And we all thought the “surge” was just an American military strategy in Afghanistan! Or perhaps a covert marketing strategy for globalization of the Western Curriculum. Boy, were we wrong! Well, what do you know; it seems as though Mother Nature decided to use a trick from our own playbook as an object-lesson to America and the rest of the West about our unrelenting abuse of her bounty, as well as a response to our equally unchecked hubris.
Two different Sandy’s converged on the Big Apple this week; one looking down in critical awe from the window of his hotel room in midtown, caddy corner from the dangling crane; the other bearing down upon an increasingly unnerved populace, as Manhattan and surrounding boroughs quietly received the full measure of a direct hit from Gaia’s feral charm. But, it was not only New York and the Mid-Atlantic States that were humbled by this flexing of nature’s raw muscularity, it was the Midwest as well, and let us not forget the West Virginia blizzard – affectionately called the backside of Sandy. And what a backside it was! So, now it is the entire country that finds itself wanting, wondering, and perhaps ready to ask some more penetrating questions as it searches for answers in vain.
The wide and profound swath of pain, death, and destruction wrought by my namesake is somewhat difficult to fathom, especially from the cozy confines of my unscathed midtown venue. But in the midst of our collective national grief, as we gaze in numb disbelief at the spectacular images replayed in a continuous loop across our HDTV screens, we have – and still do to some extent – unflinchingly refused to acknowledge any complicity in the matter. Even now, rather than accepting the earth’s efforts at reclamation associated with her rightful claim to “eminent domain,” we’ve decided yet again to force her into compliance with our demands for urban recovery. As New York governor Cuomo was quoted: “we have to start to think about how do we redesign the system so this doesn’t happen again.
And wouldn’t you know it, early Tuesday, the heavy equipment was already at work pumping out New York subway tubes and moving newly deposited sand dunes off the streets and byways of coastal Long Island and New Jersey – back to where it “belongs” on those beaches.
In the meantime, that highly choreographed reality show called the American presidential campaign is now itself searching for airtime and for ratings. As well, regular folk have voluntarily abandoned their homes or been swept away in the “surge” without even a threat of foreclosure. Meanwhile, our public centers for childhood indoctrination (a.k.a. schools) were closed, commercial markets locked down tight, and money lenders/casino capitalists were seen fleeing the soaking wet premises of Wall Street for an easy rest away from the expanding chaos. Food supplies were running short, public transport under water… and yet, America waits to evaluate the cost of an angry mother’s wrath.
There was such an eerie, almost surreal, sense to the entire spectacle as it unfolded here at ground-level in midtown for two days: rows of closed storefronts, flocks of confused and wandering tourists, no taxis, public transportation or escape routes, multitudes of digital cameras flashing, 7th Avenue and Broadway emptied of traffic, emergency vehicles and police lining the streets, one or two open pubs, and a uniquely pedestrian comfort in seeing the mechanisms of State or local bureaucracy snap to attention. And now that the people are out driving again, we have the longest lines at gas stations throughout the Tri-state area, with tempers flaring; visions of what awaits us as the fuel runs out in the not to distant future.
This hurricane was on course, they said, to meet up with a few other of its natural allies – a winter storm from the north, as well as a cold front and high tides from the full moon. And so it did! This may just be a taste of what a future without the benefits of oil, water and food could be like in the face of an increasingly disenchanted Mother Nature and the ongoing depletion of her natural bounty. But is it not too late that some are just beginning to ask the harder questions.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York City would have to rebuild to take into consideration the changing weather patterns, saying that anyone who thinks yesterday’s storm was a fluke isn’t paying attention.
‘There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement. That is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality,’ Cuomo said in a briefing this morning.
Well now, if that isn’t a hint of minty freshness, from a major political figure no less? I wonder who is writing Cuomo’s copy. When I heard this last night, I understood immediately that the television set was channeling the unspoken disgust of Gaia herself through the governor’s parched lips. Of course, I don’t think he would dare share this opinion directly with Mr. O-drama. After all, you cannot speak like that to the president if you have your hands out asking for taxpayer money.
What the American people, and all of those now laboring under the pipe dreams of the Western Curriculum, must begin to grasp is that our lifestyle — one that has been peddled around the world by the marketing team of Madison Avenue and the US Military – that this worldview is flawed and must fundamentally change. Even the Governor of New York State had the presence of mind to acknowledge the obvious, if only by inference. Well, it was Halloween so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt! In any event, we can count this as our October Surprise! And whichever candidate can make believe he carries the mantle of climate change, that man may win the election.
But after all the media hype, after the regrets, the losses, the hand-wringing, the gnashing and grinding of teeth, what have we really learned from this event? The one unanswered question is this. Will they just rebuild things, only stronger and more resiliently than before; or will they rethink the very logic of rebuilding in the wake of nature’s fury and her claims to eminent domain? There must be a point at which even the good Governor of New York and perhaps more importantly, the Governors of New Jersey and elsewhere, must stop, take a deep breath, ask directly and unapologetically: why are we rebuilding this? What are we hoping to achieve. Are climate change and resource depletion really real? And if so, is rebuilding all of this truly in our (or nature’s) best interests? Someone must step up and say: this is enough madness, we must stop!