The Sunday New York Times Magazine of August 27th has a poignant and profoundly disturbing article and photo essay on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina with particular emphasis on what happened to the children of the families that were displaced by the storm. The images are very powerful and the reality of what happened, the incompetence of the recovery effort and the lack of attention to the families struggling to remake their lives is disturbing and shocking.
The images made me angry, but also made me feel quite hopeless. Journalists have still not learned that shocking images achieve their effect, but little else. The personal stories of the children were heartbreaking and I felt the need to do something, but other then sending money to the relief effort or writing this short comment, my options remain limited.
This is indeed the challenge of the next few years. How can the information we receive be translated from our personal experiences into action? I have no pat answers to this question. A disturbing pattern has emerged over the last decade or so. More information has not led to more knowledge. Instead, it has led to increasing and sometimes deadly tribal activity. These tribes range from small groups to larger ones, but their common characteristic is a lack of direct response to crucial issues. Their worlds are centered on their own and sometimes parochial concerns. Globalization, it seems, is actually returning us to a more medieval practice of village life, the only difference being that today's villages are not constrained by national boundaries.
If each village were to become the center of new and imaginative activities directed toward social change and equity, then there would indeed be opportunities to support people in need wth a more determined effect and impact than is presently possible. I will discuss this issue in greater depth over the next few weeks in an expansion of earlier posts on communities within the context of what has now become an image-world — old definitions will have to change.
This short piece is dedicated to Michael Merovitz, a very old friend who died recently — a gentle, sweet and wonderful man whose premature death is a deep loss.