Sunday, September 04, 2005

Looters

Tearin up s*** with fire, shooters,
looters
Now I got a laptop computer

Ice Cube - We had to tear this ...... up!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Somehow whenever I hear that word 'Looters' this Ice Cube rhyme from the Predator album always comes into my head. Also the little trivia that the movie Trespass was originally scheduled to be called Looters but Hollywood changed the name after the LA riots. What's the point of this? Well no point really just random trivia in my head I thought I'd share.

Anyway I wanted to speak a bit about the whole Katrina, New Orleans mess. Clearly things got out of hand with the shootings and the violence and the response from the
authorities has been very slow but at least finally it seems like help is coming through. Took 5 days for the relief efforts to really start going they say. That's a pretty slow response time.

Its kind of shocking from the point of view that here we are seeing a first world country, the last remaining superpower, the place if any on the globe which should be able to mount a rapid response to this type of scenario, produce a very delayed response to the tragedy.

Some said that it looked like New Orleans was a third world country. Was that supposed to be a dig on Third World Nations? Well the Caribbean was hit by some pretty bad hurricanes last year to the extent that Grenada, Haiti and the Caymans are still not 100% recovered a year later but well death and devastation is supposed to be second nature for these third world countries aint it? That stuff isn't supposed to happen in North America.

And don't give me a story that the New Orleans tragedy is way worse than what happened to the Caribbean last year because you can't totally sell me on that. The bigger difference is that the New Orleans story is being more extensively covered by the media because its at home and there are a million reporters giving you full day coverage on the networks and delving into every personal tragedy and putting actual human faces on those who suffered irrecoverable losses. For the other tragedies we got some brief news at the start, one or two personal stories and then as the days dragged by the media got bored, moved on and ignored the waiting, the aftermath and cleanup.

No, I'm not trying to belittle the experience for those on the Gulf Coast who are going through it at the moment but lets just realize that other people in far flung countries across the globe have suffered in silence, reduced to mere statistics on deaths and homelessness when the cameras weren't rolling throughout their tragedies. That doesn't mean that those persons didn't suffer as much as the folks in New Orleans and Mississippi just that no one told their stories. If a person in the Caymans or Sri Lanka loses their home and livelihood or loses family in a disaster what makes their story less tragic than if it happened to someone in North America?

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOf course when it all boils down to it, from this situation if one didn't already know it one now recognizes that one inalienable fact, poor people 'duz get unfair' and this occurs regardless of if they are located in the belly of North America or the poorest war torn nation in the Caribbean Africa, Asia or the Middle East. So if you're poor and living in North America do not necessarily think that you are so much removed from the poor of other Nations. Poor is poor regardless and poor will always be treated with less respect than rich.

Oh and just in case you're wondering reports have said that Katrina's victims, the people who didn't evacuate, are amongst the U.S poorest and may not have had access to vehicles.

Catina Miller, a 32-year-old grocery deli worker who lived in the Ninth Ward, a poverty-stricken New Orleans enclave created in the 1870s by immigrants who were too poor to find higher ground, said she certainly would have liked to have left the city before the hurricane hit.

"But where can you go if you don't have a car?" she asked. "Not everyone can just pick up and take off."
Do they expect the people to have walked to safety?

Still that wasn't supposed to be the point of my blog here. I made some comments about Looters on some other sites and I'm here to defend my point of view. I support or rather refuse to fully condemn the Looters. I said it on Camps site and I'll say it again. I don't want to be sounding like an apologist for crime but in the face of what happened I would be lying if I said I condemn the looting. (Oh and Solitaire posted a good blog on the whole looting thing which references a news story on why these things happen.)

Image hosted by Photobucket.comSo why do I support the Looters or at least not condemn them to the extent of others? Not saying I would have personally looted, I cant make that judgment till I'm in that situation, but just trying to put myself in the shoes of some of those folks, shellshocked from the hurricane damage and without possessions and the necessities required for survival. In this situation the human instinct for survival takes over, its every man for himself and persons will do what it takes to get them through these situations alive. I mean it wasn't as if there was a timetable given for when these people would get supplies of food and water so if a supermarket was right there with goods on its shelves why starve and leave the products there where they do no good. And if you needed medication and you weren't getting any and a pharmacy was right there with bandages, asthma medication and diabetic strips etc hey go right ahead and take them. Like I said every man for himself cause it wasn't like there was an authority present to provide your basic needs or at least address when they would get around to providing those needs.

