I just found the following article in my draft folder, where it was sitting for a few months. Hurricane Katrina is history, but all the things I said about the U.S. are unfortunately still valid, so you might want to read it anyway.

August 30, 2005

It seems so remote, and it seems so incredible that a scenario that was often predicted and even more times used as a plot in books and movies finally has become reality. A hurricane suddenly picked up energy and grew into a category five beast and almost hit New Orleans. Most people had left the city in time before it struck, but some had to stay, some were not able to leave and some just wanted to stay. Why did some people prefer to stay? Many of them thought: It has not been that bad before, and it is not going to be that bad this time. And at first, most of them were right, except those probably several hundred poor souls that were not lucky or smart enough to pick a good shelter. In Europe, people rarely die because their house gets blown away; most houses here are way too heavy, and there are no hurricanes here. The most severe storm I have ever been in was 160 km/h strong , about category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, but I was caught in a park, and it was quite scary and life threatening when huge parts of trees broke of and flew through the air. About 10.000 tress in the city were unrooted, and many windows did break because they were open and slammed shut when the wind came. But this must have been a mild breeze compared to a category 4 or 5 hurricane, where you can no longer normally breath and even walls collapse. But fortunately for New Orleans, some other small towns took the main beating, but it still must have been like something you definitely do not want to experience, never ever, even not in a bunker. It must scare the shit out of everyone, I don’t think any sane person will ever find it entertaining to be inside a hurricane. The earth suddenly becomes a hostile and deadly place unlike ever before, trying to destroy everything you know, and kill everybody around including yourself, and the air, this most precious element, perfidiously turns into something brutal and violent. Without food you can easily survive three weeks, without water easily three days, and without air barely three minutes. So that must have been the situation right after the hurricane went through: A large number of old people, kids and parents, some of them injured, woke up in a city that had taken a heavy beating, and all were probably scared to hell, including the policemen and guards that went through this as well. Many of them must have been kinf of paralysed and probably decided to wait until conditions improve and help shows up. But then something happened that even while it was predicted,, it seems to have come unexpected, at least to those homeland security professionals: The leeves around New Orleans gave away, more and more pumps failed and the city “bowl” started to fill with water. At this point, the strategy of “waiting until conditions improve” failed miserably. Many houses that literally weathered the storm now were flooded, and even then quite a number of people stayed in their flooded houses, and some probably have been trapped and drowned in their houses.

August 31, 2005

Katrina and the New Orleas Disaster are all over the media right now. I am sorry for the people, and I am sure nobody can really imagine what they went through. But there is also another feeling that makes me feel a bit ashamed: I do not feel much sorry for the United States. A voice inside me seems to say: Now they got what they have been calling for. And I am sad that probably many people outside the U.S. feel the same way. It is sad that the U.S. is perceived as a country that does not deserve compassion. Where does my lack of compassion originate? I have friends in the U.S., I liked to visit the country, and I have been even to New Orleans ten years ago. What has happened? Even before 9/11, I sometimes encountered the coldness and cruelty of the U.S. american society, when private security officers or policemen did not let me pass onto property that was private or otherwise access restricted, and never told me the reason and even threatened me when I asked for explanation. Throw in a lack of competence and flexibility combined with a tendency to misunderstanding, you might understand why I tried to have as little contact with government officials as possible. But if it was merely unpleasant before 9/11, after 9/11 I did not feel welcome as a guest any more. I felt like beeing treated as a potential threat, with fingerprints taken like a criminal. Fingerprints! Now add the high percentage of people imprisoned in the U.S., and the existence of facilities like Guantomo, the bug-ridden government software, the underpowered brains of the people operating them, and all this is not just a mere annoyance, but a definitive blow against my human dignity and a clear and present threat to my personal safety. I do not feel much threatened by these islamic nuts who say they are out to kill me. I am more afraid of a car accident, and the statistic is on my side. These guys are few, and god is on my side, not theirs. But thanks to Mr. Bush these guys turned from a mere organisation into a movement. There are many ways to destroy an organisation, but you can not fight a movement with an army, you will just feed it and make it more powerful.

As I said, the probability to die in a car accident is much higher than beeing blown up by a terrorist attack. But regarding the car accident, I can at least try to drive safely. What really scares me is a paranoid government that could make me end up in an american prison because of some mistake or misunderstanding. And the government can even impose a death penalty! And the american justice looks like a soulless machine optimized to punish people hard and fast, especially if they just have an assigned counsel. As a guest in a country, you have to accept local law and customs, but as a guest, you have also the chance to stay away from an unfriendly host.

But there is something I can not do: I have to stay on the same planet. And hey, it is my planet as well as yours, Mr. Bully America.
The Bush administration acts on the international stage (Kyoto, Iraq, U.N.) like a total asshole, but it is also the american people who waste the resources of our planet like no other people in the world and insist on continuing to do so for an indefinitely long time, and there is nothing I can do about that. And I live in a country that is considered to be a friend and ally of the U.S. With such a friend, I don’t want to know what it might be like to have enemies.

But what has all this to do with Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans? There is a psychological principle or emotion called “Schadenfreude”, a german term also known to english speakers, meaning malicious joy, an emotion that was already known to ancient greeks. I am ashamed to admit it, but this seems to be what I feel: Schadenfreude.

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