Fear, grief, desperation or despair would be understandable in people whose lives have been devastated by events beyond their control. Regret might be understandable among those who were warned to evacuate before the hurricane hit but who chose to stay. Yet the word being heard from those on the scene is "angry."
That may be a clue, not only to the breakdown of decency in New Orleans, but to a wider degeneration in American society in recent decades.
Why are people angry? And at whom?
Apparently they are angry at government officials for not having rescued them sooner, or taken care of them better, or for letting law and order break down.
No doubt the inevitable post mortems on this tragic episode will turn up many cases where things could have been done better. But who can look back honestly at his own life without seeing many things that could have been done better?
Just thinking about all the mistakes you have made over a lifetime can be an experience that is humbling, if not humiliating.
When all is said and done, government is ultimately just human beings -- politicians, judges, bureaucrats. Maybe the reason we are so often disappointed with them is that they have over-promised and we have been gullible enough to believe them.
Government cannot solve all our problems, even in normal times, much less during a catastrophe of nature that reminds man how little he is, despite all his big talk.
The most basic function of government, maintaining law and order, breaks down when floods or blackouts paralyze the system.
During good times or bad, the police cannot police everybody. They can at best control a small segment of society. The vast majority of people have to control themselves.
That is where the great moral traditions of a society come in -- those moral traditions that it is so hip to sneer at, so cute to violate, and that our very schools undermine among the young, telling them that they have to evolve their own standards, rather than following what old fuddy duddies like their parents tell them.
Now we see what those do-it-yourself standards amount to in the ugliness and anarchy of New Orleans.
In a world where people flaunt their "independence," their "right" to disregard moral authority, and sometimes legal authority as well, the tragedy of New Orleans reminds us how utterly dependent each one of us is for our very lives on millions of other people we don't even see.
Thousands of people in New Orleans will be saved because millions of other people they don't even know are moved by moral obligations to come to their rescue from all corners of this country. The things our clever sophisticates sneer at are ultimately all that stand between any of us and utter devastation.
What has changed in our society, Sowell wonders? Well, to put it bluntly, we have moved from a society of individual personal responsibility to one of infantile entitlement.
We have done this gradually, slowly and perhaps not completely consciously. On the one hand we scream and protest at the intrusiveness of "Big Brother" snooping and spying on our activities (even when he is trying to protect us from some serious danger); and we thoroughly despise any hint of an "abuse of power" in our president and mislabel anything we don't like as "fascist"; yet we
Once America's image in the world was that of the "rugged individualist". Whatever you might think of such a characterization (and it has both pros and cons), it is a far better portrait of a national personality than the one we have evolved to: the "whining adolescent".
If anyone thinks that I spend too much time shining a psychological spotlight on the ubiquitous narcissism inherent in most of the policies and moral judgements of the Left in this country, then consider this personality shift as described by Sowell in the essay above.
Where once in the not-too-distant past in this country, people might be grateful that we have a federal government capable of responding to such horible and devastating natural disasters and producing the money to rebuild both individual lives and the city itself; nowadays all we hear is the shrieks of narcissistic rage because nothing is ever fast enough, good enough, or even sincere enough.
With this primitive regression from adulthood and maturity; is it any surprise that denial, paranoia and projection run rampant--all three in the class of the most primitive and infantile emotional defenses--defenses that are usually completely abandoned for the most part by mature and responsible adults?
Is it any suprise that the conspiracy theories that are put forward by the denizens of the DU, ignorant left-leaning blogs or even by supposedly reputable adults, are the same caliber as the most paranoid of schizophrenics; the most psychotic and delusional of the brain damaged?
This psychological regression to childhood on the part of many adults in our country--and which is championed and even ecouraged by the Left in the cult of victimhood that they worship--has reached a state where it now seriously impedes the adult functioning of this country.
As I am inclined to tell my slightly pre-adolescent daughter, "Fine, you don't like things here; or the decisions that your father and I are making? Well, when you grow up, you don't have to live here and you can make different decisions. Until then, that's the way it is."
Let me rephrase that so that the alternately infantile and adolescent members of the Left and the Democratic Party can understand: Act more like adults and maybe people will vote for you in 2006 or 2008. Until then, that's the way it is.
UPDATE: More from ShrinkWrapped:
The Help Rejecting Complainer is someone who forms a hostile dependent relationship with people who they need. These people are unaware of their dependency needs and often will loudly proclaim how independent they are; at the same time, their behavior reveals their need for a parental relationship with others who are emotionally important to them. Physicians often get caught up in these types of relationships because they are pre-disposed to help and are easily seen in a parental role (taking care, making everything "all better").
By now you may be starting to see someone familiar in this description. There are, in fact, a while class of dependent people who, at times, fit the profile. The American Adolescent is a child blessed with an adult body and cursed with a child's judgment. They resent their dependency on their parents who embarrass them, often disgust them, and constantly fail them by virtue of their shortcomings as human beings. Adolescents have a number of developmental tasks to perform before entering a psychologically healthy young adulthood. They must give up their omnipotentiality, the feeling that all options are open to them; they can no longer hold the fantasy that they can grow up to be whatever they want. Some just do not have the size or ability to play Major League baseball; not every dancer can become a ballerina. Reality must be acknowledged. It is painful to give up one's childhood fantasies but necessary to become a successful adult.
Along with surrendering the last of one's infantile omnipotence (which lies at the core of our healthy narcissism), one must give up the passive wishes to be taken care of and nurtured. To be independent is hard work and facing true independence (not the pseudo-independence of the child who screams "I don't need anything from you" right before they storm out of your house and drive to their friend in the car you pay for) is frightening. The comfort of knowing someone will always be there to take care of you and make everything all right is not easily given up; and once given up, the knowledge that there is no one standing between you and the dangers in the night is potentially terrifying.
As they say, read it all!