Saturday, November 12, 2005

Reason Not The Need

O reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man's life is as cheap as beast's. Thou art a lady:
If only to go warm were gorgeous,
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st,
Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true need--
You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need.

- Shakespeare, King Lear

"What do they have to complain about? This is not desperate poverty they are living in," says an acquaintance from the US of A. "They should try surviving in Brownsville."

Why should 'they' try surviving in Brownsville? 'They' don't want to anymore than I do or my acquaintance does. One of the beauties of the Paris unrest is this. It is not the revolt of absolute desperation. It is the energy of self-assertion: mere survival is not enough. Heat, food, literacy and dental care is not enough. Humanity has a right to more - to leisure, to excess, to respect, to social participation, to communication, to liberty.

Permission to survive is not enough.

Is the democratic State listening? How does it respond? To discrimination and injustice, it adds insult and provocation. To social crisis it has nothing more to say than "it is necessary to establish order," and anyone in the way is a criminal.

- Amie, Long Sunday

Our attention is being directed to the lawlessness of individuals [in New Orleans], and we respond with fear: “that could happen here, that could happen to me.” And we are gratified when “order” is talked about and seems to have been restored. Sometimes all that is required for the achievement of that satisfaction is to see a black male lying on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back.

- Wahneema Lubiano

The private automobile is still the most dominant travel mode of every segment of the American population, including the poor and people of color. Clearly, private automobiles provide enormous employment access advantages to their owners. Car ownership is almost universal in the United States with 91.7 percent of American households owning at least one motor vehicle. According to the 2001 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) released in 2003, 87.6 percent of whites, 83.1 percent of Asians and Hispanics, and 78.9 percent of blacks rely on the private car to get around.

Before Katrina, transit-dependent people and individuals who don't own cars were "invisible" Americans. Lack of car ownership and inadequate public transit service in many central cities and metropolitan regions with a high proportion of "captive" transit dependents exacerbate social, economic, and racial isolation—especially for disabled, elderly, low-income, and people of color residents. Nationally, only 7 percent of White households own no car, compared with 24 percent of African American households, 17 percent of Latino households, and 13 percent of Asian-American households. Two in ten households in the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama disaster area had no car. People in the hardest hit areas were twice as likely as most Americans to be poor and without a car. Over one-third of New Orleans' African Americans do not own a car. More than 15 percent of New Orleans residents rely on public transportation as their primary mode of travel.

-Bullard and Wright, The Real Looting

"I am 20 years old, and I don't want to survive here. From death row to the prison of Abu Ghraib, from Baghdad to New Orleans, from Chicago's Southside to the French hoods, here, over there where you are, chaos. We're no political spinners. We're just voices, live from the street where we live, where we become wise, where we are duty-bound to take control out of respect for those who are prevented from setting foot in it. That very street I visualize without peace stones."

- democracy now

1 comment:

  1. I'm the one who took the picture of the burning car, feel free to visit my web site if you would like to see more pictures of Paris:
    —David Henry