Local disaster response outpaces, outperforms, outclasses federal relief efforts.
Editor’s Note: For the past two years I have been writing about what is wrong in this world. Now I believe the time has come to focus more attention on what we should do about it. From agriculture to technology, to local education and infrastructure, to leveraging the latest in science and technology to improve and expand our healthcare system, the newly created website LocalOrg will serve as a clearinghouse for both concepts and success stories.
We are not helpless observers. If we don’t like what we see everyday when we read the news, now is the time to commit our intellect and our own two hands to building the future we would rather see – not merely pawning off this great responsibly to “elected representatives” who habitually defy our will and purposefully work against our best interests.
The following article was written as one of the first exclusive entries for LocalOrg. If you have solutions or success stories you would like to see researched and covered, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 26, 2012 (LocalOrg) – Local people know best what’s
going on on a local level. Federal agencies busy appropriating budgets
and following protocol will never be able to compete against competent,
well-organized local networks.
When Hurricane Sandy swept New York City earlier this month, people
waited for Red Cross and FEMA to respond, seemingly under the impression
that the right and responsibility to react to a disaster laid solely in
the hands of the state. When it became clear that the urgent response
needed was never coming, people who were already organized as part of
ongoing anti-corporate and banking protests used their infrastructure to
begin relieving affected people.
The Black Agenda Report’s article, “The Hurricane and the Failed State,” notes that:
So-called advanced nations are never so advanced that they can stand up
to the forces of nature. New York and New Jersey are just the latest
examples of seemingly safe and “developed” places which were laid low by
a change in the weather. Then again, things outside of human control
can expose what was already present but kept hidden. Hurricane Sandy
showed us that our society is in reality, not advanced at all.
After the hurricane struck the east coast, it was clear that the United
States is nothing more than a failed state with a big military and a
strong currency. There is nothing in place to help the masses of
citizens in times of crisis. That is because the system isn’t meant to
help them. It is meant to help certain individuals and corporations, and
everyone else is on their own.
The article continued:
The charitable organization most people were directed to was the Red
Cross. That same Red Cross did nothing after receiving millions of
dollars in donations during hurricane Katrina, yet is still forced down
Americans’ throats as the only solution in every catastrophe. The
borough president of Staten Island, righteously angry about Red Cross
inaction, used the occasion of a press conference to tell the public to
stop giving them money.
While the Red Cross collected more than $23 million dollars during a
celebrity telethon but did nothing with the money, Occupy Sandy had no
money yet managed to provide food, clothing and medical care to the
hardest hit neighborhoods. The Occupy teams pumped water from damaged
homes and even gave direction to the National Guard and FEMA teams. The
least effective group got all the cash, but Occupy did the real work
without help from the public or private sector.
The article concludes by stating:
The new lessons are the same as the old. Activism without acquiescence
to political power can succeed in bringing about tremendous change.
There will always be catastrophes but we should not expect a failed
system to save us from them.
The conclusion is particularly meaningful and should remind us all that
ultimately we ourselves are the only ones who truly have our own best
interests at heart – and the interests of our friends, families, and
If ever a sentiment has been qualified by a real world example, the
community response marshaled by the underfunded, underrated Occupy Sandy
movement – working in the shadow of multi-million dollar federal
agencies and international organizations – is it. Occupy Sandy’s
advantage was that despite the little resources they had, their
intentions were genuine, their purpose was both urgent and personal, and
the stakes were a community they themselves must live in and the
benefits of getting it back up and running again as quickly as possible.
Whatever one may blame Hurricane Sandy on, or what the political beliefs
are of Occupy Sandy may be, when the moment of truth came, they put
politics aside, and successfully utilized pragmatism to solve urgent and
Whatever your organization may be, coming up with your own local
contingency plans, as well as studying the successes of movements like
Occupy Sandy, should become a priority. Because whatever the constant
din of reassuring federal propaganda may have you believe, from New
Orleans to New York, the real message is clear – get a plan, get a
program, and do it yourself or it won’t get done.