Thursday, July 17, 2014

Kayfabe Rules Everything Around Me (K.R.E.A.M.)

The BLS estimated that Hurricane Katrina produced about 1.8 million evacuees.

Take you time with that link. Savor the tables, the figures, and the charts. Investigate the summary statistics. Here's one of the better ones: 16.4% of evacuees reported "less than HS" for education. You may not have a calculator handy, so let me multiply that for you. That's roughly 295,000 people who had to leave their homes because of a violent exogenous shock with not so much as a high school diploma to show for it.

And disease? Katrina was responsible for a West Nile outbreak.

How about labor force participation? Go back to the BLS link; look at Table 6. Victims of Katrina were involuntarily disemployed in 2005-2006, and with public assistance measures, by gum, they were a net burden on the welfare state.

And no one complained. Well, at least no one complained as roundly and vociferously as they are now about a group of children roughly the same size as a small-to-medium sized American town (Chico, CA has about 60,000 residents, for example). If the American public applied the same moral intuition-&-kayfabe to displaced residents of the Big Easy as they commit to a far smaller band of Central American refugees, each of the 1.8 million residents who chose to flee the terrible disaster of Katrina would have been forced to tie up their bindle and head straight back to the wards from whence they nearly drowned.

Thankfully, ordinary Americans aren't even close to being that cruelly obtuse. Indeed, communities recognized that people in need deserve if not commonplace charity, then at least the temperance to keep from violently preventing others from pursuing their charitable instincts.

Sadly, the nationalist zeal which appears to be the sole residual difference between today's Guatemalan children and yesteryear's Katrina survivors erodes my confidence in the accuracy of the following (deservedly famous) passage from Adam Smith:
Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connection with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befall himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own. To prevent, therefore, this paltry misfortune to himself, would a man of humanity be willing to sacrifice the lives of a hundred millions of his brethren, provided he had never seen them? Human nature startles with horror at the thought, and the world, in its greatest depravity and corruption, never produced such a villain as could be capable of entertaining it. But what makes this difference? When our passive feelings are almost always so sordid and so selfish, how comes it that our active principles should often be so generous and so noble? When we are always so much more deeply affected by whatever concerns ourselves, than by whatever concerns other men; what is it which prompts the generous, upon all occasions, and the mean upon many, to sacrifice their own interests to the greater interests of others? It is not the soft power of humanity, it is not that feeble spark of benevolence which Nature has lighted up in the human heart, that is thus capable of counteracting the strongest impulses of self-love. It is a stronger power, a more forcible motive, which exerts itself upon such occasions. It is reason, principle, conscience, the inhabitant of the breast, the man within, the great judge and arbiter of our conduct.
The kayfabe over the non-euvoluntarity of refugee children tells me that many of my fellow citizens would indeed snore with the most profound security over the ruin of sixty thousands of human lives when indeed it would cost him far less than the value of his pinky-finger to allow his fellow countrymen to relive their great suffering.

I strain to explain such a clear and obvious abdication of conscience without at least three mutually-bound rhetorical parts. Nationalism is the soil tilled by the plough of partisan kayfabe into which the seed of non-euvoluntarity is sown. The weed that there grows is a poison thing that would send children to rack and ruin. This infamy corrodes the public character and shames a great and mighty nation.

1 comment:

  1. I'd be inclined toward this argument if it weren't littered with preconceived notions about evil sociopathic fascists being on the other side of what's essentially a rule of law issue, with way more factors than this article admits.


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?