Sunday afternoon, 30 hours before the hurricane is scheduled to hit Manhattan, there are cars with garbage bags taped to them. The subways are preparing to shut down. And I’m walking around looking for brunch past dozens of restaurants that are “closed for the hurricane.” That evening, the streets are empty and the East Village’s usually bustling nightlife is reduced to nothing, with half the bars closed and the other half empty.
My cell phone pops up multiple “emergency alerts” — text messages sent to my phone without my request from the local government, telling me of “mandatory” evacuations, flooding, and to “Go indoors immediately and remain inside.” Business contacts, friends, and family are exchanging messages of “be safe!”
So naturally, I went out exploring in the hurricane and enjoyed the night.
The city that never sleeps was — and still is — shut down now for over 48 hours by a Category 1 (the smallest category) hurricane centered almost 100 miles away. The “death toll” in this city of 8,000,000+, which has over 100 natural deaths on any given day, has reached about 12. Yet people were so afraid that they went out and bought weeks worth of food and water and then holed up in their apartments… unless of course they were asked leave their homes by their governments, in which case they happily obliged.
“Out of an abundance of caution.”
That phrase is uttered by the TSA any time they do something stupid. It is their personal motto — that if there is a one in a billion chance that their actions might be useful, then they should act even if there is a certainty that they will violate people in the process. This is why they take your child’s juice box, why grandma has to explain her Depends, and why we should spend $1B on machines that digitally strip you naked, even if they don’t really work too well.
It seems we are increasingly fearful of everything, and I dare say that New York shut down for the same reason many put up with the TSA. It’s the same reason why we tolerate the NYPD stopping-and-frisking innocent people on the street for no reason. “Anything for our safety!”
How utterly stupid is that expression? Would you truly give anything any time someone comes along and says, “If you don’t, there’s a chance it might not turn out well!” The time has come for us to collectively grow some balls. Spending your life worrying about remote possibilities will not make you a happy person, and the cost in life opportunities is far outweighed by the chance that your time is up. “Playing it safe” always has a cost associated with it. If current TSA nonsense takes just 5 extra minutes of each air traveler’s time, every year the TSA wastes 7,000 man-years, or 90 lifetimes worth of time. …and after all, the man who hides in his home may be killed by a falling tree, just as the man who insists on thorough airport security may find himself blown up in the security line.
Life is about evaluating risks and making reasoned decisions about when to move forward. Tip the balance too far to one side and you die; too far to the other, and you never live. You’re never going to get the perfect balance, but why not choose to err on the side of living your life?
I can’t, I’m too frightened.
We need to work together and share information so we can make informed decisions. It’s great to be alerted. I’m not a weather watcher and wouldn’t want to have been surprised by Hurricane Sandy. Give us warnings and then let us make our own decisions and take the consequences of our choices, that’s what I think.
I think my complaint is more that even when we are fully informed, as a society, we’ve become risk-adverse to the point that we’re holding back our own success.
A storm warning is a good “heads up” I have no problem with that but I don’t want the government telling me what risks I should or should not take. Most Americans are afraid of their own shadows, the government has seen to that!
I think it’s more about the effects of the expected power outages.
Furthermore, they don’t want the emergency services overloaded with fools.
I’m happy with “We the People” keeping us informed and even giving us advice, but beyond that I expect my fellow ‘People’ to let me do with my own safety as I see perfectly fit.
The title your post is dead-on.
New Yorkers are tough. They live with enough arduous aspects of life in the city, and survive despite that. How much more dangerous is a storm than perhaps riding on the subway. or taking a walk in the park. Stop by at Ray’s and you might get hit with a flying pizza. It would be a shame if being crammed together indoors because of storm fear increased the incidence of domestic violence. It is about the net danger. Which path causes more damage?
Did the power station blow up on its own, or did it get help from FEMA, who was busted cutting power lines after Katrina?
BTW, note that the city lights are still on after the explosion in the videos.
Mainstream-media will always hype any kind threat because they’re desperate to control society no matter how many times they have to ‘cry wolf’. Perhaps all the travel agents in the United States should warn people NOT to visit NYC because at least a 100 people die there everyday. That would be closer to the truth.
So by them evacuating people, whose homes were flooded with storm surge, or by shutting off the power to areas of Manhattan (done, from what I’ve been told, to prevent issues arising from salt water getting in the switches and not letting them turn off), they are being “pussies” and overly cautious? Have you seen what this storm has done to some communities? I don’t see how not being cautious and deciding to “tough it out” is in any way logical. Why not err on the side of caution with this? This is apples and oranges when compared with being groped at the airport.
