PHILOSOPHY - What's it worth?


I know that many of the previous pages have been rather dry, and perhaps you are not sufficiently motivated to actually do all the things I have recommended to you.  The title of this blog isn't 'Listening to Shane', it's 'Listening to Katrina'.  I did that on purpose.  If you won't listen to me, maybe you will listen to Katrina...

I'm not going to go over the entire history of the people 'stranded' in the Superdome and Convention Center.  One of the best accounts of that situation was reported by Melissa Phillip of the Houston Chronicle called Voices of Katrina.  (Link will open new window.)  I really recommend at this point that you go and read it and listen to her audio reports.  It's only one page.  Start from the bottom of the page.  She calmly gives a very good overview and it will only take you 20 minutes or so.  Once you're done, we'll continue.

CThe City of New Orleans, and the surrounding parishes (counties) was (and is) in a very unique place in some ways.  The people have a laissez faire (from the French, meaning to leave alone or to allow to do) attitude towards life.  We are all pretty laid back people.  Some of us are more laissez faire than we should be - to the point of being downright lazy.  Unfortunately, that worked against a lot of people during Katrina...

Katrina was a weather event.  In reality, it was just another storm.  For some reason, though, people like to assign names to things, and so the weather pattern got a name.  When folks around here talk about Katrina, we talk like Katrina was (and still is) some kind of minor deity - and a real biatch of one at that.  "Katrina killed him."  "Katrina took my boat."  "Katrina cost me..."  Katrina did this, Katrina did that, Katrina didn't give me the courtesy of a reach-around. 

BBy now you have seen so many pictures of the aftermath of Katrina that you are likely numb to it.  You have, by now, seen many pictures like this, outside the Louisiana Superdome.  It is not my intention to mock, deride, or otherwise throw metaphorical stones at these people.  It is my intention to listen to these people.  I want you to sit with me at their feet and pay attention to the lessons they have to teach us.  They are, in a very real way, all gurus that can lead us to preparedness Nirvana.

From a distance, it's not too pretty, and up close it isn't any better.  You do not have to imagine what it would be like to spend a few days with tens of thousands of strangers in a large building that does not have electricity, running water, food, medicine, or any other essential service because tens of thousands of volunteers did just that when Katrina came to party. 

Let's try it out, mixing all the elements, shall we? 

HDeciding to take advantage of the city's Refuge of Last Resort, you arrive at the Superdome as it starts to rain...  You sit in in the seats with 20,000 of your closest friends.  Katrina makes landfall while you wonder if the roof will come off this place, or if it will fall down around you.  Part of the roof goes away, and the sound is indescribable.  Ten thousand banshee are screaming outside.  You sort of expected to be able to go home in the morning, but the game goes into overtime.  Unlimited overtime...  This quickly turns into a multi-day misery as the lights go out, the water stops running, and the toilets start backing up.  There are no concession stands.  Nobody is walking up and down the isle selling cold beer.  It's hard to get anything to eat or drink at all, because unless you brought it with you, there just isn't any.  The vending machines have all been looted.  The smell of hot garbage lingers powerfully.

It's hot, it stinks, you're hungry, thirsty, and tired.  You are surrounded by people you do not know, probably didn't like after the first fifteen minutes, and you'd surrender all your worldly possessions including the filthy clothes on your back to get out of there.  No longer able to tolerate the stench, heat, or the personalities all around you, you decide to go outside to get some air.

EThe problem is that there isn't really anything outside either.  It still stinks.  The sun is hot.  Your kids are hungry, and you've run out of snicker's bars. 

On the whole good/bad scale (1 being not that bad, and 10 being global thermonuclear war), having your kid say, "Daddy, I'm hungry.", and not having anything to give her is about a thirty-five on the good/bad scale.

You hear a rumor, though, that some people are going to the Convention Center.  They say that busses are going to come and start taking people out from there.  It's only a few blocks, so you decide to take the walk.  It's hot, and sweat profusely as you stroll along slowly.

When you finally make it to the Convention Center, none of the things you have heard are true.  The situation isn't any better.  A group passes you, carrying a dead body out.  They lay the body on the median, and cover it with a dirty blanket. 


IThe people here are no different than the people at the Superdome.  There are no services of any kind.  Sometimes you see police, but they aren't doing anything.  Most of the time you do not see any at all.

In the process of walking along, wondering what you should do next, you come across this woman.    She is drenched in sweat from herself and her child.  The child is naked - having no clean clothes or diapers after the second day - and from the smell of them, the woman is drenched in his urine as well.  There isn't anything you can do for her, and there isn't anything you can do for yourself.  You sit on the curb, upwind from the dead bodies, and wait.  You aren't sure what you are waiting for, but there doesn't seem to be anything else to do...  There is nowhere to go, no one to call, and no one who cares - or at least it seems that way from your perspective.

