it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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President Herbert Hoover on the Mississippi flood of 1927:

"I suppose I could have called out the whole of the army, but it turned out, all I had to do was call out Main Street itself."

I probably misquoted that somehow, but that gets down the gist of it.

It's biochemically wired into us, she said, mixing her metaphors, to cooperate during disasters. It's the same response that has bunny rabbits and cougars fleeing forest fires side by side. Game theory--we hang together or we hang separately, and it's in the genes to recognize that there are threats that do not recognize the difference between fit and unfit, predator and prey. It's the source of a great deal of the nobility of human spirit, that urge, and it's also exploitable. Exploitable for good--because charity donations surge massively in the aftermath of disaster, and in the aftermath of attack, people band together, pull together, do great and heroic things--or for ill--people in that mood are easy to guide and quick to bite if they think an outside enemy can be identified (and in some ways this makes a crisis which appears to involve agency more complex than one that simply follows on the wrath of morning), and they'll do things they may wake up in the cold light of morning and shudder at.

They need to do something. It's not a desire. It's a need. It is biological.

The arguably positive things that get done range from airmen rescuing infant kittens from drowned New Orleans and the construction of Hoover Dam (a response to another national crisis) to American involvement in WWII.

I hesitate to call a war positive, mind you, but WWII is kind of a special case. And yet in the cold light of morning, we have to look at things like Dresden, and Hiroshima, and if we are human, we need to wish we could have found a better way. Sometimes you can't find a better way, of course. Sometimes, a C.J. Cherryh noted, any decision, even a bad one, is better than no decision.

And then there are the scammers, those who take advantage of a crisis situation to press their agenda, the people who have somehow escaped the wiring, or whose wiring is to freeze and wait for the storm to blow over, or whose idea of what might be the best response to a situation complicates the situation. The false charities, the would-be warlords--the successful warlords, for that matter.

Because people need to do something. Anything. No matter is it's wrong.

On this anniversary day, I think it's appropriate to remember the greatness of the human spirit, and the behavior of ordinary Americans in a time of crisis, and to acknowledge and honor both our own citizens and the solidarity offered by other nations in our current time of need.

And to pause and think very carefully about the directions our responses to crises take us in. To remember Dresden while we're remembering 9/11.

We're a remarkable species. Let's remember that, too.

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