Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti: Looting, Lawlessness, and People being Human

"Security fears in quake-hit Haiti"
BBC (January 16, 2010)

"There are mounting security concerns in Haiti's earthquake-hit capital as distribution problems continue to hamper getting aid to survivors.

"Days after the quake devastated Port-au-Prince, killing tens of thousands, there are some reports of gangs preying on residents and looting.

"Officials say thousands of prisoners are unaccounted for after the main prison was destroyed.

"Relief has been arriving, but little has moved beyond the jammed airport.

"Damage to the seaport, roads and other infrastructure has prevented the speedy distribution of food, water and medical supplies...."

"...'Government buildings have collapsed and we do not even have the support of the local infrastructure,' [UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokeswoman] Elisabeth Byrs said in Geneva.

"Ms Byrs said the situation was even worse than the devastation wrought by the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia's Aceh province.

" 'It's worse than the Indonesian earthquake where at least we could get the support of some local authorities,' she said. ..."

There's a video (2:42) at the top of the article. It starts with Winnie, 16 months old, whose parents are dead. She was buried under rubble, found by reporters, and returned to an uncle who had come to look for survivors. Winnie's dehydrated and has a few scratches, but otherwise she's okay.

When I read about "looting" following a major disaster, I take the news with a grain of salt. If I were living in a town where many or most of the buildings had been knocked flat, there was no power, and my household's supply of food was running out: I might "loot" the grocery that's nearby. Particularly if the folks who worked there were dead.

I'd keep track of what I took, to facilitate payment later - but yes, I'd take what was needed, when it was needed. I'd expect any responsible person to do the same for his or her family.

Then there's the sort of looting where things like jewelery and television sets get stolen. I don't think that bangles and plasma screen TVs come under the heading of 'necessities.' (Those items aren't mentioned in the article, BTW: maybe I should have written "luxury goods.")

Still, it looks like what's happening in Haiti is, in some places, "looting" in a reasonable sense of the term.

Getting philosophical for a bit: what's going on in Haiti is a case-in-point for the idea that we need institutions that maintain social order. The groovy notion that countries and religion and all that stuff isn't nice was around long before Lennon wrote his "Imagine:"

"Imagine there's no countries,
"It isn't hard to do,
"Nothing to kill or die for,
"No religion too,
"Imagine all the people
"living life in peace..."

Then, there's "Lord of the Flies" - which can either be seen as being about how "culture created by man fails" (Wikipedia), or what happens when people are freed from the shackles of a stultifying society.

Funny, how when people are freed from the shackles of society - one of their top priorities is generally to find the shackles and get them in working order again.

Like I've written before: the Lemming cares; it's just that the Lemming doesn't care about the 'right' things. (September 9, 2007)

1 comment:

UNRR said...

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 1/17/2010, at The Unreligious Right

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