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AdLib On August - 29 - 2017

Houston Flood Help

At any particular moment in time, it may seem self-evident that people in general are foolish, ignorant, selfish, short-sighted or reflective of a variety of disappointing traits. Trump being elected, Climate Change being neglected, racism and violence not being rejected, there are many times recently that could discourage even the most optimistic views of who human beings really are.

However, while these disturbing actions may gain the most attention, what really speaks of who the majority of people in this country and the world are, is how they react to the horrible.

Watching the coverage of the devastating and ongoing flooding in Texas, what one can’t help but witness in the people using their boats to rescue strangers, reporters dropping their mikes to pull people from their flooding cars, volunteers donating their time and money to help provide for those forced out of their homes and the many institutions and facilities providing clean, safe shelters for young and old, the true nature of our shared humanity.

People can be overcome by what is worst in us, giving into their fears and anger to make decisions that are destructive for themselves and those around them but people are not so simplistic as to only be one thing in all situations. Some may be resistant to see the suffering of others around them in society for emotional and political reasons but when the suffering can’t be denied, many override their worst instincts with compassion and determination.

It is too bad that it sometimes requires a tragedy to unite people in purposeful humanity, wanting to help each other out of empathy and a sense of duty to help protect the lives of other human beings.

I and millions of others witnessed that first hand in the aftermath of the massive 1994 Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles. We were at the epicenter where the quake measured around 7.0, whole streets of buildings collapsed, water mains broke and gushed, electricity was cut off and as aftershocks rattled through the pitch black night, people came out into the streets. People who may have lived next door to each other but never met and those who knew each other, gathering together in an instinctual sense of shared humanity. As anyone who lived through that time can affirm, for months afterwards, there was a closeness and a compassion in the city that was very welcome but unusual. We had all shared a moment of great danger and it brought a city of millions together. All of the minutia that stacks up around us, the many things that divide us and devalue the importance of the lives of others were stripped away for a period of time. Eventually though, it all crept back in as it always does and again obscured our views of each other in that genuine, human way.

As fate would have it, I flew out of New Orleans the day before Katrina hit. Knowing people there and around the state, I heard of horrible events and outrageous living conditions many had to cope with during and long after the city flooded. Some of the worst traits in human beings surfaced but for the most part, there was an overflowing sense of compassion. Residents in Baton Rouge and other parts of the state as well as Houston and other parts of Texas, opened their doors to bring in complete strangers from the flooded streets of New Orleans to give them shelter. Donations and volunteers were plentiful and people all over the country and the world contributed to help out those who endured and lost so much.

What is happening in Houston right now is that same thing. Faced with this ongoing disaster, the best in people rises to the surface, people’s humanity and compassion.

Just as responding to the explosion of hatred and bigotry, people came together in large numbers in Charlottesville and many other cities to stand up against it with the power of conscience and humanity.

In response to the threat that the election of Donald Trump represents to so many in our society and the world, women led the biggest protest in U.S. history after his inauguration and protests of magnitude against this destructive would-be tyrant and manufacturer of hate continue with no end in sight. People driven by conscience and empathy especially for those who are the most vulnerable display what is best in us as human beings.

Philosophers say that existence is a necessary dynamic of dualities, good and evil, darkness and light, life and death. Each side requires the other to exist in opposition to it in order to exist itself.

History shows that Americans generally don’t act preemptively against threats. Voters aren’t patient enough to support long term plans for battling Climate Change (and floods like Houston is facing), restructuring the economy or health care, etc. Change is disruptive and scary to many and no matter how gradual, often results in stubborn resistance and push back (imagine if voters hadn’t panicked over Obamacare and left Dems with a majority in 2010, how many accomplishments like a massive jobs/infrastructure bill, environmental legislation and repairing a tax system that favors the wealthy could have been accomplished…and maybe even disaster preparedness and rebuilding of dams and levees such as those in poor shape now threatening Houston).

The unfortunate de facto truth about our society is that in order for most people to act in their best interests, they need to suffer severely enough to push off the comfort of apathy and the status quo.

And  it is important to note that no one in Houston is asking the people rescuing them if they’re Republican or Democrat, what religion they are or spurning their help because they’re a different race. In this window of time during and after a tragedy that unfortunately, eventually closes again, Houstonians and all Americans around the country who want to help them are demonstrating the humanity that is at the core of who we are.

It shouldn’t take a disaster for humanity to rise up and override the division and pettiness so pervasive in human beings. In an ideal world, when we wake up every morning, we should remind ourselves of the tragedies that brought out the best in us, know that we are those same people and demand of ourselves to be those people every day of our lives.

It’s a difficult proposition, day-to-day life and society have a natural gravity that pulls us into more narrow and divisive mindsets, drawing us too deeply into serving our fears and anger instead of our compassion and empathy for others.

