when dealing with natural disasters?
I am not even going to address the obvious bias in reporting that has transpired over the last week on the Haiti earthquake and the Katrina hurricane. Everyone’s probably read all about it, watched the “bipartisan” efforts of the last two presidents as they encourage people to help in the Haiti disaster by “sending money” and heard the current president praised for his quick and decisive handling of governmental “official” charity to the Haitians. Everyone remembers the reporting of Bush’s bungling the Katrina crisis – during the immediate aftermath and for every year since.
Nations around the world have already begun to accuse the United States of “occupying” Haiti because of our military presence there. Never mind that the United Nations (also not a charitable organization) is “occupying” to a slightly greater degree. It doesn’t matter what Obama does or doesn’t do, he, too, will be criticized for years to come for his “handling” of the Haiti earthquake crisis. If he doesn’t know it yet, then he is much more naïve than I think he is.
It simply cannot be argued that the United States IS the most charitable country in the world. Americans should be proud of that fact – but government need not coerce their charity.
How many more natural disasters have to occur before we realize that while we all may “feel” the same way about human suffering, if we apply reason to efforts to soothe it, we may come up with very different answers. If we are honest with ourselves, government should never be among those answers.
Natural disasters will always hit poverty stricken human beings harder than those with the wealth to rebuild. That’s just another fact of life. Haiti is a poverty-ridden nation with a corrupt government and without any free market principles to build sustaining wealth. It is one of the inner city ghettos of the world, and the thugs in charge are incapable of reason or feelings for the people they try to control. No wonder it takes military efforts and expertise to restore order after such a disaster! Desperation breeds the worst in human reactions. Walter E. Williams has addressed this part of the story in his recent article, Haiti's Avoidable Death Toll, with his “get right to the point” style. It is well worth the read.
One final point: I don’t consider it politicizing to think about this one. If we in America continue on the course to “fundamentally transform” this country to suit the progressive agenda that has been skulking around for over a hundred years now, we are signing the death warrants of many more future victims of American natural disasters. Smaller government, more uncoerced charity, and reason are our heritage and birthright. I feel especially good about that. Why would we ever swap it for avoidable misery?