Hold that image, and that feeling in your mind while you consider an important question:  How much is it worth to you, personally, to insure that you are never in that situation?  Put a dollar figure on it.

As you listened to Melissa's account, and as you look at these pictures, name the one thing that all of these people have in common. 

The answer doesn't have to do with race, class, or the fact that most if not all of them were registered Democrats. 

Whose fault is it that these people were in that condition?

What are some of the other lessons that you learn while listening to Melissa's account and looking at these pictures?

If at this point the idea of a good vacation is to congregate with large crowds of unwashed, angry people for a few days and then take a government sponsored bus ride to a location where you will spend a few weeks with crowds of washed, angry people then you really need go no further. 

JThere are some people who obviously think that this is a good  idea.  They figure, "Hey!  No work, no school!  We'll pick up one of those fancy cars from the abandoned dealership, pick up some beer and ramen noodles, and cruise around havin' a party!" 

Personally, my beer and ramen days are behind me. 

If, however, you would rather not experience the Federal Vacation Plan first hand, the rest of this is for you.

The first and obvious lesson is this:  No matter what happens, if the government sets up a Shelter of Last Resort, do not go.  Let's listen to the tens of thousands of people who did go, and try to see if they have some more lessons for us.

Name the one thing that all of these people have in common. 

There are two answers to this question.  One is simple, and the other complex.  The complex answer has to do with demographics.  The majority of people who found themselves in the Dome or at the CC were either poor or elderly.  The lesson in that isn't, "Don't be poor or elderly.", but we'll come back to it.  The simple answer is simply that all of these people - for whatever reasons - made bad choices. 

None of these people had their shit together.

Their bad choices didn't start on August 30, 2005 either.  These are people who, for the most part, habitually made bad choices.  If you do not prepare for unforeseen events, then you actively choose to take the Federal Vacation Plan.  You do not have to be rich, smart, or particularly well educated to figure out that you should have some kind of disaster plan that doesn't rely on government.  You don't have to be rich, smart, or particularly well educated to put that plan into effect over a long period of time either.

Whose fault is it that these people were in that condition?

The only responsible party for the condition of those people are those people themselves.  Not the government, not society, not the Red Cross.  City and State government told all of these people in advance that they needed to get out, and they actively selected their fate.  They all chose to be there.

How much is it worth to you, personally, to insure that you are never in that situation yourself?  Put a dollar figure on it.

Well?  What's it worth to you?  I, personally, would rather strip myself, wife, and kids naked and walk to California (We're comin' to your house, Helen!)  than to end up in a government camp of any kind.  I'm not talking about the Red Cross and other shelters that these people were taken to in Houston and other places where they were given a bath and a sandwich - we'll talk about those later.  What I'm talking about here are places like the Superdome and Convention Center that became designated 'Evacuation Points'.  I hover on the brink of using the term 'concentration camps' because of the emotionally charged nature of of that term.  Let's just stick with 'government camps' and try not to get too conspiratorial about it.

ASpeaking of Government, where was everybody?  Where are the cops?  Uh oh.  The cops have got their own problems.  What about the State?  Where are the Feds?  Where is FEMA?  Well, all that is coming.  Just hasn't gotten here yet.  That's part of the Federal Vacation Package, you see.  We're going to talk about all those things in turn as they affect your Plan and as they affect your decisions and actions before and after SHTF events, but for now let's keep moving forward.

How much is it worth to you, personally, to insure that you are never in that situation yourself?  If you haven't done so already, shouldn't you be assuming the personal responsibility for your welfare?

This raises the question of money, and we can declare, "Ah ha!  That's one answer to why people ended up in government camps!  They didn't have the money to do anything else!"  If there are some social democrats in the readership, they will be thinking along the lines of 'economic justice' and other socialist ideas that would force more and more of us into the Federal Vacation Plan.  (Yes, that's my shot for the day...)

Katrina was a bad hurricane, but it was still just a hurricane.  It's not like Katrina was the first hurricane either, and certainly not the first hurricane to affect people this badly.  Katrina just affected more people than ever before, but not in a new way.  In law enforcement, detectives call that a 'clue'.  Ah ha!  Lesson 1:  GET A CLUE! 

Yes, many of these people were poor people.  Of little means.  Living hand to mouth.  What I would like to tell you is that all of these people were (and are) hard working, honest, industrious people who simply were experiencing hard times.  The truth of the matter, though, is ugly, so let's be frank about it.  It's a truth that comes back to our Philosophy:


I have read all the accounts, watched endless hours of video, listened to thousands of radio reports, and held person-to-person interviews and I notice a trend.  I want you to notice it too.  Remember Melissa's Voices of Katrina report on Day 5?  Remember the Skywalk People?  They were mostly tourists who were trapped here, who pulled together, got their shit together, and started trying.  What's everyone else doing?  Not moving much.  Asking when the help was coming.  That's called a 'hint'.


