The Ravages of Sinful Humanity
It is troubling, this aftermath of a great natural disaster in the nation which deems itself the "Leader of the Free World". For all America's 'civilization', all it took was one natural disaster, to induce social chaos and anarchy. Even police abandoned their positions and selfishness reigned as people battled to survive, at the cost of others. Overnight, we saw "The Lord of the Flies" enacted on a city-wide scale.
Somehow, civility and social rules do not translate as a true transformation of the person. As such, the basic sinful impulses still control the person and as soon as an opportunity arises, the person breaks loose in acts of depravity. It matters not that these people come from a rich country, a powerful First World country with more education and opportunities than most... because they have not learned to live in Christ and be transformed by the Spirit, they are still prey to the dreadful ravages of sin! I cannot help but hear the words of St Paul: "While they claimed to be wise, in fact they were growing so stupid that they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an imitation, for the image of a mortal human being, or of birds, or animals, or crawling things... Since they would not consent to acknowledge God, God abandoned them to their unacceptable thoughts and indecent behaviour..." (Rom 1:22-23, 28).
Many of the degrading and unacceptable conditions described by the people of New Orleans, holed up in the Superdome, I have seen on a daily basis among the very poor in Manila. But there, among the poor and humble, in a nation struggling for economic recovery, I simply cannot imagine such anarchy and vile opportunism. Time and again, the Philippines has been struck by disaster, but they cope with hope and dignity in the face of adversity. Whole villages were wiped away by mudslides only a year ago but despite all the devastation and desperation, I never saw nor heard of victims attacking and violating other victims. People did not rape others, loot stores and attack the innocent - that is unthinkable in the Filipino milieu. That is a peaceable and a truly humane and civilized people who achieved a major revolution (against Marcos) without a single gunshot or shedding of blood. Sadly, this is not so in New Orleans...
So, civilization is not about wealth or what one has; it's about how we truly respect other human beings and live or suffer with dignity and principle. This basic principle of humanity is enunciated clearly in tomorrow's Sunday Liturgy, wherein St Paul exhorts the Romans to love one another: "Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law." Indeed, a theme of tomorrow's Liturgy could well be solidarity and unity among God's people. The terrifying display of anarchy in America, this aftermath of the hurricane, has served to reveal just how rotten the core of individualistic Western society is and how far we are from that Gospel vision... and thus, just how much it needs the healing and transforming grace of Christ.
Meanwhile, may I recommend Happy Catholic's round-up and links to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
ADDED ON 4 SEPT: I continue to pray for all the victims of this tragedy and all involved in relief, aid and recovery operations. This post is not a criticism of America at all, nor of its government. I wish to stress again, my sympathy and indeed, empathy for the people of America affected by these tragic events. I have always refrained from 'USA-bashing' and even 'Bush-bashing', no matter how tempted I may have been (particularly in the latter case).
Rather, this post is a musing on the issues of sin, grace, transformation in Christ, poverty and humanity, which touches each of us, as people of God. I think the anarchy that took place after the hurricane, shattered the illusion of civilization and the 'First World' and revealed (again) the sinfulness that still reigns in our hearts and societies. It also revealed the poverty that still exists even in the USA, an "uncomfortable truth" commented upon in The Times.
Or perhaps I am just reading too much into the situation?! Gen-X Revert has this basic piece of common -sense about the goings-on in New Orleans and it may well be that the disaster has only magnified the basic struggles of the human heart between 'good' and 'evil'...
Anyway, the ever-reliable Against the Grain blog has superlative round-ups on the news and views with regard to Hurricane Katrina and is well worth a visit.