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tigtog now posts at the new and improved Hoyden About Town. She also blogs at Larvatus Prodeo and Finally A Feminism 101 Blog. If the new Hoydenspace is down you should find updates below.

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2005-09-12

Why are those people staying in that toxic soup?

Some poor folks still hanging on in NOLA are telling rescuers they can't get on the helicopter because they can't afford a rescue ticket. (2nd item down)

These people just don't expect something for nothing - and they've got nothing.

Words fail.

4 comments:

alice said...

I'd seen the "rescue ticket" report before, perhaps in another pointer to the same blog.

It reminds me of something I've been struck by in a lot of the personal vignettes. That is how utterly devoid of hope a lot of the evacuees had been. We ask why they didn't leave. No matter how bad their life was—any many were living in unremitting poverty—they couldn't imagine anything else. They didn't leave, because they couldn't imagine leaving. Many of them had never been out of New Orleans, ever. I saw one vignette in which an evacuee to Houston said she'd been to Baton Rouge twice, but other than that hadn't ever been out of New Orleans.

We look at their recent life as pure hell, and can't imagine why they didn't leave, because we can't imagine such poverty and hopelessness. And when they come to a refugee camp that looks to an outsider like an internment camp, they're given help and things, new things. And more importantly, they seem to be given, for the first time in their lives, hope.

I am so sad to be living in a country where it takes a disaster of unprecedented proportions to give some of our poorest and most disadvantaged citizens hope for a better life.

tigtog said...

Alice wrote:
We look at their recent life as pure hell, and can't imagine why they didn't leave, because we can't imagine such poverty and hopelessness. And when they come to a refugee camp that looks to an outsider like an internment camp, they're given help and things, new things. And more importantly, they seem to be given, for the first time in their lives, hope.

For some of them, unfortunately, I think that hope represents a kind of magical thinking. Let me elucidate.

For now, these people are seeing a kindlier hand held out to them. But for how long, in truth, do we think that will last?

People from the most stable demographic zone in the USA, with its own distinct culture and rituals, are going to attempt to assimilate all over your country. How well, really, do you think that can work out once the shock wears
off?


Right now, numbness is being replaced by magical thinking. "People want me here--here is better. I think I'll stay here." What is going to happen when reality sets in? The bulk of people who are planning to stay don't understand the system here. Even though we abut borders, we are a vastly different nation. At least we are southerners. What is going to happen to the thousands being sent to Connecticut or Illinois or New Jersey? They are being offered free apartments, furniture etc, by generous and well meaning people who haven't thought the long term consequences through very well. A lot of the apartments are in areas where they won't have transportation or jobs. What is going to happen six months down the road when the magic wears off and the help slowly fades? How about the holidays for a people who thrive on ritual, tradition, and celebration?

I think she's got a hell of a point.

alice said...

For some of them, unfortunately, I think that hope represents a kind of magical thinking. Let me elucidate.

Sure...Not everyone's going to come through this OK. That's a given.

On the other hand, I still think it's important to understand just how hopeless and helpless a lot of the urban poor felt, and how those feelings affected their responses to the storm warnings. If just the act of seeing something outside of New Orleans allows them to imagine another, better life, that's good. If, even with help, they can't quite manage to break the cycle, that's sad, of course. The blog you cite makes some good observations, but the writer is missing the forest for the trees. This storm displaced upwards of a million people (along the Gulf coast as well as in New Orleans). Some of them will, if given a chance, return. Others will make a new beginning. Others will try, and fail, at this new beginning, for whatever reason. Some will suffer from post-traumatic stress, and, as a result, be unable to function at their previous level (whatever that was, economically and professionally).

tigtog said...

"If, even with help, they can't quite manage to break the cycle, that's sad, of course. The blog you cite makes some good observations, but the writer is missing the forest for the trees."

I guess her points just struck my bleakness gong. I'm on the other side of the world: I can't imagine how bleak someone working in the heart of it all must be.

There is a chance here, as you so rightly point out, to lift some people up out of a cycle of poverty they've been stuck in for generations. I just have a dreadful feeling it will be fucked up, as usual.