Saturday, September 10, 2005

Roundup re Katrina Disaster

This is a special Blogmandu report relating to a flurry of posts in the Buddhist Blogosphere about Katrina and the government and charitible response to the devestation that the hurricane wrought.

A long entry that is stirring a lot of thinking and comment is in Wondering on the Way, blogged by Jeb, titled "Katrina's Charity," posted on 9/4. Central, I think, is sentiment in this excerpt:

It is pathetic that we take it for granted that we can afford whatever war we want to initiate, but plead and beg for money if its intent is humanitarian - even for our own citizens. The outpouring of charitable money will make people feel good about themselves, like charity has solved the problem, like the poor have been nourished, like the problems of poverty and disability have been “solved” by their Christian kindness. And then they’ll forget in a few months. ... So, I’m not impressed by the effort. It is charity of immature teenagers, emotionally tweaked by an immediate tragedy, quickly forgotten when the next emotional event emerges, and without the staying power to improve the future.

Earlier, on 9/1, Jeb had written an equally long and just-as-eloquent post at the beginning of the Katrina aftermath. In "Katrina," Jeb says "The government’s performance to date has been pretty much abysmal, with lots of lives lost due to the chaotic and bureaucratic lumbering of farting elephants trumpeting about in their own ineptness." And this: "The society which deliberately ignores the poor and disabled is culturally and morally impoverished. The society which cannot respond effectively to the needs of its own people is truly already lost."

Jeff of and Nacho of WoodMoor Villiage Zendo both quickly posted in response to Jeb's latter entry.

In "More Katrina Responses," Jeff writes that he agrees with Jeb's "diagnosis of the structural problems in the U.S. But I don’t think there is necessarily a conflict between fixing faulty programs and policies, and compassionate responses that relieve the suffering of others in the here and now."

In "Katrina & Generosity," Nacho writes, "I concur with [Jeb's] points about donations of blood and goods, not to mention about our government's facility to fund and sustain war, and [its] seeming inability to generate as much money for Katrina disaster relief." And then advises his readers to "see how you can help not only as part of a habitual response to send money or goods and then imagine that our citizen responsibility has been fulfilled (once more abdicating responsibility for good government)."

In a comment to the "Katrina's Charity" post, Crystal, the finding hope blogger wrote, "Though I am left-of-center (and neither Republican nor Democrat), I don’t believe that the conservative view of using private charities is ... greedy or uncaring." She also said she gave to the United Methodist Committee on Relief who have "a long-term plan to help in the rebuilding process." In a response, Jeb applauded Crystal and the charity she cited: "To me, that is [mature] compassion - not an emotional binge. And I think that type approach is much more helpful, because much less ... is wasted." [UMCOR's website is here.]

Early on in the aftermath of the hurricane, a couple of impassioned posts in LiveJournal excoriated the government for its ineptitude. Jeff of ZenDiary praises and links to Stephanie Hairston's LJ essay "I can't take it any more." Writes Stephanie:

I never held illusions that our current government was competent or generous, but I was at least naive enough that I never could have imagined the utter incompetence and greed of the response of those in power to a situation that has quickly become tragic. ...

Jeff of ZenDiary and another Jeff, Jeff Wilson, of TricycleBlog and Mark of Zen Filter mention and link to the Buddhist Peace Fellowship Statement on Hurricane Katrina and its Aftermath. Jeff #1 offers kudos and cites the statement in particular for "[railing] against the problems of racism, classism, and the military spending that have come to the forefront with relief efforts." Jeff #2 cites the statement for urging people to send help to those in need. Yours truly, a commenter at Zen Filter, demurs, called the BPF Statement whacky since it was strangely dismissive of the suffering in Mississippi and romantic and laughably imprecise when it calls all those working tirelessly in the relief effort "bodhisattvas." Michael Brown a Bodhisattva? C'mon. Not that.

Another Buddhist blogger with a short first name beginning with J, James, who writes The Buddhist Blog and the politics-focussed Genius of Insanity, has had a lot to say about Katrina in GOI. The titles of his entries are descriptive of the content. Here is a list, through September 10: 8/29 Some Fake News and Some Real News; 8/30, Is Bush Afraid of Katrina?; 8/31, The Bush Pep Talk on Katrina; 9/1, Conservative Paper Blasts Bush on Katrina Response and Katrina and the Poor and Bush Cut Money for Levees in New Orleans; 9/2, Bush Looks Annoyed in Alabama and This Just Seems to Get Worse and Yes, he really, REALLY said that; 9/3, Passin' the Buck; 9/4,This Was Just a Matter of Time and The Shit Storm Follows the Weather Storm; 9/5, Bush Still Clueless; 9/6, Bush to Investigate Himself and Barbara Bush Speaks out from the Plantation; 9/8, Gov. Blanco of LA Did NOT act Late and Cheney Told to "Go Fuck Yourself" in Gulfport, MS; 9/9, It's a Start: Michael Brown Demoted but Not Fired From FEMA and I Agree With Rumsfeld!!!!

Pencopal, a Philadelphia editor who keyboards Pencopal's Project, was late to learn about the hurricane disaster: "[I]t was completely surreal to be on a Buddhist retreat for a week, meditating on compassion, only to return to the real world to find that a kind of armageddon had taken place on the Gulf Coast and our government was impotent and unable/unwilling to give [the help that was needed]." She voices support for Kanye West, who went off-script to criticise Bush during a telethon, saying she and many others were motivated to buy West's album as a result.

pixelsrzen at LiveJournal posted some remarks about the Dalai Lama's appearance on the Larry King Show on September 11. He/She writes, "It was kinda weird; I knew what [HH] wanted to say (at least I thought I did), but the words he was choosing and the severe time limitation of the interview format made me think his point wasn't getting across to most viewers. ... His Holiness was doing his part of the program from Idaho, and having more than a little trouble context switching from being asked about Buddhist perspectives on Katrina, vs. Buddhist perspectives in general. That, and the language barrier made his appearance ... more stiff than I'd hoped for."

pixelsrzen is being way kind. The Dalai Lama's appearance was horrible; the interview abysmal. His Holiness was utterly unprepare, without knowledge about the Katrina disaster. The transcript of the show can be read at the CNN webspace.