On Katrina, New Orleans and the 5th World 9.03.05

A Perspective and a Solution That will Not be Allowed


The destruction of New Orleans is symptomatic of the coming colllapse of the corporate 4th World. There is a 5th-World solution to the disaster, but it will not be allowed to be implemented.

How is one to make any sense at all of a major national disaster in which a major city drowns, leaving hundreds of thousands of American citizens homeless, dead, jobless, diseased or traumatized?

The 5th World is the inevitable restructuring of the fossil-fueled corporatocracy that currently rules the western world. The ancients foresaw that the 4th World would be unsustainable and would fall of its own weight at some time.

The inability of the world's most powerful nation to quickly bring even the simplest life support to hundreds of thousands of stressed New Orleans residents underscores the basic fragility of the 4th World. An image remains burned into my memory: a desperate mother holding an infant dying of thirst cries out for water to a helicopter passing over head on its way to pointlessly drop -- not water but -- more sandbags into an enormous breach in the levee through which Lake Ponchartrain is draining into the City of New Orleans.

The levees were not ever expected to withstand more than a category 3 storm, and Katrina was 4 coming down from 5. There was plenty of warning. The 4th World is an overly complicated web of weak interconnections waiting to break. Katrina easily broke most of the strands of this web in the central south region of the U.S.

Police communications failed as batteries quit and could not be recharged because the power grid was down. Cell phone towers without power failed to take calls. Pumps that empty the water out of the city were underwater and fried. Without power, there was no water pressure in the mains, so fires burned out of control, and sewage pumps failed to push sewage uphill to the processing plants, so toilets backed up, creating health hazards. People without water drank sewage-contaminated water and became sick. Hospitals without power or water failed to provide service. People on powered respirators died. Without water, the chillers at Bell South almost failed, which almost cut all phone service in the Southeast, including financial transactions, which almost...

It was nothng but foolish hubris to expect New Orleans to survive forever below the level of water in the surrounding river and lake. Larger levees might have made a difference, but the long-term thinking and political will was never there to make great expenditures today to preserve a future that benefits someone else's political watch. Every politician hoped that the inevitable disaster would wait until his own watch was over.

It was not as if the disaster were not foreseen. As recently as last year a detailed hurricane simulation was carried out that predicted the Katrina disaster quite accurately. But who listened?

While the eventual outpouring of compassionate aid was gratifying, the delays and incompetancies en route were outrageous. It did not escape many people's notice that the victims were largely poor, black Democrats under a largely rich, white, Republican administration that has long ignored the lower classes. Others saw nothing but indifference and incompetance. No one blamed Al Qaida.

Who are the victims of this disaster? They are the unwanted refuse of the corporate 4th World. They are poorly educated because poor areas generate too few tax revenues to build and maintain good schools. The jobs they can generally perform are those that are routinely exported to other nations so that corporations can make more profits. The evacuation plans never even considered anyone too poor to own a vehicle in which to get out. They are the forgotten ones of our society.

The 4th World is built upon short-term profit-oriented thinking. What is the corporate profit this quarter? What is the benefit to me now? In the 4th World, jobs are a corporate cost to be minimized. Employment has negative value.

The 5th World lives by the Native American principle of making no decision without fully considering the needs of the next seven future generations. Just because they cannot vote is not reason to ignore their needs. The future must be cared for, or it will die, and with it the human experiment. In the 5th World, every human being has a right to be productive and to work in a good way that fits their abilities and potentials.

What kind of solution might 5th-World thinking offer in a case like this?

It might go like this:

If triage is good for treating victims, then apply it to cities. Wall in the French Quarter as a tourist attraction and abandon the rest of New Orleans, which is beyond cost-effective hope. Use taxpayer funds to build a thousand small, locally self-reliant cooperative communities on higher ground, on croplands taken by federal eminent domain from farmers whom we are currently paying to not grow food. Pay the farmers to train the refugees to farm organically on a local scale. Make the communities foot and bicycle-based. Let them make their own fuels from alcohol crops.

Set up a cooperative labor-intensive industry in each new community. Let them agree to buy from one another to guarantee their markets. Survey all healthy refugees to determine their skills and assign them to new communities in which their aptitudes will be useful. Keep families together, if they wish. Train the new residents of each new community to do the simple tasks that their industries require.

Cooperative communities can share food, water, shelter, entertainment and other amenities among their residents, thus reducing what each worker needs to buy outside the community, thus reducing the labor cost of the cooperative industry, thus enabling it to compete against cheaper foreign labor.

Allocate the refugees that are in bad health proportionately to each state in the union and deliver them to the states' hospitals for care until they are returned to good health, at which time they can be released and trained for useful employment.

Set up local schools in each community to train the students in what is necessary to be productive in the new society. Establish a strong program of apprenticeships to keep the community industries thriving.

Stand back and let the people thrive.

A major problem: It won't be allowed to happen.

The 4th World is not interested in radical solutions that attack the root of the problem. It will only support ineffective efforts to put things back the way they were.

In time, there will be no choice, and the 5th World will emerge when the time is right.

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