Now the other part is when the looting goes past the need to get items for survival, past the need to get necessities. Persons looting for profit or personal gain. This is a more difficult stance to defend. So what do I say to that? Well again I wouldn't do it but from a certain perspective I understand why it occurred. In a sense it was just an escalation of the looting for necessary items. Why would folk loot the Nike store (them shoes too damn expensive and they been robbing us anyways but that's not the point since those goods are luxuries not necessities) and the electronics spot even though they have no electricity to power whatever they took?

Things just got out of hand.

I see it from a certain viewpoint as folk being opportunistic. From another perspective as animal instincts going into overdrive and anything not bolted down being fair game to be taken. People who for so long had little decided to take what they probably couldn't afford before the Hurricane.

Marauders and conquering armies have been looting since the beginning of time. Maybe its part of human nature. I mean generals and commanders would have to give the order NOT to loot after a town was captured so maybe looting is somehow second nature to man. Maybe we are all born thieves. It does seem like not looting is more the unnatural behavior in certain situations doesn't it? I think the shock is today we assume that mankind is more civilized now and should act with more decency. Well in the face of a crisis when the adrenalin kicks in many of us sadly seem to revert back to those primitive instincts.

I could also justify the looting by saying what does it matter those places are insured but that's a cop out.

The unnecessary looting was a sign of freedom or at least the absence of authority! A bad sign of freedom but a sign none the less. Anarchy arising in a situation where there was a power vacuum. Don't despots use that to justify their heavy handed rule? Take a look at how the liberated Iraqis stole everything not tied down after Saddam was overthrown. Why? No authority, no power, no government to stop them. No rules, no law ... but that's how chaos begins.

Who was there to stop the New Orleans looters? Not the cops cause apparently they were looting too. Yes I agree people should know right from wrong and should have some sort of moral compass to steer them but in the aftermath of stressful, traumatic situations like the hurricane well I guess sadly as Wyclef Jean said 'anything can happen'.

Another sad perspective is that this looting may be the closest these folks come to actually protesting the pathetically slow response of the government to their needs. Anyway that's my justification for saying its sad that these things happened but on some level I understand why these things happened. No I'm not saying its a good thing but sometimes these things do happen.

The question I have to ask though is what percentage of the survivors were actually looting and what percentage of those were taking items they didn't need, looting for profit rather than survival stealing guns, shoes, electronics and the like (although one could make a case that guns for protection and shoes to wear are necessities in these circumstances, an ipod or a laptop computer umm no). Was it a majority of folk looting, because thousands survived. Were thousands looting? Or was it that it was a minority of survivors looting but this gathered media interest and make a better story than the persons who were just trying their best to survive without looting. Just a question I wouldn't mind having answered although I read here that its a small percentage, a criminal element that the media seems to be focusing on hence giving a bad name to all the survivors.

So some have said they are ashamed when they see these folks, especially with the media emphasis on the black ones, looting. I say its pretty sad but I'm more ashamed that they were forced into a situation where looting became a viable survival option because of the in-action of those responsible for their safety.

14 comments:

Shotta M said...

In my blog today, I wrote a bit about some justifications a girl in my Contracts class from New Orleans gave about the looting and also about the poor being left behind.

I agree with you about some of the motivations for the looting, I'll go one step further and tag on that things were also spurred on by a socio-economic history of abuse. However, I don't think that the act of looting can be tolerated, encouraged or excused.

Though let me qualify my condemnation - I feel there is a big difference between those gathering things for survival and those looting. It is at those looting (gathering things for profit)where my condemnation is directed.

I also agree that many of the people who remained behind really had no choice in the matter; they were the poor or the elderly.

BajanQueen said...

I agree with you with most of what you said, but as far as the looting goes, if they did it for profit in the face of everything that happened then shame on them...but if it was for survial then how can you condemn them for that?!?! It was do or die, they choose to do rather than die waiting for help that should have come sooner rather than later.

Dr. D. said...

I hear you...but still say there was no excuse to be tiefing TV etc.

Raping of women in shelters? Wah dat fah?

Jdid said...

never said anything about supporting raping of wome in shelters here dr, dont give people the wrong impression.

summer m. said...

the racist way they've covered this whole ordeal is really screwed up.

and, of course, condoleezza rice is walking around acting like she doesn't work for a racist.

we're going to hell in a handbasket.

