The Bitter Lesson of Katrina: How the 2005 Hurricane Exposed the Flaws of US Civil Society

The Bitter Lesson of Katrina: How the 2005 Hurricane Exposed the Flaws of US Civil Society
The Bitter Lesson of Katrina: How the 2005 Hurricane Exposed the Flaws of US Civil Society
13 September, 18:50Photo: Соцсети
This catastrophe once again demonstrated the fact that the long-standing dispute about the advantages of a free society over state control still does not have an unambiguous solution.

Sergei Mitroshin

Among other unpleasant recent anniversaries, the catastrophe of August 28, which then stretched out for another two weeks of September in the USA in 2005, was lost, but not forgotten.

What - I will write a little later. In the meantime, I will note something important: this catastrophe formed a weighty argument in, I will not be afraid of the word, the age-old dispute between the ideology of civil society and the imperative of state control. At the same time, it should be noted that the United States and Russia are the main theater of this dispute, because basically it is there that events take place that make it possible to fill theories with relevant facts.

In essence, this is a dispute between a historical opponent who does not cope with the problems of a “free society” and “cope” with state regulation, but which usually results in the same chaos and catastrophe. At the same time, one theory begins to defeat another, then another, recruiting new supporters of diametrically opposed concepts.

And now what happened on August 28, 2005 in the USA?

What happened there was that Hurricane Katrina hit America. That is, a natural force, which is almost impossible to prevent. However, the way the US structures behaved at the time of the natural disaster, probably for the first time inflicted huge ideological and, perhaps, irreparable reputational damage on the American outpost of liberalism.

It was after this hurricane that it became obvious to many that a "free society" was not able to organize itself and promptly respond to a force majeure situation of such a level of complexity and drama. The withering away of the state, predicted by Lenin and eventually adopted as an innovative idea by the bourgeois liberals - they often conclude that the state must step aside - ordered to slow down at that moment.

This is what concerns the United States and the emerging ideological field after this hurricane.

And if the state does not leave, but comes?

As for Russia, for the past 20 years it has been ascendingly professing counterpolitics, concentrating and reviving state regulation. It started small - with a red banner and a hymn similar to the Soviet one. But today it seems that the next step is the reincarnation of the State Planning Commission and Gossnab, state programs for the production of nails, buckets and other archaic household items. Without going into details, we can state that the ruling class, with this logic, also brought the country to economic and political degradation.

The mystery, however, is how it happened.

Recall that many of the roots of criticism of a totalitarian state are traditionally found in the political journalism of Milovan Djilas, who in 1957 published a work entitled "The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System." This work survived for more than a decade. His concept was that the Communist Party, the most important part of the construction of totalitarian states of the 20th century, is not a political party, but a “secret order of the swordsmen”, which has transformed into a political class that exploits all other classes of the system in the manner of the aristocracy of Louis XVI.

To cope with the parasite, Djilas and all subsequent anti-communist critics of totalitarianism believed, it is necessary to abandon the communist doctrine and eliminate the dominant position of the unrepresentative communist party by introducing a formal multi-party system. But the fact is that in post-communist Russia all this kind of happened! However, what a miracle! - The "new class" anyway reassembled on new grounds directly from the state and, as it were, "democratic" bureaucracy.

The latter not only refused to oppose the routine state administration to the erroneous policies of individual leaders of its highest echelon, but directly and in the most shameless way appointed itself the beneficiary of all subsequent expected catastrophes of the System, as if helping catastrophes to happen. It is even more surprising that the “new class” of Djilas constructed itself consciously – from communist ideology and at ideological conferences of the Stalinist type, while the new “new class” of Russia arose solely on instincts, without openly pronouncing its role and place. It is all the more obvious that it is time for Djilas to be greatly supplemented, and the above-mentioned process of “reassembling” the “new class” to be rethought, introducing cultural archetypes into the equation ...

Who will come to the finish line in the dispute?

But back to Hurricane Katrina. The shocking circumstance was that the hypothetical fall of the dam protecting that part of New Orleans that is below sea level, in general, was considered. But the democratic electoral government blew its modernization and did not even approve the protocols in case of a catastrophe. And when the catastrophe nevertheless occurred, the distress signal did not pass instantly through the democratic chains, causing adequate responses. The full-fledged National Guard joined only five days later, and even then in the face of a shortage of rescue equipment. Even a meme was born: "The system behaved as if the United States was a third world." At the same time, the President (Bush) smiled a lot, as a representative of the people should, but the necessary initiatives did not come from him. He didn't know what to do.

The catastrophe also revealed the problem of the low socialization of the black population of New Orleans (largely stemming from the flawed system of public education). The poorly educated society, as expected, responded to the catastrophe with chaos and looting.

Nevertheless, the Katrina case subsequently did not greatly improve the policy of liberal society in the direction of greater controllability or state responsibility, and remained an underexplored shameful stain on Western democracy. In the wake of the events of 2005, black director Spike Lee shot a four-hour documentary "When the dams break: A Requiem in four acts" , consisting mainly of interviews with the victims - it's easy to guess that they were also black, and in 2022 a new investigative series was released “Five days after the disaster / Five Days at Memorial about the events at Memorial Hospital. He showed us things we had only read about before. It is hard to believe that in just five days the once perfectly functioning structure was completely demoralized, but one must take into account the heat of the south of America, the state of bedridden patients and the lack of electricity (water flooded the generators). As a result, people died. Not everyone was able to get to the helipad.

The series raises many questions for the National Guard. Let's say there were not enough helicopters, but why didn't they use at least enough inflatable boats to take people out, since there was a flood? Are they missing in the US? They would take it in Russia or from the Chinese! Why did they pull the rubber first, and then made an inhuman rush?

Years go by and new “firewood” is thrown into the “dispute” about which I wrote: a pandemic, unbalanced finances, nuclear weapons spreading across the planet. Who will cope better - a free self-organizing society or a disciplined even if democratic state?

In other words, who will come to the finish line is an open question.

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