“I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says they're looting. See a white family, it says their looking for food. They've given them permission to go down there and shoot us. George Bush doesn't care about black people.”
-Rapper Kanye West
“These Troops know how to shoot and kill and
they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will.”
-Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco on the national guard troops who
arrived in New Orleans from Iraq to fight “looting”.
The corporate media is up in arms. Possibly thousands dead, a city under water, and yet when people take food they need to survive from corporate stores that have been abandoned, then it becomes a disaster and it's looting and anarchy according to to people like Bill O'Reilly.
Well first of all, I don't think any true anarchist would call the situation in the areas ravaged by hurricane Katrina anarchy. Chaos perhaps, but not anarchy. While, like most philosophies, there are many different branches of anarchism, the basic idea is that people are inherently good, and can create a society based on radically direct democracy in all spheres of life- political, economic, personal, social, etc. This would mean the eradication of government, bosses and capitalism, patriarchy, racism, and a host of other oppressive hierarchical systems.
So looting is not quite anarchy. Although some anarchists like Peter Kropotkin have proposed the eradication of the wage slavery system and currency to be replaced with en economic system of gift-giving based on mutual aid, the looting in the Gulf region is only people taking for free. There needs to be the other side of democratically organized work places offering their services and products for free for it to be called true anarchism.
Despite this, the looting in the hurricane zones is understandable and justified. Those who could not afford to leave their homes before the hurricane hit were mostly African-American. While Hurricanes don't judge people, the political and economic system in the US certainly does. This system decided long ago to judge Africans as inferior, and to do what it cold to make sure they never rose to the top. This is why so many Africans were hit the worst by the hurricane and flooding.
For to long the system in this country has kept many African-Americans in the south in poverty and given them barely enough to survive. Looting was already justified before the hurricane. Now people's homes, life savings, and personal belongings are forever gone. Now that people are starving and in need of clothing, now that people need televisions to watch the news and decide what to do, looting is especially justified as an act of survival.
There have also been reports of prison riots in the hurricane zone. While it has been hard to validate this, one must also keep in mind the extreme racism in the prison industrial complex. Professor and activist Angela Davis has written extensively on the topic of how the US targets poor communities of color with ridiculous schemes like the “war on drugs” in order to fill prisons with cheap slave labor for major multinational corporations. Even though there might be some legitimately dangerous people in prison, there are far more dangerous people running the prisons. If politically conscience, prison revolts can play a role in creating a society that is truly liberated. Consider the prison uprisings in the 1960's inspired by the actions of Black Panther George Jackson.
Some have started criticizing the US government for spending to much time and money on the war in Iraq and elsewhere than preparing for a major natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina. Certainly Katrina has caused more property damage and possibly more deaths than 9/11.
While these criticisms have a point, certainly a sane society would spend it's resource on helping each other instead of bombing others, it's hard to believe that the US has good intentions in New Orleans. Sure there have been some dramatic helicopter rescues, but remember, marshal law has been declared. Police and the national guard have the law on their side if they shoot someone and claim that they were looting, who's going to question them? Don't forget it was the national guard called up to quell rebellions in the 1960's and sent off to kill Iraqi's today. As recent as late July of this year, New Orleans police murdered Raymond Robair a 48 year old black man, for the crime of sitting out on his porch at night. They also recently killed black youth Jenard Thomas and two officers were being charged with rape. But like the New York Police Department after 9/11, the media conveniently forgot how it was the NYPD that shot Amadou Diallo 41 times for reaching for his wallet.
One of the most frustrating things about this situation, is that the police and national guard, are all we have to rely on. The Left in the US has yet to create an independent force capable of dealing with mass social and civil emergencies. Sure, some charitable people will give to the Red Cross and Salvation Army to help provide food, medicine and clothing for the victims of Katrina. But it should be kept in mind how both the Red Cross and Salvation Army maintain anti-gay discriminatory policies. The Salvation Army's national office shot down the Salvation Army's West Coast's attempts to provide same-sex partner benefits. The Red Cross is a big supporter of the Food and Drug Administrations ban on accepting blood donations from people who have engaged in homosexual sex acts. If you donate money to one of these organizations, please at least write them a letter expressing your outrage at their homophobia.
The thought that is worrying many people though, is the idea that this hurricane wasn't completely an act of nature, but a possible effect of human induced global warming. Consider the gigantic earthquake that led to the Tsunami earlier this year. What's up with this drought in the mid-west, that statistically rivals that of the dust bowl? Yet there is a myth being spread by right wingers. A myth possibly as dangerous as holocaust denial- global warming denial. Oil tycoons, politicians and pundits are lining up to say that somehow they know better than the majority of scientists in the world.
You would think these kind of natural disasters, plus the fact that we are sacrificing our friends and family for oil in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the high price of gas would convince us to change our ways. What does Bush do though? He uses the disaster in New Orleans to relax Environmental Protection Agency guidelines so that gas companies can produce gas quicker, cheaper, but also dirtier.
If we are to challenge all of this we must start asking ourselves tough and forward thinking questions. Can looting in New Orleans be taken to the next level and lead to expropriation of the means of production? Many factories and places of business must be abandoned and with authorities overwhelmed elsewhere, a cooperative of workers could seize their former workplaces and operate them without bosses. A similar movement is on the rise in Argentina as documented in the movie “The Take”.
How can we resist martial law and racism in the hurricane zones? How can we stop global warming? How can we prevent the US from reinstating the capitalist status quo in the flooded areas? We want New Orleans to be rebuilt with great Jazz and cultural centers, not with Starbucks, Wal-Mart and Haliburton. Here's one audacious idea: radicals can flood the city of New Orleans and rebuild it ourselves.
For updates and more on how your can help visit www.neworleans.indymedia.org and Katrina.indymedia.org. For the Chicago response visit www.chicago.indymedia.org
Fundraiser for a destroyed Anarchist New Orleans Housing Cooperative: Saturday October 15th, 6-10 pm, 1766 W. Morris. Vegan Cajun food.
To Support Grassroots, Non-corporate and
Non-Government Relief Efforts go to