YingYang said...

Hmm. I don't know about that Justified Looting thing, but as with many things its a grey area. Of course, if you need medicines or your kid's hungry then... I guess.... But it's such a slippery slope; some people argue for taking electronics because they can sell or barter them for food and water (yeah right). I'm not comfortable with the concept.

jdid, I know too many businesses here who just could not recover from the losses due ENTIRELY to looting and have gone under. That's a service gone, employment gone and revenues for the country gone.

However, I definitely think coping and dealing with such disasters is easier for us in the West Indies. You know your neighbour will share their Crix and cheese and 1/2 cup of water with you. Or you can scavenge two yam and a hand of fig and roast that to eat. You know the government ain't going to feed and clothe you so you basically suck it up and figure it out yourself. You get help, comfort and support from friends, family and fellow West Indians. And you keep going. Life isn't like that in the U.S.

Nikki said...

Hey Jdid, just wanted to let you know that I'm doing fine, but many of my family members were not so lucky dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A great deal of my mother's family was from New Orleans, and many of them escaped in time, but they've lost quite a few friends either to death or through the displacement.

obifromsouthlondon said...

dude ur analysis is on point. basal nature, instinctive response.

you know that whole third world ish annoys the hell out of me. the carribean suffered and it was standard news.

perhaps America should have followed a third world country example. Cuba moved a million people out of the part of their hurricane. only 10 people lost.

Brotha Buck said...

The looting is indeed awful. At first I was so angry to see people looting in the face of this tragedy. But as the week wore on, and I realized what was really happening, I came to understand. If my family were hungry and in that same situation, I'd have done the same thing. But Plasma TVs? Another question. I'm considering turning on my spam filter as you have done. Has it really helped?

Luke Cage said...

Without being in that situation Jdid, I would have been looting or doing whatever I needed to do to survive and to help my family. Like yourself, I can't make that judgement until I am in that situation.

However, a man's most basic instinct is to survive and defend. The loss of the basic social infrastructure and those who looted for survival overcame the assumption and the consequences of intense indiscretion that they would face from authorities.

The islands were covered in just a few days and did fade from the public consciousness very quickly. That in itself was sad as well.

Dr. D. said...

JDid, I not looking to have no disagreement wid you rude yute...or to give anyone reading the wrong impression.

I did not say that you supported the rapes that were reported...I simply made a statement reflecting how disgusted that sort of thing made me feel..the level of lowness that people can stoop to in a time of crisis....even more disgusted than I feel towards those who decided to 'help themselves' to electronic appliances....I stiil don't see how a TV going full a man belly!

Anyway, I think we have flogged this looting thing dead. I have nutten more to add. Happily, some sense seems to be coming through (albeit a bit tardy) for those affected. They have hard times ahead for a while. Maybe Bushy et al need not to so fixated on spending billions in Iraq, and pay more attention to what is happening on their own damn soil. After all, we are talking about the US of A! Rooight!

Stunner said...

Looters...all mi haffi seh is dat thief fi dead!

It's intersting to se how the US government was so quick to head to Iraq and spend so much money to invade the people dem country but yet it took so long to rescue it's own people in its own country.

marlo_girl said...

if i'm stealing food to feed my family or myself, call it what you will, but it's survival. screw anyone who looks down on me and thinks otherwise.

people stealing television sets and jeans and all that other ish are on some different mentality and i dunno what to say about that.

few of us know what it's like to be in the situation these people are in... desperation, dysentry, and death all around them. i defy anyone to remain calm and rational in that situation. i'm not condoning the behaviour of anyone down there, but one can only be there, in that moment, to know at what point the mind snaps.

the looting, the shooting, the raping and the pillaging are all the by product of a marginalized people. again, i'm NOT CONDONING it, but we privileged people living in our air conditioned homes above sea level, far from the devastation and destruction clucking our tongues and saying "it's such a shame" don't have the first CLUE about what those people are living.

4panist said...

I must say that my opinion on the looting has changed over the past week. At first I thought of it as people taking advantage of a bad situation and felt imbarressed that the majority of looters were black.

Then I learned more about the socio economics and racial statistics of the area, the lack of response from the government, the extent of the devestation and the general "horibleness" of it all. Instead of being embarressed of the looters,my emotions changed to anger and feelings of disgust towards the american government.