Hat tip to John Oliver on this.
For the last 40 years at least, I have been having apocalyptic bad dreams. Sometimes they are so scary that I start shouting in my sleep, loud enough to wake my wife who then squeezes my shoulder to wake me.
Usually they involve monsters from outer space or natural disasters influenced no doubt by the movies I have seen.
Last night was a fairly typical one, differing only by the vividness of the detail. I was contacted by John Halle, an old friend who teaches composition at Bard College and a Green Party alderman in New Haven some years ago, about driving up to Bard to hear a talk by a “humanitarian intervention” figure like Samantha Power or Michael Walzer—I can’t remember who. Insofar as Halle is already up at Bard, it only made sense in dream-logic terms. We were going up the Taconic looking at Borscht Belt hotels that had mysteriously materialized along the road, a good 40 miles from their location in Sullivan County. I see these hotels in my dreams all the time. In my youth they flourished, now they are in ruins.
When we got up there, I had to procure a toothbrush and toothpaste because I had brought nothing with me. I went to the campus bookstore where such items were sold. When I asked the clerk to sell me the items, he started giving me an attitude. He was a bearded fellow with a British accent who played verbal games with me like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. After a while I lost patience with him and demanded that he sell me the items straightaway. I was a Bard alumni, I reminded him. As I walked out, I noticed that he did not sell me toothpaste but mouthwash. I felt deeply frustrated.
I drifted in the direction of where the “humanitarian intervention” person was speaking and then found myself in the pressroom. There were twenty or so reporters with headsets on looking into cameras or video monitors. Wow, I said to myself, this is going to be big.
Then, someone shouted out that there was a flood of biblical dimensions approaching. In an instant the rain started coming down like a category five hurricane. The rain was coming down horizontally and buildings were collapsing all around me. Next, the water started coming across the campus torrentially like a scene out of “The Day After Tomorrow”. This was it. The world was coming to an end.
Once a week I have dreams just like this. They haunt me.
The photos below were forwarded from Yahoo by Vijay Kumar Marla, a long-time activist in India. At least a thousand people have died in Uttarakhand and many more are unaccounted for.
For an analysis of the man-made causes of the disaster, you can read an article by G. Sampath that makes some essential points:
According to media reports, when the floods struck, about 28 million tourists were visiting the state, while the local population is close to half that number. First of all, it is irresponsible to let such a huge volume of human traffic into an ecologically sensitive area, that too in the monsoon season. But once the decision had been taken to milk tourism to the maximum, you would naturally need to build infrastructure to cater to such tourist inflows. This requires planning. And given the fragile nature—of both the climate and eco-systems—of the Himalayan region, it also requires a strict adherence to building and environmental norms. The first principle of disaster management is prevention—by taking the necessary precautionary measures. But Uttarakhand, captive to local interest groups, has been doing the exact opposite: actively soliciting disaster.
As recently as February 2013, the Uttarakhand high court had passed an order asking the state government to demolish structures that had come up within 200 metres of the river banks. But the administration did not act. When the floods came, many of those illegal structures got demolished anyway.
Such short-sightedness and flawed (or zero) planning is not unique to Uttarakhand. It is a unique Indian tradition that finds expression even in the most modern of our achievements, and in triumphs we take pride in, such as, for instance, the Delhi Metro. According to a new UN study, the Delhi Metro “ignored disaster threats during planning” as a result of which 50 stations were at high risk, leaving it susceptible to massive casualties when disaster strikes in the form of floods or earthquakes.
The other day I posted a link to a video I did out in Belle Harbor, a mostly Irish and Italian subdivision of the Rockaways, where an old friend lives and where I have spent many pleasant weekend afternoons over the years playing chess on the beach.
Last night the lead story on “Sixty Minutes” was on Belle Harbor, including some of the same images in my video. You can watch the segment here:
HERE IS A FWD FROM A RELIEF WORKER IN ROCKAWAYS, NYC
via Jen Roesch:
(Apologies in advance for the crazy long post, but I know people are looking for information on what’s really happening in NYC after the hurricane. And I, probably like thousands of other people going through this, feel a need to talk about this experience)
“I went to volunteer in the Rockaways yesterday and I realized that it took a few hours for the full impact of what I saw and experienced to hit me. I had gone expecting the worst of the worst – especially since my initial plan had been to go door to door with medical supplies for people. I didn’t actually see the worst stories – the people completely immobilized and without food in their homes; the freezing baby saved by a volunteer nurse on SI yesterday; people completely without shelter; the people who had to swim out of their homes. I never made it to the makeshift medical clinic that I was headed for because when we went to drop off baby supplies at a church that was acting as a distribution center, it was clear that they desperately needed volunteers. They had a line waiting to get in and receive supplies and still needed help organizing things and then helping people who came. So for a few hours, I just went from person to person escorting them through the church, listening to their stories, trying to help them get what they needed – sometimes successfully, sometimes not. There were people who had literally lost everything. But most were “only” without power or heat or had had some damage but kept their home. It was hard to even think about what we were seeing and there was a way in which it quickly became almost normal or routine – rationing out to each family 2 rolls of toilet paper, 2 bars of soap, 1 pack of diapers, 1 set of wipes, 1 cereal box, 1 blanket, etc, etc. It was heartbreaking, but could feel manageable.
