I was on the train next to the two angriest (potentially drunkest) people ever, who were absolutely lighting into each other. The ‘gentleman’ had a fine grasp of a number of blame the victim statements, while the ‘lady’ was absolutely upset at white people and christians. She was, I think, of Southeast Asian or Indian decent. It was a mess.
I’m getting more and more gloomy about the Katrina situation. First of off, just becasue “blame game” rhymes doesn’t make it a valid talking point, GWB and Fox News. Secondly, at what point do we stop backpedaling and actually start with ACCOUNTABILITY? the points I’ve seen raised recently are all valid, and most particularly this one: if terrorists or even hurricaine ophelia were to attack us tomorrow, would we be prepared? I really don’t think so. Maybe it comes of being a civil engineer, and BIG BROTHER THIS IS NOT A WARNING SIGN, but I see opportunities for large scale acts of violence against the United States in a lot of places. I do NOT want them to happen, and I don’t think they will, but there are so many ways to cripple a large metropolis. And after NOLA was crippled, the United States was unable to help her citizens. At this point I’m thinking if there were a terrorist attack at the beginning of August, before all of this, there would have been a terrible response and thousands dead.
But then, that brings up a term I learned today: structural violence.
Structural violence, a term which was first used in the 1970s and which has commonly been ascribed to Johan Galtung, denotes a form of violence which corresponds with the systematic ways in which a given social structure or social institution prevents individuals from achieving their full potential. Institutionalized elitism, ethnocentricism, classism, racism, sexism, nationalism, patriotism, stateism and ageism are just some examples of this.
I’ve been using the term “white priviledge” a lot to foster conversation and dialogue about all the hidden racism that drives our society today. But structural violence describes exactly what happend in NOLA, the gulf coast, and why they didn’t receive any help. Exactly.
A friend of mine said today: at what point do we stop shaking our heads and saying “oh, it’s so sad” while basically enforcing the status quo, and start saying “that didn’t have to happen. how can we keep this from happening again?” As long as people are terrified of accountability, and as long as the people in power are the ones who implement social violence with a heavy hand, well, I don’t know if we’ll be able to. But we need to start demanding answers, and to start recognizing the flaws in our culture, and to stop blaming the victim.
A friend of mine got out of NOLA after surviving in the Bywater neighborhood until September 3rd. It broke my heart when she and another friend in CA had this exchange (my emphasis):
Friend in CA: i just pray that all of the survivors know that there are people throughout the country who care, even if the government didn’t.
Friend from NOLA: I know. I didn’t know how much everyone cared until I got out of that place. But now I do. And I am more thankful than I will ever be able to express.