It is a choice. When the winter holidays come, people steer back towards that path of humanity because what’s being celebrated in that time of year is our humanity and love (and of course doorbuster bargains). We choose to do that for a fraction of a year voluntarily. During the year, we may return to that less compassionate sensibility (though some do remain just as compassionate) but may be pulled back to our humanitarian focus when a disaster occurs that threatens the safety or lives of others.

The age old question is, “Are people born good then learn to become bad or born bad then learn to become good?” It is far too simplistic a question though to assume such absolutes of anyone. Human beings seem to be like a pint of Ben And Jerry’s, depending on the spoonful you scoop out on a particular day, we may be full of nuts or we may be gooey sweet. We have all of these various mix-ins inside us (that are sometimes very mixed up) but what surrounds everything and holds everything together is that (frozen) milk of human kindness.

Right now, people of conscience have many directions to move in, it’s critical for us as a society to be able to multitask when we have to. Most urgently, our friends, family and fellow human beings in Houston need our help and compassion right now and for weeks and months to come. All of our fellow human beings being threatened by Trump’s incitement of the neo-nazi/white supremacist/Alt-Right movement need defiant and unwavering support and protection. The most vulnerable human beings in this country, the undocumented, the poor, the oppressed, need the majority of Americans standing with them as an unmovable object. The citizens of America and the world, threatened by the greed and deranged narcissism of the man in the White House and others like him in North Korea, Russia, The Philippines, Venezuela, etc., need to come together in their shared compassion and humanity to overwhelm and disempower them.

Some say that the ignorance and gullibility of the people should never be underestimated. Sometimes, they may be right but when the consequences of that cause human suffering, it would be foolish to underestimate the power of humanity and compassion that can flow from human beings.

Stay strong, Houston, we’re with you!

Written by AdLib

My motto is, "It is better to have blogged and lost hours of your day, than never to have blogged at all."

8 Responses so far.

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  1. kesmarn says:

    This is such a much needed message right now, AdLib. Not only regarding Houston and Hurricane Harvey, but in the wider, larger sense in which you’ve looked at the current national (and world) situation.

    Over the last year or so, it almost feels as if we’ve been hit by a tsunami of shocking events, rapid change, and natural occurrences that leave us reeling. Every day it seems there’s a challenge of real significance: North Korea fires a rocket over Japan, Britain votes for Brexit, the apparent sure winner of the 2016 election in the US is suddenly upset by a reality TV star, a terrorist goes on a shooting rampage in Paris, a sheriff in Arizona who’s been found guilty of abuse of power is pardoned, sea level rises, Houston is biblically flooded.

    There doesn’t seem to be time to absorb it all. It’s a blizzard of information (and not all of it accurate by a long shot) and managing to process it is an unbelievable task. I think this leads to a sort of overload that makes us just want to shut down and withdraw — at the same time that it raises already high levels of anxiety. And with anxiety, often anger is not far behind.

    That’s when it’s so important to step away — draw a deep breath — and read articles like the one you’ve posted here, and think about them. More than ever, it’s time to hang on tight to our basic humanity, to actively resist rage, and to cling to hope. Even when there doesn’t seem to be a lot of reason to do that.

    Thanks for taking the occasion of Harvey to remind us to make an effort to stay afloat in the midst of an even bigger (and scarier) tidal wave of national testing. It helps us to keep our heads above water.

    • AdLib says:

      Kes, thanks so much for your thoughts on this! I do think we’re in overload right now and we have been for so long, many people are in a constant low-level state of shock.

      I wake up each morning and turn on the news to see if anyone’s launched a nuke yet. Or if Trump has declared black people 3/5 of a person. Or if Medicare and Social Security have been shut down through “privatization”.

      The suffering and destruction from Harvey and coming from Irma seem almost like a physical manifestation of the assault and trauma America has been forced to endure for years and much more intensely under Trump.

      The vicious racism and hatred that bubbled up from a segment of Americans in response to the election of Obama has been nauseating. The vicious attacks on him, the sabotage of Congress to hurt him and the majority he represented and the intentional harm caused to Americans in the pursuit of handing more power and money to the wealthy has been overwhelming.

      As you say, what is needed as a salve on this terrible wound to America’s psyche is a reminder that we are indeed better than all of this. We are caring, compassionate people, we are so much bigger than the small men and women in politics and the media who try to convince us that we should hate or be afraid of “the others”.

      Good people care about “the others”, whether it’s DACA, our fellow Americans in Houston or Florida, those under attack by bigots, our LGBTQ friends and family, etc. We know that we’re seen as “the others” too by some out there and we know how wrong it is to hate for that reason.

      It’s too bad that it sometimes takes suffering or tragedy to peel back the superficial layers in our society and see that human beings are at their core, caring and empathetic. If there was a way to keep wearing that truth on our sleeve as we move on, we really could be a better people with a brighter future.

