Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation” applied that label to those who lived through the Great Depression, fought and won World War II, and then came home to build new lives for themselves and their families.
My parents were among that generation, albeit in another country. The Greatest Generation did all that without much in the way of government assistance. Sure, there was the “New Deal” and its programs, but they didn’t mollycoddle people – they required hard work, too. There were few, if any, “freebies”, and people didn’t expect them. They knew that their future was up to them, not anyone else. They tried to raise their children in that ethos (or, at least, my parents certainly did).
Compare and contrast that approach with this news report (bold, underlined text is my emphasis).
It’s been one week since Margherita Lopez has taken a shower. She’s been shuffled to three different shelters since evacuating her home in Key West last week as Hurricane Irma approached. She’s slept on a gymnasium floor without a cot, has struggled to find food and says she feels like emergency management officials have forgotten her.
“It’s been a nightmare … there should have been a better plan,” said Lopez, a 43-year-old woman…
. . .
Wearing a donated Mickey Mouse T-shirt, Lopez sat in a room Thursday on Florida International University’s campus that had air conditioning but smelled like a pet store. She shared the space with about 30 fellow evacuees from the same organization, their room lined with green cots with Red Cross blankets. Three shopping carts full of donated water, canned food and clothes sat in the entryway.
Everyone sleeping there had been housed together because they had been deemed to have “special needs.” Lopez is bipolar and has panic attacks.
Or how about this one? (Ditto on the emphasis.)
Officials at the Florida nursing home where eight residents died in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma reportedly called Gov. Rick Scott for assistance hours before the first death, but help never arrived.
. . .
In Scott’s defense, the health department claims nursing home officials could have easily walked across the street to Memorial Regional Hospital and sought help.
There are many more reports like them. In every case, people expected – and still expect – others to do everything for them. They seem mentally incapable of getting off their butts and doing anything for themselves.
In contrast, where private individuals and organizations did get off their butts and do it themselves, things went much better. Unfortunately, some observers appear to look upon self-help efforts (i.e. non-governmental, unofficial, grassroots organizations) with not just disdain, but concern. Consider this perspective from the New Yorker.
… the stories of [Hurricane Harvey] are consolidating, much as they did following the floods last year in Baton Rouge, around the failures of the government’s preparations and response to the disaster, and the successes of private individuals’ rescue efforts.
. . .
Behind everything, escalating the stakes, is the willful ignorance of climate change that many local and national political leaders still cling to. In contrast to this, the actions of the Cajun Navy and other groups are celebrated. The heroism of the boaters is so vivid and so moving that it obscures the most important question about them: Why are they so needed in the first place?
. . .
There were hundreds of families … who felt that they owed their safety not to the distant forces of government but to a neighbor who had put himself at risk to help them.
. . .
There is a cyclic pattern to the erosion of faith in government, in which politics saps the state’s capacity to protect people, and so people put their trust in other institutions (churches; self-organizing volunteer navies), and are more inclined to support anti-government politics. The stories of the storm and the navies exist on a libertarian skeleton. Through them, a particular idea of how society might be organized is coming into view.
It’s clearly never occurred to the author of that opinion piece that “the failures of the government’s preparations and response to the disaster” has been the rule, rather than the exception, in almost every major disaster that has struck this country. I’ve had up-close-and-personal exposure to some of them; Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, for example. I went through the Nashville flood of 2010. I’ve also seen the authorities at work in more distant disasters: 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, tornadoes in several states, and so on. In almost every single case of which I’m aware, home-grown, spontaneous disaster relief efforts, informally organized by locals, were on-scene faster, and did more effective work, than the much slower, more ponderous, bureaucratic official responders. Salon found the same thing when it examined the role of the ‘Cajun Navy’ in Hurricane Harvey, and citizen responders after other major disasters such as 9/11. It’s sub-headline read “Unconventional emergency rescue operations during natural disasters demonstrate the strength of community”. Note that it did not say “the strength of government”.
On the flip side, you have the increasingly common response of individuals and organizations to wait for the authorities to provide. They appear to have no inclination, or feel any sense of personal responsibility, to provide for their own needs before an emergency arises. They’re the people who swamp the stores, buying supplies like water, canned food, and plywood sheets in a last-minute panicked rush, rather than buying them in more peaceful times when there’s less pressure to do so. They’re the people who complain that they can’t afford to spend money on emergency preparations – but they can afford smartphones, and big-screen TV’s, and luxuries like that. They’re the people who sit in evacuation shelters, demanding that the government “do more” for them – but not lifting a finger to do it themselves. They’re organizations like that nursing home in Florida, calling the Governor’s office to demand help – but not even walking across the road to obtain readily-available assistance! They’re behaving like sheep, not like responsible adults . . . and we all know what happens to sheep. They get sheared, or slaughtered, or both. That’s what they’re there for.
There are those who would argue that someone who’s a domestic violence victim and suffers from panic attacks, like Ms. Lopez mentioned above, should not be expected to do such things for themselves. Well, I have news for them. Mother Nature is a stone cold bitch, who’ll kill you as soon as look at you if the opportunity arises. It simply won’t do to plead excuses. Some things have simply got to be done. You do them, or you die. Your call. However, don’t blame others for not helping you enough! It’s in your hands, first and foremost.
I’ve seen that reality uncounted times in the Third World, where those who don’t have the gumption to do something are the first to go to the wall (which usually means getting killed, or dying slowly of disease or starvation, in those parts of the world). For all that the USA is a first world nation, the same realities are in effect here. Your personal problems, and handicaps, and incapacities, are just as potentially lethal here as they are anywhere else. Get over them, or make a plan to work around them, before they kill you. That’s the cold, hard, brutal reality of this world. Mollycoddling won’t change that. If you can’t get over or work around them, don’t rely on some nebulous government bureaucracy to change that reality. Sometimes, it might. Other times, it won’t.
Miss D. and I live with that reality every day. We’re both permanently affected by injuries we’ve suffered. In the event of disaster, those injuries and the burdens they impose on us might kill us – so we’d better plan ahead, and already have what we need in case of emergency. If we don’t, we’ll be among the casualties. That’s life. We’ve learned to live with it. So have many others like us, some with physical issues, some with psychological or emotional or other needs We all know that in the event of an emergency, it’s up to us, particularly when everyone around us is in the same boat.
It’s not an exact Scriptural quote to say that “God helps those who help themselves”, but that principle is found in the Bible, in so many words – and it’s found in other cultures and religions, too. However, we seem to have raised a “Millennial” and “Generation X” society that expects government – or, at least, other people – to do it all for them . . . and too many of them blame God when that doesn’t happen! Fortunately, there are exceptions; but there aren’t enough of them. How do we get through to the others? How do we wake them up to reality? I don’t know. Do you?