Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Human Disaster

A Human Disaster

I will not start a political debate. I have never been interested on those matters, neither in my native country where I always voted blank, nor in this country where I’ve been living for the last eleven years.

I don’t want this to be one more of the hundreds of articles, essays, blogger postings or public comments about the events happening in New Orleans since the hurricane Katrina hit American floor.

I am not an expert on natural disasters, not a sociology analyst of intellectual voice, I am not even pretending to say that my opinion has more weight than anybody’s else, I just felt compelled to make a reflection about our human nature.

Soon enough the news will start labeling Hurricane Katrina with “cookie cut” terms we are used to hear every other day. “The biggest natural disaster of the last century in the United States”, “a cultural debacle for the history of New Orleans and the entire Nation”. And all of us will adopt these terms on our daily conversations, thinking that perhaps it will make us look intellectually knowledgeable or hoping at the best that it will cover as a smoke curtain a reality we don’t want to accept. And the reality is that WE ALL HAVE FAILED.

Behind natures’ power we will hide our shame. With pre-made terminologies we will refer to an event that is more than the natural destruction of life, failing by our own egocentricity to see how it reflects a reality that has been living with us for centuries.

We have failed not just with Katrina, we have been failing for a long time. Every day that goes by and people die of hunger (on any part of the world), thirst, illness, poverty. Every day that a family sleeps with the sky as their only roof, every hour that a kid passes without education, school, healthcare and basic needs. Every day that a person gets killed by a bullet or any other act of violence, WE ARE FAILING.

This is our HUMAN DISASTER and that is the only way I want to call it. “Human” because it is our fault, our lack of action, that allows this things to happen every day.

We may think it is somebody’s else responsibility. The government, the military, the powerful, the rich, the poor, the Muslim, the Jewish, the Catholic… For us it is always somebody else, but the truth is that change starts with ourselves, in our own house, our neighborhood, city, state, country and world. Within our own little self-centered lives.

Don’t look for somebody else to blame, don’t search for solutions on other people’s decisions, it is up to you and me to make a difference, because we are that people.

How beautiful a poem I read from Master Thai that says:


I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
My legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
And I am the arms merchant,
Selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
Refugee on a small boat,
Who throws herself into the ocean
After being raped by a sea pirate,
And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable
Of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
With plenty of power in my hands,
And I am the man who has to pay his
“debt of blood” to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.


Please call me by my true names,
So I can hear all my cries and my laughs at once,
So I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
So I can wake up,
And so the door of my heart can be left open,
The door of compassion.

-- Thich Nhat Hann


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