"A human group transforms itself into a crowd when it suddenly responds to a suggestion rather than to reasoning, to an image rather than to an idea, to an affirmation rather than to proof, to the repetition of a phrase rather than to arguments, to prestige rather than to competence." ~ Jean-Francois Revel
Katrina and the Battered Statist Syndrome
It has already been shown by other columnists on STR who should bear responsibility (but doesn't) for the disaster in New Orleans following hurricane Katrina. This is all a rather unique situation, since columnists worldwide seem to agree that government is responsible, even though most stress it is responsible only for the failure to supply enough help in time. So what we have here is actually a global agreement that government is to blame!
Yet, just like the abused spouse who wishes to believe in her husband despite endless betrayals and beatings, the non-root-striking columnists keep returning to a dependence on government. After blaming government for not doing enough quickly enough in New Orleans , the very same columnists, along with people in general, demanded that government rebuild the city no matter the cost. (Of course, government never hesitates to increase its spending.)
It seems there is no end to how much beating these people can take (Katrina is, as we know, only the last of a large number of government failures). They still return to the source of this domestic violence demanding it to 'do more.' Like any victim of the Battered Woman Syndrome, they refuse to admit that they have been beaten or that there is something fundamentally wrong here: 'It was an accident.' They offer excuses for the beating, they blame themselves, and they have to convince themselves that 'it won't happen again.'
TIME columnist Joe Klein [i] is the perfect example; he claims the catastrophe is actually the result of individualism, not government: 'In a civilized community, there is a need for collective thinking and preparation'not just for immediate risks like a natural catastrophe but also for more abstract concerns like the environmental . . . as well as for eternal problems like poverty. Having celebrated our individuality to a fault for half a century, we now should pay greater attention to the common weal.'
There we go, the statist equivalent to the Battered Woman Syndrome: the disaster in Louisiana is our own fault. In order to avoid such problems in the future, we should surrender even more to government!
Like denial and self-blame isn't enough, Klein also tries to re-write history by stating that government is civilization, presumably meaning individual freedom is the source of evil. Government, he says, has always been a civilizing impulse among men: '[it] provided the forum for common action against external threats.' It is, Klein states, 'a basic governmental role' to 'plan for the future, to anticipate crises.' Well, they totally failed, didn't they? But perhaps even more money and power could help?
Others, like Professor R. J. Rummel, would say government is responsible for millions of deaths only in the last century [ii]. Also, the more power a government has, the more people get hurt. Rather than preventing suffering, government causes and extends it. So what kind of government-created, government-dependent 'civilization' is Klein talking about?
He doesn't say, but perhaps his statement of the impact of 9/11 and the following Patriot Act might give us a clue: '. . . the terrorist attacks have changed little things, like the way Americans ride airplanes, and profound things, like the basic assumptions of U.S. foreign policy.' Sure, the integrity and rights of people being regularly insulted, inspected, commanded, controlled, spied upon, and dishonored, simply because they wish to travel by plane'or because they have views differing from that of the government'is only a 'little thing.' The big problem with the terrorist attack in 2001 is that government has had to change its policy. This is, I must admit, a brave conclusion even for being a statist.
How is it that people can fail to see what is so obvious'that government doesn't work? Well, just like Klein, people in general must be suffering from the Battered Statist Syndrome. They keep on living a lie that over and over is discovered to contradict reality. So the lie needs to be continuously reinforced through repeating the same slogans, over and over again, and louder each time. 'Government failed, so we need more government.'
[i] Joe Klein, 'Listen to What Katrina Is Saying,' http://www.time.com/time/columnist/klein/article/0,9565,1101282,00.html, Time Magazine, September 12, 2005