Douglas Hill
opinion, humor and small town common sense
Friday, October 07, 2005

Katrina vs. Self Reliance

Hurricane Katrina brought into sharp relief a far more devastating problem befalling many of the hurricane victims than mere flood waters.

Thousands of people remained in harms way during the approach of Katrina. I read that they were too poor to leave on their own – that they had no way to leave the city without governmental assistance – at whatever level. Think about that for a moment. They were so impoverished, so utterly dependent upon government in every aspect of their lives, that they could not even walk out the front door of their homes and leave the city without government assistance. They were too poor to take a bus. Too poor to leave with a neighbor, friend or relative. Too poor to even walk out of the city. Was their inertia grounded in pecuniary impoverishment, or was it an impoverishment of will?

Sadly, many of the victims of hurricane Katrina were victims long before the hurricane struck.

In place of the individualism and self reliance of our American forefathers, a paralysis of action and inertia were all that could be mustered by many of those confronting Katrina. Unable to take any action on their own behalf, they waited in desperation for the government to move them. I suppose that when one’s life revolves around government assistance, any independent, self-generated action is just not conceivable.

Of course, New Orleans and the hurricane victims are not alone in this.

Emerson and Thoreau, the intellectual apologists of the American spirit of self reliance and individualism, would not now recognize Massachusetts or the adjoining New England states, once renowned for rugged self reliance. In fact, their writings are so antithetical to the current politically correct, socialist curriculum of academia, that I doubt that these gentlemen of Concord are ever included on a reading list, notwithstanding their stature as American thinkers.

It is so across the country. The bloated and burgeoning bureaucracy is ever pandering to the citizenry, bartering promises of silver for freedom. The encroachment is upward, from the poorest to the middle class. The grip of government dependence increases even as the bureaucratic stranglehold squeezes the manhood out of the man.

If we learn anything from Katrina, it should be the profound emasculation of will and spirit brought about by abject reliance upon government, as opposed to reliance upon oneself.

In the formative years of this country people relied upon themselves, their families and their neighbors. Government rarely, if ever, intruded into their lives. Communities of self reliant people gave support to one another. Where were the families and neighbors of those too poor to leave New Orleans? Perhaps when people rely upon the government, rather than themselves, their families and neighbors, the sense of community imbued by reliance upon one another, vanishes. In place of community, all worship at the altar of government.

We are increasingly a society of entitlements and benefits. The power of government over us, at every level, increases daily -- an insidious, relentless erosion of our liberty. Proscriptions and regulations intrude even into private aspects of our lives. And yet our response is acquiescence and inertia. We will awake one morning to total government control over our lives, and wonder how such a thing could have happened. We will then be as totally reliant upon an all-powerful government as the Katrina victims were before that storm ever developed.
Henry David Thoreau

Simon & Garfunkel

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