  2. Kalima says:

    Loved the article, AdLib. Yes, most people are basically good, and for those affected in any natural disaster, after ensuring their own safety and that of their family’s, helping neighbours and in some cases even strangers in need seems the normal thing to do. And then there is trump. He wears a hat that is selling for $40 on his website. In fact they both do. She wears expensive stilettos to a place where most people are inundated with 4 feet of toxic water. He congratulates officials when so many people are stuck in their homes. Talks endlessly about the volume of rain. Stands on a truck and speaks about the size of the crowd gathered to hear him speak as if at a political rally. Then says nothing comforting about the suffering and those who died.

    A few minutes ago I read that 4 rescue volunteers are missing. The lack of empathy coming from the so-called leader of the free world leaves me speechless and furious. The people risking their lives to help and comfort others like the police who just lost one of their own, the rescue crews and Good Samaritans, shame the WH and everyone in it. In the middle of a disaster, trump made it all about him and politics. A shameful spectacle of indifference and lack of moral fiber. Now I’m shocked to hear people excuse it by saying “That’s trump. He’s not like other presidents.” What the fuck does that even mean? It’s not normal for anyone to behave this way.

    Just waiting for him to tweet that he can’t get funding for his “Wall of Shame” due to Harvey. Save the world by resigning.

    • AdLib says:

      Cheers, Kalima! It is striking to see strangers rescuing strangers and even risking their own safety and lives to do so then dilettantes Donnie and Melly in their fine clothes mouthing empty words and clapping the Repub Governor on the back about how great they are in feigning compassion.

      America is suffering from PTSD. Most are still numbed from the sights and sounds of Trump holding the nation’s most powerful position and acting like the oblivious ass he is at every opportunity.

      I think most people are just thinking, “Please let this nightmare finally end!”

      And as for those suffering from Harvey and those who are and will suffer from Irma and the hurricanes that are following, there is so much concern and compassion from most Americans who want to help their fellow human beings.

      Meanwhile, Trump and his cronies are intent on increasing pollution that will help to intensify more and more hurricanes, droughts, etc. Electing Trump was like putting a blind man in the driver’s seat of a car heading towards a cliff…and too many morons out there thought it might be a nice, diverting change of pace to ride along with him.

      If only so many good people wouldn’t have to suffer, I would wish Irma hit South FL directly and could just destroy Mar-a-Lago, wipe it off the face of the Earth…and Trump with it.

  3. Fuzzy Dunlop says:

    Very well written, Ad. I have, for a long, long time now, come to the conclusion that people are generally, born good, unless there is a problem with brain chemistry, or the structure of the brain itself.
    I think that people, for the most part, learn to be bad. I don’t like using the word “bad,” because to me it just sounds a little simplistic, but it does suffice, without having to enumerate all the bad things people learn. There is actually tons of bad shit people do learn.

    As you know, I am greatly influenced in my thinking and behavior, by the 81 ideograms that make up the Tao Che Ching. One of the many enlightening ideograms strongly suggests that there is a whole lot that we need to “unlearn,” and that is sage advice, for sure, but we as individuals must choose to unlearn, by learning new and better things while discarding all the negative behaviors and ways of thinking. This takes conscious effort, and many people simply brush this very sound wisdom aside, for various reasons. Then again, some people don’t think of themselves as “bad,” or needing to change. The hatred and bigotry and the like is passed down to them from generation to generation so they don’t realize that they have a genuine spiritual sickness.
    Once again, back to the Tao, it also advises that in order to move toward health (in all aspects of our being) we must first realize that we are not healthy. Only then are we faced with a decision as to if we really want to change, or stay in our comfortable, and singular perception of our self. Very often, or to be more precise, we have a view of ourselves that others don’t see in the same way. It’s quite surprising to get the view of say, several others, and compare their views of our self, with how our own self perception compares. It’s almost always different.
    If all of us humans could achieve a basic enlightenment, at the same time, Earth would be a paradise, with no human inspired misery, destruction and hatreds. But, life just doesn’t work that way. I am always left to wonder….maybe there is some “reason,” that this is so.

    • AdLib says:

      Thanks FD!

      I think generally, people are born to be concerned and caring towards other people. You often see the same natural instinct in the more evolved animals as well so biologically, I think people are hard wired for sympathy if not empathy.

      The conflict that turns some people evil may be based in the complexity of the human mind, specifically, emotions.

      The feelings of insecurity, fear, resentment, jealousy, frustratioon etc. that grow in some people as they mature (at least physically), seem to override or pervert their natural instinct towards kindness. And those negative emotions can dominate the thinking process of many so that they feel motivated and justified in their racism, lack of compassion, hatred, etc.

      Also, some people are just naturally followers. In an environment where they are surrounded with hateful, small minded, insecure people, they conform. Had they been surrounded by compassionate people, maybe they would have turned out differently.

      So your invoking of the Tao is very meaningful. If one does proceed through life seeking to be better in who they are, they will be more open to finding the paths to move them in that direction. Those cemented in a commitment to a path they adopted for emotional reasons will be harmed by their own obliviousness to truth.

      In the end, maybe it is the frailty of the human mind, the neediness of some to conform or give into their fears that continually sabotage the prospect of human beings moving confidently ahead together?


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