October 4, 2006
-- by Dave Johnson
Personal Responsibility is a tobacco (and other) lobbyist PR slogan that tries to persuade us that children - and the rest of us - should be left on their own, against corporations capable of spending billions of dollars on the very latest methods to get people to do things that are not healthy for them, but which bring immense profits to the companies.
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Extreme individualism, now called "personal responsibility" seems to have become the new American ethic. The tobacco industry and corporations in general may have started it, but it's taking off on its own in scary ways. It was at the root of what happened in New Orleans. Those who were ordered to evacuate and didn't were blamed for the predicament they were in. Never mind that the majority didn't evacuate because they didn't own cars!
If you look at what happened in Houston when threatened by a hurricane and people were ordered to evacuate, the result was total gridlock and gasoline shortages, millions made vulnerable to the approaching storm because the only "plan" was Get in Your Car and Drive. You can't evacuate a major city by car.
In NYC we've been sent a brochure stating what we're supposed to do during a hurricane. The "plan" is, you're on your own; it's a matter of taking "personal responsibility." In addition there are now two websites, set up by the Office of Emergency Management -- filled with conflicting advice. I'm carefully researching this for my housing development; I'm on the board, and have been given this responsibility. We're going to have to tackle our local officials and demand a workable plan, because this will spill over to how we're expected to cope with any kind of emergency. At this point the "plan" boils down to us being prepared to be self-sufficient for three days; on the surface not that hard to do since it's a matter of stashing away some food and water. However, on the most recent website, the city has realized that it's impossible to evacuate over 8 million people by car -- but is not providing transportation for those ordered to evacuate. This is where things go totally nuts. We're supposed to have a "disaster kit" at home, and a Go Bag ready to carry with us -- on public busses -- containing an ever-growing list of supplies, including one gallon of water per person per day, (3 gallons), sleeping bags, canned goods for three days, and on and on. Just imagine a family of four, with two toddlers to carry, trying to also carry 12 gallons of water, canned goods, sleeping bags, etc. on foot, to catch a bus blocks away. It's physically impossible. This is the kind of confused advice being given all over the country, regardless of circumstances. I got the same thing from my health insurance company about what to do in a bird flu pandemic!
If you Google Go Bag, you get 6,800,000 hits. Obviously this is on people's minds. They're scared to death.
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