Saturday, May 27, 2006

America and Katrina

Note: Due to the fact that I am not a professional nor am I perfect the following my be erroneous or deficient in some areas. I will gladly welcome any comments.
Recently I went to Louisiana and visited some of the areas that Katrina damaged and destroyed. I was able to visit New Orleans, Slidell (North of New Orleans) and Lakeshore, Mississippi and I was able to talk to people down there doing volunteer relief work. Though the time I was down there was short and I did only a small amount of work, I was able to learn about the character of America.
I learned first of all that Katrina really was a big deal, and still is a big deal. There are still miles of streets without houses on them. There are and unimaginable number of properties where nothing has been done to rebuild the houses that were just removed by Katrina. There are an equally unimaginable number of houses that have to be gutted and repaired. For people to say that Katrina is not still news worthy is to ignore reality, however I can understand some incense at the mishandling of the topic by the media.
I saw the culture and some of what would make a person want to live down there. Shrimp is actually cheaper per pound then chicken in some places down there. Family and friends seem to be closer down there. In New Orleans itself the architecture is very unique. People there are more deeply rooted. All of the above are reasons why many people still want to live there.
Unfortunately I also learned that Americans every where are governmentally dependant – they seem to rely on the government (especially the federal government to get them out of any tight spot. Hurricane Katrina was going to be big – that is what every one was told – they were told to evacuate. Not everyone did. There are two possible reasons for that. Either they were able to go and just did not go, or they were unable to go; either they did not ask for help or it was not given.
It is the local and state government’s job to 1) Evacuate for an emergency. 2) Make sure that local and state emergency workers are prepared. 3) Start the relief effort and maintain it for the first three to four days. None of these was done adequately by states and local governments. Those people who were running the relief effort also failed to allow volunteers to help out, they were turned away when is some cases they were adequately prepared for doing work. NOPD was unable to respond adequately not because the officers went AWOL but because the officers were not supplied to handle the job, thus many of them went AWOL.
For the recovery stage I learned that too many people did not have and good way to recover- FEMA, being a federal agency, is full of bureaucracy and a general waste of taxes and therefore unable to do an adequate job of recovery. It seemed that a community effort to recover should have been present; instead of relying on federal government and volunteer groups from outside that area. The affected communities (families, friends, and neighbors, not government) should have worked together to recover quickly, with outside volunteers as support or backup. It may be that I just missed that part of the recovery effort or that there was no community left, but I think there should have been a greater community left, but I think there should have been a greater community effort than what I saw.
I think that most of the problems that were revealed by Katrina were ultimately from laziness. I realize that I am part of the problem and I am going to work to change that.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Virtues of Fiction

Sorry for the long wait from the last post; I plan to post at least once a week for the rest of the year. I will be reviewing books that I read to fill in when I don't have anything to say or when I have not yet articulated what I want to say. Most of the time I read fiction books (of varying types). I wish now to show a few reasons why it can be beneficial to read fiction.
Fiction stimulates the imagination while reading a narrative one uses the imagination automatically to “see” what happens in the story. Imagination is “the act or power of forming mental images of what is not actually present.”1 Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” 2 Necessity may be the mother of invention but imagination is the father, for without imagination the inventor cannot think of a new way to solve the problem.
Reading fiction can stimulate your intellect; anyone reading critically can exercise their mind. One can study ethical problems though fiction. (as in “What would the right thing to do be in this character's position?”) Philosophy and Theology are also easily studied (as in “Do I agree with the thoughts of this character or the ideas of the author?) Other general facts that are found in fiction books can be researched to find out if they are true.
Educators and philosophers (thinkers) use fiction to illustrate their ideas. Jesus Christ in particular used some well known stories called parables to illustrate with: The Parable of the Good Samaritan to show an Israelite that everyone is your neighbor, and the parable of the Prodigal Son illustrates the Love of God toward sinners are two examples of parables well know because their titles are now common English phrases.
Many works of fiction have significantly altered peoples views of practices, problems, of injustices. Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was a book that changed many opinions and helped the end slavery in the US. A book that I read recently that caused some serious thoughts when I read it was The Ugly American by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick. I will admit that I ought to be reading more thought provoking books, especially of the nonfiction variety, than I am.