The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has been a highlight reel of government incompetence and hostility. Not only isn’t the government helping, but they seem perversely intent on energetically interfering with the help being offered by others. Emergency workers are sitting idle, or are assigned to do public relations work, or are being posed as backdrops to photo-ops while relief helicopters are grounded for the president’s safety. Meanwhile, having failed to do anything helpful or useful, the government is starting “combat operations” against the “insurgency” in New Orleans, that insurgency seemingly being defined in such a way as to include anybody doing anything useful.

This has led even some dyed-in-the-wool liberals to wonder why we keep governments around if they can’t even provide the minimum of coordinated relief and disaster-management. It’s gonna be a lot harder to hate big bad corporations like Wal-Mart now that they seem to be more generous with their money and more concerned about their workers and customers than governments are with our tax dollars and their citizens.

Fortunately, some people learned from that when the shit goes down, it’s a good time to ignore the people with badges and titles. The voice of authority told the people in the towers to stay put — some of the ones who thought for themselves instead survived to tell us about it. That lesson has been reinforced a thousand times since.

An 18-year-old also decided to take matters into his own hands and stole an abandoned city school bus and drove storm victims to Texas, according to a CNN report.

The teen driver, Jabbar Gibson, 18, said he had never driven a bus before but wanted to save people. “If it wasn’t for him, we’d still be in New Orleans on the Gulf,” bus passenger Randy Nathan said. “He got the bus for us.”

Authorities allowed the renegade passengers inside the Astrodome but Gibson could find himself in trouble after taking the school bus.

Another account tells of “the pirate bus crew that seemed to come in and out of town through back roads that were quite dry as opposed to news accounts that water compromised all land rescue efforts” and wonders “If [they] could privately engineer a rescue effort to bring in ten buses, then how is it possible that the city and state could not organize a fleet of 100 buses to rescue all the people left behind?”

If anything good comes out of this, it will be to remind us that in times of crisis, we are better off looking to each other than foolishly waiting for our rulers to help us. And maybe, rather than waiting for the crisis to come, we might be wise to ask in what ways we unwisely rely on government today.


Oxford grad Hugh Sawyer gets up at six in the morning to get suited-up and ready for his job at Sotheby’s in London. After work, he heads off to the gym or for drinks with some of his chums. Then he heads home, under a tarp in a ditch in the woods.

The 32-year-old has given up every luxury to spend a year living outdoors. He hopes to prove he can lead a full and fun life with a fraction of his normal comforts.

“I want to make people think about how much they consume that is not necessary,” said Sawyer, who has been living in the woods near the village of Lewknor, Oxfordshire, . “I am trying to prove it is possible to do everything you normally do, maintaining a full existence, while cutting back. I have realised I can lead my life without television, carpets, sofa, electricity, chairs, tables, a fridge and a freezer.”

Also like Thoreau, Sawyer has a blog.

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