In Natural Disasters Regular People Behave Well

This good news is mixed. When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans it was announced over the media that people were raping, looting, and causing chaos – this behaviour was grossly exaggerated. Today people tend to assume that New Orleans became a chaotic post-apocalyptic wasteland, those people are wrong – people were in reality very nice to one another.

Except for the police and other people of privilege. That’s the mixed part of today’s good news: people in positions of authority began roaming the city like gangs while other people – average people – helped each other through the disaster.

Read about here.

The story that few can wrap their minds around is that ordinary people mostly behaved well – there were six bodies in the Superdome, including four natural deaths and a suicide, not the hundreds that the federal government expected when it sent massive refrigerator trucks to collect the corpses. On the other hand, people in power behaved appallingly, panicking, spreading rumours, and themselves showing an eagerness to kill and a pathological lack of empathy.

Most people behave beautifully in disasters (and most Americans, incidentally, believe Obama was born in this country). The majority in Katrina took care of each other, went to great lengths to rescue each other – including the “cajun navy” of white guys with boats who entered the flooded city the day after the levees broke – and were generally humane and resourceful. A minority that included the most powerful believed they were preventing barbarism while they embodied it.

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