Individual preparedness, not Big Government ‘management,’ would have helped those most in Sandy’s path.
A headline in Tuesday’s OP-ED section of The New York Times summed up the mentality of too many Americans these days and all that is wrong with it: “A Big Storm Requires Big Government.”
If by that headline you deduced that the Times’ editors were stumping for a Big Brother (read federal government) response to Hurricane Sandy, you’d be right. But then, that’s a common reaction to any incident that you believe is too big for you and that scares you to death; when you’re conditioned to die, you look for someone else to come bail you out, to come save you, to rescue you from a situation for which you are wholly unprepared.
On its surface, the Times op-ed masqueraded as a hit piece aimed at GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, bashing him for earlier comments in which he said he, as president, would seek to downplay the federal government’s disaster response role in favor of states and local jurisdictions taking the lead.
“Absolutely,” Romney said in response to a question during a Republican primary earlier this year, in which he was asked if emergency management was a function that should be returned to states. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”
The problem is that most sheeple don’t really know what the Federal government is. This is most apparent if you say we should abolish the Department of Education. The immediate reaction of the typical sheep is, “OMFG there wouldn’t be any public school and you hate children!” They don’t understand that the DOE is merely a worthless, wasteful bureaucracy on top of the state bureaucracies.
Now there is similar backlash about Romney saying we don’t need the national weather service, as if all the technology and services would disappear because the government isn’t controlling it and funding it with stolen tax-victim money.
The same goes for disasters. It seems like the sheeple believe that the Federal government is standing by with a million-man repair crew that can only be run by Obama. Of course nothing could be further from the truth.
I think it’s interesting that most of you interpreted this as a rant against government. That was actually secondary to my main message, which is that “the people” are allowing (or in some cases, demanding) this government, and “the people” need to toughen up and rely on themselves to the maximum extent possible.
The reason we have mandatory evacuations and such widespread warnings is to get as many people out of danger as possible so the “government” does not have to swoop in and save them all later. Promoting personal liberties is one thing, but who is going to pay for those bad choices? Unless you are proposing that the government give a single warning and let everyone fend for themselves with zero funded rescue crews, then the question is who will pay for all the rescues? As it is currently they can barely provide all the necessary relief to the people who would not or could not evacuate, so imagine how much worse it would have been if no one had left. Just ask yourself this: what is more important, a person’s right to risk their life in an area about to be hit by a natural disaster or the lives of the rescue crew who risk their lives for the people too stubborn to listen? Your ideology would only work if we lived in a truly individualized society where no one had to risk their lives or pay for the mistakes of others.
Rescue workers are paid employees who choose to rescue people for money. Yes, the government has a legitimate interest in minimizing the number of rescues. No, that interest may not be used to trump personal liberties. The man should never be forced away from his castle.
First off you are wrong, since many of the rescue squads are made up of volunteers and are not being paid to risk their lives. Despite this volunteer forces are always limited, so if more rescuers are required they will need to be paid for. Who is going to do that? I for one do not want my tax dollars to be used saving the lives of people not smart enough to heed the warnings given to them. In our current case where a large portion of the stranded individuals are people incapable of going anywhere else the system has value. I have told you my stance, now you need to take one. Are you proposing that the taxpayers who use common sense to flee when a warning is given should be forced to pay the now much higher costs of saving the lives of those who ignored the call, or that individuals who stay behind should not be given any governmental help? Also remember that more stranded citizens means more rescuers, which means more dead rescuers. Your decision to stay does not just impact you.
In NYC, we don’t have volunteer anything. The rescue workers’ union simply wouldn’t have it.
I am just fine with a “Don’t evacuate? No help.” policy. One condition: give me my second amendment rights.
DHS was issuing bulletins last Thanksgiving about the dangers of turkey fryers. I’m not joking.
How did this country survive for 200+ years without the Department of Homeland Security to issue warnings about cooking accidents.
God what a waste this country has become. People get the government they deserve, despite the efforts of a few like Jon here who has the guts to stand up for himself.
In light of events like Hurricane Katrina, I fear this is a point on which I just cannot agree with you. Major storms are nothing to be trifled with.
Just found your blog Mr Corbett. I found myself agreeing to most of your posts, including this one. Though I would say that a hurricane, even if its Category 1, can be dangerous. Power lines may snap and fall in pools of standing water causing deaths due to electrocution. Wind pressure can knock down trees or debris may strike a person on a stroll. The government was right in suggesting due care to American citizens caught up in the path of Sandy.