Tuesday, 2005 September 20, 21:04 — security theater

The Uses of Disaster

Interesting essay in Harpers (cited by the muted horn).

The Scottish-born mathematician Eric Temple Bell, who witnessed the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, saw “no running around the streets, or shrieking, or anything of that sort” but instead people who “walked calmly from place to place, and watched the fire with almost indifference, and then with jokes, that were not forced either, but wholly spontaneous.” Another survivor, San Francisco editor Charles B. Sedgwick, noted – perhaps somewhat hyperbolically – that “even the selfish, the sordid and the greedy became transformed that day – and, indeed, throughout that trying period – and true humanity reigned.” This phenomenon of “surprising” human kindness and good sense is replicated time and again.
. . . .
The Bush Administration’s response after 9/11 was a desperate and extreme version of this race to extinguish too vital a civil society and reestablish the authority that claims it alone can do what civil society has just done – and, alas, an extremely successful one.

After several shining examples of the good things people do in spite of the state, the writer’s bias against the private sector takes over; the segue is jarring.

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