In the past few days, I've had two conversations in which people have suggested that Australians would never have descended into the same anarchy seen in New Orleans in similar circumstances. So, as a retort, I present a large excerpt from The Australian
article "Trapped Aussies loot to survive"
Trapped Australian tourists describe hurricane-raved New Orleans as a war zone, with them and everyone else driven to looting just to survive. Rockhampton couple Tim and Joanne Miller have linked up with another Australian couple, Gary and Cynthia Jones. All four are living in an abandoned mall with hundreds of other people. [...] "It's a battle zone. There's shooting, dead bodies in the street," he said, adding that he and his wife were forced to steal to survive. "We're looters like everyone else," he said. Mrs Miller told Channel Seven News: "There's no power, there's no water, we've still got a portable loo we've got three dead bodies, five dead bodies down there ... disease. "I'm not blaming the police because they are under so much pressure. "I had an altercation with a police officer and he ended up just crying to me because he was so frustrated and he couldn't do any more. He wanted to help us but he didn't have any resources." Mr Miller described the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as "horrific". He said police had broken into shops to feed survivors. "When we first arrived here the door at the mall was actually smashed by a police officer and he said, 'help yourself ... food and drink, take it, don't take anything else'," he said.
While there may be a few mentally unbalanced people in New Orleans, a few criminals and probably a fair few more people in drug withdrawl, the point isn't just to look at who's looting, who's shooting and who's desparate now, but to ask how people got that way. Why is a cycle of poverty and crime so difficult to escape for many people with so few resources? Why do people have no faith that the US government will come to their assistance? Why do people fear they or their loved ones might die of preventable diseases or hunger in the richest nation in the world? And, most importantly, how is it possible that these fears are not just justified, but realised?