Third World Disaster in America


By Alun Thomas


By now the images of third world conditions in New Orleans have probably desensitized most viewers, bombarded with repeated images of decay, misery and death which at first were truly shocking but played back so often that many probably turned a blind eye to them eventually. To me these are the most crucial scenes of poverty and waste witnessed in this country in the time I have lived here. The rage and anger which enveloped the homeless and displaced is understandable. Their only crime? Being poor. Is there any other reason help took so long to appear? All the madness that took place in the city is just a manifestation of a system dead in the water. It had to happen.


   I wonder how long help would have taken to arrive if the stranded had been a group of A list celebrities. Imagine turning on the TV and seeing Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Brad Pitt, Colin Farrell, Jessica Simpson and Oprah all waving for help. In ten minutes a special search and rescue team would have airlifted them to safety while the other besieged just stood and looked as their pleas for food and water went unheard. Is there anyone who can honestly tell me this isn't true? If it did happen like that then hopefully a marauding gang would have raped Cruise and Pitt and slashed their throats and left them to rot in the middle of the street.


   But the majority of the victims were poor Blacks. What were the authorities thinking as they saw them on TV and did not immediately react? How mad would you be if you were left barren and deserted for days before any kind of help arrived? In that regard the looting and mayhem was merely an extension of the anger. Much like the Rodney King riots of 1992 there is at some point always going to be an incident that triggers this type of urban violence. The hurricane wasn't the reason. The lack of support for a group of people already at their lowest was.


   When watching the shameful events you had to wonder where you were. The victims resembled starving tribes in far flung Africa. They did not look like Americans. Couldn't there have been more steps taken to ensure the safety of newborn infants? And the elderly? How many died needlessly in the heat and pungent conditions is sickening. Do their lives have no value? Of course not, they're not famous so they aren't interesting. What does this say about the nation? It only values the rich and powerful. As a famous writer once said, if you're not making it in the USA then you're nobody. This country's obsession with celebrities, wealth and fame single handedly exceeds everything.


   After 9/11 that type of attitude supposedly changed as everyone declared the new heroes were the common man, the firemen and policemen who gave their lives trying to save others. It didn't take long for that to become a distant memory. Hopefully this incident puts a face on the state of the poverty stricken in the nation. Give them some coverage. Forget the latest insignificant shenanigans of some worthless actor and focus on what is necessary. But I'm certain many will say 'those people looting, they should be shot on sight, losers should get a job.' Is there anyone out there who understands how angry these people were? Are we all so comfortable in our dull lives that we forget what a struggle it is?



   By now the city has been cleared out and New Orleans left alone to collapse. Even Bush admitted the rescue took too long. It is a national disgrace. Some of the events that occurred in the city were horrendous, but just a result of the bitterness felt to the way they were treated and handled. If they had been all white would it have taken so long? I'm starting to think it wouldn't. That it took a disaster of this magnitude to expose the treatment of the poor is the biggest tragedy of all.