"Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles." ~ Ambrose Bierce
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A caller to my talk show asked, 'Do you think it possible we will ever establish the Constitutionally limited Republic the Founding Fathers intended?'
(This was pre-Katrina.)
The question was directed to my friend and guest, Walter E. Williams, Professor of Economics at George Mason University , well known to readers here and talk radio audiences everywhere, thanks to his impressive but unfortunately infrequent guest-hosting for Rush Limbaugh.
Walter answered, 'I think that train has left the station.'
Anyone who never seriously considered the question but has subsequently spent an objective nanosecond or two analyzing the footage, the quotes, the stories of the storm must concur with Walter's reply, especially in the context of post-Katrina.
The debilitating effects of the Welfare State on personal initiative to the core residents of the pond that was New Orleans received two solid weeks in the media spotlight for all to see. This despite the Herculean effort of the Mainstream News Media to obscure the issue with its collective mantra of 'institutional racism' and the 'subtle bigotry' of everyone from George Bush to the Red Cross to volunteer firemen from Indiana , waylaid in Atlanta by FEMA staffers who assigned 'their first task . . . to attend a multi-hour course on sexual harassment and equal employment opportunity.' And it isn't over yet. I can assure you from inside talk radio, post-Katrina New Orleans issues and how they will change the American way of governance will remain a target-rich environment for quite a while.
Personally, I search for the proverbial 'bottom line.' In the 'Katrina vs. The Big Easy Smack-Down Reality Show,' there are several. Among them:
The fatal danger of putting one's fate and faith in the promised salvation of the Federal government. Or the state government. Or your mayor;
The absolute truth of the proverb: 'If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail';
When the State or its representatives just perceive to be threatened, the Bill of Rights is easily shredable;
Yet-to-be promulgated Federal and state laws and regulations will once again demonstrate the slow strangulation of liberty by the creeping corrosion of incrementalism. And the people will rejoice in their leaders' renewed assurance of their safety and security.
But 'rust never sleeps' is hardly bulletin news.
So let's look at the root causes of the immediate breakdown of a moderately civilized society ( New Orleans , '#1 with a bullet' on the National Crime Stats Hit Parade) and the chaos that blossomed ugly in a city that suddenly became a wholly-drowned subsidiary of Lake Pontchartrain .
For those who nod off during sociology and psychology discussions, let's break it down to bite-size pieces. Yes, the cloying reality of 'welfare' is the disincentivizing of its recipients. A videotape review of the post-storm news reveals thousands of mostly able-bodied people demanding to know where their help, their food, water and transportation was. And they were angry, angry, angry that it had taken days for them to be rescued, being contained by both Good and Bad Guys with guns as much as their own inertia. While misery does have a seriously deleterious effect on patience, the question remains why the majority of poor people did not expend the same effort and energy fending for themselves in advance of the severe storm warnings or later in the face of the complete breakdown of civilized order inside the 'Dome. There are precious few stories of initiative or humanity, much less heroism, from inside the Superdome or the Convention Center. One of the cruel truths ' and basic requirements--of being 'welfare dependent' (see also: poor) must be a practiced and reinforced, self-deluding ignorance. Nevertheless, few if any residents of the greater New Orleans metropolitan bowl were surprised when Katrina came up the lazy river.
Still, what the cameras caught so perfectly ' and tragically ' was the deadly addiction to Instant Gratification on display. Forget the Boy Scout motto. 'Where is the government? The government is supposed to take care of us. We ain't had no hot meals here for two whole days.' (MREs, while not quite up to 'Commander's Palace' standards, were provided sans heaters by the National Guard). These and similar sound bites may have prompted CBS' Bob Schieffer on 'Face the Nation' to intone: 'There is no purpose for government except to improve the lives of its citizens.' 'Dome and Convention Center residents must have held a similar opinion, which excused them from making any improvements in or for themselves or demanding any from their elected officials. But addiction to Instant Gratification is not peculiar to the occupants of squalor. Or the looters who helped themselves to life-sustaining football jerseys, Nike's and a plasma TV for each arm pit. Instant Gratification is an addiction among all who demand Specific Performance from the Welfare State and will suffer no delivery delays of any kind, lest the rule of law and order and basic civil behavior be violently trashed for the satisfaction of an 'I.G.' fix.
Two other contagions were revealed by Katrina's fury and put on the evening news for those with seeing eyes of discernment. Maybe the deadliest of all had ample display: Aggressive Ignorance. 'A.I.', yet to be cited by the CDC for the life and liberty-threatening epidemic it is, did not just sweep through the hapless NOLA stay-behinds. Blow-dried news anchors and reporters contributed, standing Rather-esque in Katrina's wind and rain, filing pithy reports like 'The wind is really blowing now!', thanks to their keen sense for the obvious. More egregious than tossing caution to the 150 mph winds were their totally erroneous statements as fact misconstruing and misstating the most elementary aspects of governmental function, the rule of law, pointedly omitting even basic individual responsibility. Of course, 'the Media,' too, has a constituency and, like Pogo's enemy, 'it is us.' 'Information is power and power is control.' And the Mainstream Media still controls most of the information. To wit: A hurricane can fill a hole below sea level with water and almost half the country will blame George Bush . . . or too few white looters made looting look like a black crime. Referring to the 'evacuees' as 'refugees' was the latest in 'linguistic racism.' As of this writing, only Fox News' Britt Hume has reported that Pass The Buck Poster Child Mayor Ray Nagin has moved his family to Dallas . And bought a house. And enrolled his kids in school there. Other networks have yet to report this or press the simple, obvious 'Why'?
And so the poorly informed audience receives mis- and disinformation by the hour, ladled on by shovel and tweezers, feeding their addiction to Aggressive Ignorance with the appeal to their agenda, emphasizing disparities and delays with strong hints of discrimination and disregard. And, for the first time, the reporters' insertions of dramatic self-portraits of personal, emotional reaction at the expense of more relevant, newsworthy facts. Rather than an appeal to liberty, it is an appeal to tyranny. Indeed, 'Truth is the first casualty of war' but simultaneously goes Individual Responsibility and Personal Accountability. Aggressive Ignorance ('I don't know and I don't want to know.') is the gateway through which lies enter and truth becomes a statistic.
Then, softly, comes the final phase of the fatal trifecta: Contagious Apathy. Fortunately, there is still a strong resistance to 'C.A.' in America as witnessed by the literal flood of money, volunteers, food, clothing, shelter, medical materials and manpower--anything and everything to the point where officials yelled 'STOP!' before they were overwhelmed by the outbreak of Goodness. Still, Contagious Apathy rarely encounters such visceral resistance outside a 'Katrina' or a '9/11.' Had Ma Nature not cut loose a few weeks ago, the same people so quick to open their hearts and wallets would be today yawning their way through the Roberts confirmation hearings, illegal aliens with driver's licenses and the whereabouts of Natalie Holloway. In this environment, on this fad diet of current events, Contagious Apathy does its dirty work. Citizen's intellectual immune systems fail from a lack of solid information and quality education. With a battle cry of 'Who Cares?' and 'So What?' the ' C.A. ' infected do not go forth, do not participate, do not read, think, reflect or object. This allows Aggressive Ignorance and Instant Gratification to do their deadly deeds.
If 'the train has left the station,' then that light at the end of the tunnel just may be the caboose--and that would be the ultimate disaster.