Archive for September, 2005

Out of Gas, Into the Darkness

Sunday, September 25th, 2005

An emptiness crept northward up the state from Houston in advance of Hurricane
Rita evacuees last week. It spread like blood leaching from veins.

People are starting, ever so slightly at this point, to panic about gasoline.
But filling up should be the least of their concerns. Modernity is kept alit
by the fumes of a funeral.

On Friday night at stations all around my area fueling stations were being
emptied. With a quarter of refining capacity for the U.S. near the gulf area
currently closed, people are trying to fill up. Rarely used covers and makeshift
plastic bags hide pump handles at most stations. When the juice is gone, the
machinery of society stops right where it is. People are left camping along
the interstate and stuck in their far-flung suburban homes, powerless in even
more ways than they were before the cord was cut.

A huge city of oil and pesticide and haphazard zoning was evacuated. An Escalade,
the emblem of American gigantism, still sits empty along I-45. Its shininess
is a loud reminder of inward looking selfishness and an outward insult. It is
starving for fossil fuels. Carcasses. Decay. How very prestigious.

That god-damned spiraling red satellite image that dominated all media this
past week has seared itself into our minds along with the watery horror of Katrina.
Words like "monster" bring back all the midnight spooks of childhood.
Base fears that are raw and instinctual.

And when we needed him most, daddy left us abandoned. The hand of government
- supposedly benevolent - left us to starve, drown, and prey on
each other in New Orleans. And now it feigns competence and caring while maintaining
an excellent haircut and looking for openings to enable policies paid for by
campaign contributors. Vouchers. Tax Cuts.

The thing is, there is a darkness out there, just below the human crust of
pavement and progress. Black and sticky it is. But when the drug is gone and
the syringe goes dry, a panicky withdrawal sets in. A twitchy nervousness looks
for a fix, but it’s not there.

It’s in Saudi Arabia. And it’s running out.

It’s time to be scared of the dark again.


Katrina’s Citizen Journalists

Saturday, September 3rd, 2005

A sample of emails posted on CNN’s site and labeled as "citizen journalism"

As a European watching in horror the evolving and increasing chaos in the
American South, I find it well nigh impossible to believe the lack of civic
responsibility evidenced by this disaster….While racism is ostensibly banned
and frowned upon amongst your nation, this is surely economic cleansing where
ethnic cleansing would be generally reckoned to be unacceptable? I’m not surprised
that anarchy and armed looting has started in the face of such desperate conditions
as these people have been abandoned in. Oh America, this is your shame
— please learn from it that everyone deserves care and dignity.
Fiona / London, UK

…I have this to say to President Bush, if you can’t get those poor
souls at the convention center just one canteen of water you might as well
go back on vacation
Elie / Moreno Valley, California

I am shocked to see the level of slowness of the help provided. Coming
from a third world country without the resources of USA, I have seen my country
handling situations much better in extreme floods
which are very
common. Example of armed forces pressed into service immediately, air dropping
food and water, ensuring security are the first things that one does…I cannot
understand why it took 4 days to provide food and water at the Superdome and
the convention center when we knew from beforehand that people shall move
there. Communication failure is no excuse.
Rohit / Wisconsin

I am furious that our president is thinking about Trent Lott’s house
while thousands of people are stranded, dying, and waiting for help in New
Jay / New York

How repulsive can the ‘lack of real response to these desperate needy storm
survivors in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast States’ become! And
to presently watch the president of the United States and two Republican
turn this into a "photo-op"
on the fifth day, literally, reassuring and patting one another on the back
in front of running cameras" … was really, quite frankly, a repulsive
Greta / Reno, Nevada

None of these are really citizen journalism in any precise sense, but it doesn’t
matter. The thing is, they are authentic. That’s what it’s all about.
Conventional journalism is compromised by it’s profit motive and hampered by
"professional practices" that are founded on myths and incorrect assumptions.
Authentic voices are what is needed - personal voices that cut through corporate,
journalistic, and marketing speak.

I’d rather listen to someone who is authentic but mostly wrong that
someone who is inauthentic and mostly right.
Substitute "wrong"
and "right" for "uniformed" and "informed" and
we’ll be getting somewhere. The informed authentic voice is
the future of meaningful communications.