Of hurricanes and help

A thought has been heavy on my mind since the Katrina and Rita hurricane events.  The thought is:  why have we become so totally dependant on governmental entities to save our bacon?

Whatever happened to self-help and self-reliance?  I think I know at least part of the answer and I suppose that sociologists, psychologists, political pundits and many others have THE answer, but here is one man’s thought.

When aid to those in need (and presumably deserving such) became labeled as “entitlements” we had lost the gumption, as a people, to help ourselves.  There is now rampant co-dependency that constantly enables people and entire groups/families/communities of people to be needy. Needy of money, of direction, of basic life help.  Multi-generational dependency on the government exists in many families and in some areas, in entire neighborhoods and communities.  Many political cynics say that certain political factions are, in turn, dependant on those who are the entitlees for votes. That view is usually ascribed to the Democrat party but likely exists as much in the Republican party but in more subtle ways.

Many individual relationships wallow in dysfuntional codependency as well.  But the topic here is about the individual’s dependency on government which has made him helpless. It can be no better demonstrated than by the following letter which was one of the many “forwards” I get each day. I’ve googled the author and he’s real, so unless the whole letter is a forgery, the letter is real.

Ponder on this:

Subject: Thoughtful Commentary
Back in the 70’s, my wife, baby daughter, and I lived in Goodna , Queensland , a suburb of Brisbane . We were young and inexperienced and like most couples our age lived pretty much hand to mouth. It was a struggle to make ends meet. Any savings we had went as a down payment on the home we were buying.

Once a week my wife went shopping and bought the food and supplies we would need the following week.

Like the Southeastern United States , the area we lived in was subtropical and prone to cyclones (same as hurricanes). One day a cyclone approached our area. It wasn’t a big one as cyclones go, so we weren’t too concerned. We figured 6-12 hours of high winds and all would be back to normal. Except things didn’t go exactly according to plans. The cyclone moved in over top of us and hit up against another pressure front and stopped dead. And there it sat for two days. Not too much wind but oh did it rain. An inch an hour for 48 hours. That’s right – we got nearly four feet of rain.

Now Brisbane is built on the Brisbane River , not an impressive river as rivers go – only a few feet deep and a hundred feet wide in the western suburbs where we lived. At least during normal times. Four feet of water over several hundred square miles is one hell of a lot of water. Trust me on that one – I’ve seen it. And all of that water all had to get to the sea via the Brisbane River .. During the night, our little Brisbane River rose and rose. The police wer! e magnificent. They woke people up and evacuated thousands of homes during that long night. Only two people drowned in our area – residents of a mobile home park whose trailer was swept away. The police commandeered trucks and backed them up to the local grocery store and loaded all the food and necessities, drove them to high ground and parked them.

By mid morning the river was 60 feet deep and three miles wide. We lived on a hill so we weren’t submerged. When you walked over the crest of the hill and looked down into the valley where there was once a highway, railroad line, shopping centers, and thousands of homes you were stunned into silence. All you could see was water everywhere. No electric poles, no roof tops, nothing. Everything was under water.

We took stock of our situation – it wasn’t good. The flood came on our weekly shopping day so the house contained very little food. We had some candles and a flashlight. Nothing else. There was no electricity or water. Fortunately it was warm weather. We were in stunned disbelief. So were our neighbors. However, we decided we had better quickly organize ourselves. We knew we were going to be isolated and without water or power for some time. We started collecting all the rainwater we could. Without it we were screwed. We dismantled and reassembled a non-mortared barbecue under our carport. We started collecting all the firewood we could find. We assessed the food situation. Some people had full freezers. We separated what we could eat over the next several days and dugpits and buried the rest. Everyone shared what they had without a single word of what came from whom.

Needless to say we survived – and in good shape. The R.A.A.F flew some food supplies in (especially fresh bread that the local prison was baking and fresh, unpasteurized milk from local farmers.) by helicopter. In fact I look back on those days with some fondness. Our carport became the hub of the neighborhood. At night we would just sit around the fire and talk.

The thousands of people who were displaced didn’t go to refugee camps. They went into the homes of those not flooded – sometimes friends or relatives, often strangers. Nobody forced you to take in another family, everyone just did it.

Hundreds of millions of dollars was raised throughout Australia . The relief agencies didn’t screw around with the money either. As soon as the water receded in a weeks time, they set up centers in every hamlet. Anyone who was submerged was given an initial $4,000 in CASH to tide them through. More came later. Was there some abuse? A few instances but not many and the there was follow-up to deal with that.. Was there any looting? Virtually none.

What does this have to do with New Orleans ? Plenty.

Why didn’t the people in the Superdome make any effort to organize themselves? Why didn’t groups of men patrol the restrooms to prevent rapes?

We have gone a long way in the past 40 years to creating a dysfunctional society where self reliance, pride in one’s self and a sense of right and wrong are no longer esteemed or even valued.

We have allowed our government and media to say to people that you are not at fault for what you do. You are victims, little children who can’t look after yourselves.

We have told our minorities that everything that goes wrong is the result of racism. That you cannot succeed in a racist society.

We have told the dysfunctional that we will look after you no matter how egregiously you act. We have excused crime saying that poverty creates crime, when we all instinctively know that it is the crime that creates poverty.

We have told young women that it’s okay to have babies without fathers. There is no stigma attached – in fact if you have a baby we will shower you with money and benefits so you can move out of your parent’s house and have even more babies. Even if this guarantees your babies will be raised in poverty.

We have told young men that it is okay to father as many children as you can. The government will assume the father’s traditional role and look after the mother and babies.

And most importantly, we have called morals old fashioned and judgmental. What right does society have to say that something is right or wrong? And what have we gotten for this? (not to mention the $1 trillion we have spent on the poor)  Citizens who, at the first sign of trouble, stand around bewildered. You see it on the news. Faces screaming, “Help me!”, “Tell me what to do!”

God help us. We’re reaping what we sowed.

Dick Lammerding

Cloverdale, CA 95425

Thanks, Dick.  What a great exposition on the problem.


About Gil Jones

CPA/Attorney/Judge by training and trade. Hobby nut at heart with BMW m/c, computers, ham radio, kayak fishing, photography, hiking and, starting in 2010 some semi-serious running and bicycling (road and mountain bikes). Retired after 16 years on a Texas District Court bench and since 2013 have been mediating cases. I am a Credentialed Distinguished mediator (TMCA).
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