GEventually, men with guns and food show up, pack everybody up into busses, and take them on the part of the vacation we call the Federal Vacation Bus Tour. 

Doesn't that look grand? 

GET A CLUE.  Once you have a CLUE you have a Clear, Lucid Understanding of Everything.  You KNOW what the risks are in your area.  Plan for and around that.  Failure to do so is LAZY, and LAZY PEOPLE DO NOT PROSPER!  Can I get an, 'AMEN!'?

I have already admitted some guilt to the charge of 'lazy'.  I didn't have all my shit together before Katrina, and I only had 600 dollars in my pocket when we left town that day.  Lazy, though, isn't the real problem, it's only a symptom.  It's a symptom of poverty.  Not an economic poverty, but a different kind of poverty that is related to a different kind of wealth. 

Think about your Laptop Bag.  The items and gadgets in the bag are worth something.  They have a cash value.  They are a kind of wealth - an economic wealth.  They cost you something to put together.  If you are cash poor, you don't have a laptop, but at least you should now have all your important papers together in a grocery bag or something.  Those papers, documents, and other data are another kind of wealth.  Data Wealth.  We have taken steps now to secure these kinds of wealth. 

On the last page, I asked you to start putting together an address book with friends, family, and work related people.  This is another kind of wealth - and a kind of wealth that you will not find discussed in any of the survival manuals.  This is rather surprising to me, because it is, in fact, the #1 most valuable kind of wealth.  Good family relationships and deep friendships are a kind of wealth that you cannot buy with money.  It is a kind of wealth that cannot be stolen from you.  I am not trying to go mushy.  I am entirely earnest about this.

It's not just that the people in the Superdome and Convention Center didn't have the means to escape - because I'm willing to bet that most of them did.  They could have found SOME way out.  Certainly there would still have been some remaining.  People who are too ill to move, for instance.  It's not the means of escape they were lacking, but the end.  The destination.  They had nowhere to go.  Nobody to take them in.  Nobody to worry about them.  Poverty...

In the beginning, I said I would be honest with you.  I actually don't like people that much.  I'm not a very social creature, and for the most part I suck at relationships.  Sometimes I wonder why my wife tolerates me at all.  Even so, I work to establish friendships and family relationships because without them I may as well dig a hole and throw some dirt over myself.  Our lives only have meaning insofar as we have relationships with other people.  Otherwise we are just any other animal living alone in the woods, and who cares if we live or die?

The people in the Dome had an economic poverty, but many also had a social poverty.  That's not the kind of poverty that is the real problem, though.  The deep problem is a poverty of imagination.  I'm not entirely settled on that word, but it seems to me that some people simply cannot imagine their lives any different from the way they are today - and indeed the way they have been for whatever period of time.  Tony Robbins said, “People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals - that is, goals that do not inspire them.” Perhaps that is what I am trying to express.  An inability or unwillingness to reach for future goals and to plan for future needs. 

I know all about living hand to mouth.  I have been unemployed.  I've been kicked out of places.  I know that life sucks sometimes.  In that situation it takes a certain resolve to keep a dollar for tomorrow when things are so hard today - but it needs to be done.  Why do some people come from poverty and achieve wealth?  Why do some people come from wealth and achieve poverty?  It seems something deeper than simple laziness, but what that something is can be hard to define...but the ones that succeed seem to be the ones that have their shit together on a better level than the ones who fail.

It doesn't take much money to HYST.  It doesn't take much money to get out of a disaster area.  In fact, it can be cheaper to leave.  You don't have to pay your rent if your apartment is under water.  I didn't really appreciate this as I was driving to Houston with what I thought was all the wealth I had in the world in my car.  I was wrong about that.  I was soon to learn that I was a very wealthy man, but that I had no appreciation of it.

The #1 kind of wealth to have in a disaster - assuming you bug out rather than stay home - is to have a place to go.  It doesn't have to be a great place, but if you have no place, then your poverty registers on the deep end of the Destitute scale.  I will talk about this at some length another time.

Even with planning, you may get caught with your pants down.  You may be too ill to do anything else.  You may misunderstand the nature of the event.  You may be trapped by unforeseen circumstances of all kinds.  Sometimes you are just unlucky.  There are always going to be some people who cannot for some reason escape, and we have an expectation that government will try to help those people if it can. 

Here are some of the lessons I come away with.  There are some others, but we'll cover those another time.

1.  Get A Clue
2.  Don't be lazy.  Be active.
3.  Do a little something every day.  It adds up.
4.  Make good choices.
5.  You don't have to have money to be rich.
6.  The Federal Vacation Plan sucks. 
7.  If you get caught unlucky, remember the Skywalk People.  Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.

If you've been stuck on lazy, it's time to get up, get busy, and get rich. 

Of course, if you don't, the government camps serve their own version of Happy Meals, so maybe it's not all bad, eh?


 OK.  Now I'm ready to talk about the 12 Hour Plan.  I just needed to get that out first.



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