Friday, March 5, 2010

Looters Galore

I recall that after Hurricane Wilma drowned a large part of key west in 2005 there were no reports of looting. Even after K Mart flooded with three feet of water homeless people in Key Plaza gathered up the floating merchandise and stacked on the window ledges at the store. On the other hand help wasn't long in showing up. Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans a few weeks earlier and Florida Governor Jeb Bush had the National Guard in the Keys as soon as the storm blew by. We had truckloads of water, food and ice available by the next day. Chef Boyardee never tasted so good! In New Orleans it was another story and the entire city was left to it's own devices for days. People starved, drowned and dehydrated in the submerged city. Then we heard stories of "looters."
From the AP archives.
What I wonder were people to do, abandoned and impoverished anyway in a city that had literally drowned. I wonder how many of us would have resisted the temptation to take food and water (and beer) off the surviving shelves? Reports of widespread shooting and violence were apparently greatly exaggerated though who was to know at the time? Now in Chile people are being accused to "looting" in the city of Concepción that has been flattened by an earthquake, I'm not sure toilet paper would be my first priority were I destitute but to each her own:
From Reuters.

And so it is one has to wonder what the protocol is when civilization has broken down all around you and the normal transactions of daily living have ceased. I suppose everyone wanted to believe that Haiti would end up a cesspit of violence after their earthquake, and this picture from a survivalist blog would reinforce that prejudice:
Yet we hear from rescue services that despite the horror, people in Haiti have behaved with admirable fortitude, restraint and self reliance. I guess people will steal given the opportunity, God knows our bankers have managed a grand theft of historic proportions right under our noses. About that I could do nothing but protest. I hope that when disaster strikes my hurricane supplies will survive intact and I will be able to hold out relatively comfortably until help arrives. I would hate to be labeled a "looter" were I forced out to hunt and gather supplies after a disaster.

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