Letter Re: What We Learned From Hurricane Katrina

Dear Mr. Rawles,
The anniversaries of Katrina and Rita offer us an useful opportunity to reflect upon the lessons of profound adversity. As a Texan and a native of Houston, the disaster and its aftermath have reminded me of three important truths. First, we were all cautioned that the time to leave is well before the mass of people thinks that leaving is reasonable. Second, if you do plan to stick around, plan to be on your own for longer than you expected in conditions more harsh than you anticipated. Third, any mass-casualty disaster is going to let loose a plague-like horde of the worthless, the dangerous, and the desperate.
The first two lessons are obvious to most people who frequent this blog, but the third point merits some serious discussion. In each and all of our major cities, there lurks a small (but lethally dangerous) element of congenitally predatory scum that the combination of the criminal justice system and differential property value usually manages to mostly confine to a small geographic area. In each and all of our major cities, there also lurks a class attuned to permanent dependence on government subsidy, which normally lacks the initiative to pose any serious threat to anyone. Katrina displaced both of these classes from the rotten slums of New Orleans and placed both of them as a threat to the good people of other cities, especially Houston.
When the dangerous class of New Orleans arrived on busses in Houston, it immediately sought new victims and new territory. Crime increased dramatically in Houston, and I understand anecdotally that the standing inventory of most FFL dealers shrank radically as law abiding citizens suddenly began to feel threatened. The filth of New Orleans awoke in Houston, shorn from the institutions (e.g. regular parole officer visits) that had constrained their previous felonious conduct. You may think that New Orleans is the Mos Eisley of America, but every major city has such a class of dangerous people, the control of whom is the primary job of every major city’s police force. Just as every river flowing through a large city has a layer of settled toxin in the deep sediments, which only endangers the world at large if the bottom is churned catastrophically, the depopulation of any major city due to a disaster must necessarily loose upon the world a class of people that we would all do well to fear.
The lesson of Katrina is simple: If you realize that refugees are headed to your neighborhood from some disaster, then take care to your own security; the people churned up by any evacuative catastrophe will likely include men of perennially dangerous intent.
While the dangerous are an obvious and instant threat in a time of upheaval, the worthless and the desperate of New Orleans may be about to illustrate that tragedy can convert normally harmless people into predators. Among the refugees received in Texas, there was a large population of people conditioned to perform no function in life other than the receipt of charity. New Orleans had accommodated them poorly, but she had accommodated them in a manner adequate to squelch any motivation to initiative (whether noble or nefarious). When these people arrived in Texas, many were shocked by the generosity of our people.
The people of Houston, both through charity and federal assistance, placed in decent housing huge numbers of the poor of New Orleans. It was widely rumored that the surplus apartments rented for these people by Mayor White were frequently a step up from their previous quarters.
Now, however, charity has worn thin. It is widely quoted that over half of the refugees are without work, in spite of the fact that the economy of Houston provides jobs in such great numbers that the city draws thousands of immigrants from all the world. The common sense of the people of Houston seems to have turned to the admonition that a man shall have bread by the sweat of his brow. This thinning of charity is happening at the same time that FEMA has decided to get out of the business of housing permanent welfare cases. To put it bluntly, we are about to witness a new wave of homeless New Orleanians that had been previously contained in the excess apartment capacity of Houston. I fear that we are about to see a second wave of Katrina-violence, as the worthless and the desperate begin to see their situation as dire. Unaccustomed to working, a substantial number of the permanently dependent may join the class of the dangerous from a sense of desperation.
The lesson in this is also simple: disasters that uproot the normal order that has supported people for all of their lives will turn the some otherwise harmless persons into predators of necessity; watch your back.
I am sorry to have sent something so grim, but there is a cautionary tale in the experience of the Texan people, which much of America may have missed because it is so far geographically removed: Just as flood drives snakes into trees and houses, disaster lets loose both the worst sort of people and the worst capacities in people. Best Regards, – K.A.D.