“It was only after we drove away that the full reality of the situation sunk in. There are literally thousands of people there who are completely cut off from the outside world. They have no power, no heat, no grocery stores, no supplies, no gas to go anywhere, no way to get to a job. They are completely dependent on the makeshift networks of volunteers that people have set up. When we ran out of baby wipes and soap and blankets, there was nothing I could do but tell them to try tomorrow or try to find another site. And given the scale of the devastation we saw, I can’t imagine basic functioning being restored sooner than a month and it could be many months. Unless something drastically changes, this is their new reality: standing in line at distribution centers, hoping there are still batteries for their flashlights, food, and other basic necessities. It is a chronic situation in which minor problems now (cold fingers or toes, slight hunger, asthma, a sick baby, an isolated senior) could easily escalate.
“And it was after this realization, that I could feel the full weight of the individual stories I had heard or things I had seen. And now I can’t get them out of my head. There was the woman who said she was starting to get depressed and didn’t want to get out of bed because all that was ahead of her was standing in line, making do, just trying to live through the day. There was the man who could barely speak as I asked him what he needed and was in an almost catatonic state. The man who kept telling me how cold his fingers and toes were who couldn’t find a pair of warm adult-size socks in a bin filled with only baby socks. The father who came in with a list that had “diaper cream” in huge big letters at the top, underlined twice and starred; we had no diaper cream and I can’t stop thinking about a crying baby with a bad case of diaper rash and an overwhelmed mother trying to cope. The mother with a three-year old at home (same age as my son) who lunged for this stuffed doll thingy in the toy box and eagerly showed it to her husband to see if he agreed that it looked enough like the one their daughter had lost in the storm that she might think it was the same.
“And then there was the last woman we helped. She was 70 years old and had come down 10 flights of stairs in the dark to get a flashlight, some food and a case of water. We walked her back to her building to carry her stuff up the stairs. The building was surrounded by rubble that we had to pick our way through to get to the front door. There was spilled food and broken glass in the pitch dark stairs. She had a nebulizer, was having trouble breathing and it took her almost half an hour to get up the stairs. On the way up, she told me that she had respiratory distress and had been intubated twice recently. I asked her if there was a social worker or visiting nurse or anyone who knew she was there. There wasn’t. Her ex-husband had come to help, but she confided in me that he was “mean” to her and that she had to tell him to go away because it was putting her in more distress. Luckily, when we got to the top of the stairs, someone from the makeshift medical clinic (our original destination) had come with her medicine. The team at the church and the team at the clinic had managed to coordinate and figure out who she was, where she was and what her needs were. But I am not sure that she can make it up and down those stairs again; the volunteers put her name and address on a list, but there is such turnover and so much need that I worry about her slipping through the cracks.
“And then I returned to upper Manhattan where everything seems normal. I got the NYT today to see a full-page story about how wonderful it is that they got the subway system restored (not really) so quickly. The media/Bloomberg message is that things are coming back to normal and that they are meeting people’s needs. This is not even close to true. There are thousands of volunteers but it’s totally make-shift, completely dependent on continued attention and donations, not fully coordinated and not nearly enough to meet the immense need. There are army trucks and national guard and police out there, but all they are doing is patrolling and sometimes assisting the volunteer relief effort. There is no independent government relief effort. And it’s painfully clear what’s needed. The people who are most in need and who are willing to leave need to be evacuated into real housing with water, heat and power and be given money, food and other necessities. They need to be assigned social workers and health professionals to follow up with them and make sure they are okay. If there are people who are staying out there, there needs to be a massive operation set up with tents, generators providing heat, a kitchen, cots/beds and a full, paid, stable staff of workers, cooks, childcare professionals, social workers, mental health professionals, nurse and doctors. There need to be outreach teams that are systematically sent door to door who establish a database of need and then set to work to meet it. And then there needs to be many thousands more workers who are hired to clean the debris, work on restoring power, clean the buildings, drain the water from basements and get the area working as quickly as possible so people can move back home. Instead, our government is leaving people to rot. Literally.
“I’ve been a socialist for 20 years and I’ve never doubted those convictions. And in that time there have been horrors on a much bigger scale than what I saw yesterday. But to see up close how easily people could be saved – and see instead how they are left alone to be forgotten, and even die – is a particular kind of experience. I know a lot of people will be out volunteering this weekend and trying to fill that gap. I will be out there again next week with them. But I am very glad that I get to spend tomorrow at the NYC Marxism Conference: A World in Crisis A World in Struggle. We desperately need to figure out how to build a movement that could demand that our government meet these needs. And it’s painfully obvious that we urgently need to build an alternative to a system that creates these horrors.”
“You can jail a Revolutionary but you can’t jail The Revolution” – Syrian Rebel Youth banner, Homs 24/7/2013
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