Don’t Let Randomness Validate Chaos
The photograph of the two-year-old Haitian being handed into his mother’s arms has got to be among the most amazing captures of human expression that I’ve ever seen. The ordeal from which the boy has just been rescued is still discernible in his face, but his focus on his mother mixes with, well, almost surprise, as if of relief that the calamity did not wholly recast reality. The permanent remains — air and light and mom.
Of course, among the first lost dreams of youth is that parents are not permanent, and we adults know that this particular boy’s ordeal was only just beginning when the Belgian and Spanish rescuers pulled him from the wreckage. Still, there’s something in Redjeson Hausteen Claude’s eyes, in the photograph, that needn’t ever become an impossibility and that, indeed, we ought to strive to preserve at all times, for ourselves and for our culture.
Such preservation begins by addressing the inclination to see the catastrophe as an example of cruel randomness. From my perspective, randomness is hardly applicable. We live in a volatile world — on a planet of stone, fire, and fluid — and during a time that offers tremendous opportunity for preparation. Haiti is an overpopulated and underdeveloped nation that is far from fit to withstand the inevitable shocks that its location makes inevitable. Its condition, in that respect, results from accumulated decisions of human beings the world ’round.
This is to blame neither the victims nor those who’ve victimized them, but to point out the aggregate manifestation of choices — of free will in a reality that is punctuated with hard stops that we lack the knowledge to predict. Take it one step farther: such free will could not exist if there were no real choices to make or consequences to them. That one person should suffer for others’ decisions is certainly unfair, but it’s an injustice of human origin, not (if I may finally introduce the unspoken) of divine making.
Acknowledging as much is critical because a sense of meaning and purpose — a sense of a caring parent with whom we will ultimately be united — repercusses in our behavior. Without it, human cruelty takes something of the absolution of natural disaster. A loss of the rightly ordered perspective ultimately results in the piling of travesty upon tragedy:
As we hear reports of gunfire overnight, FEMA reports deteriorating security conditions continue to rise with widespread looting and armed gangs brandishing firearms. There are also reports of unescorted aid workers being assaulted for supplies are rising The problem also is the supply chain. Right now I am looking at a massive amount of food and water here at the airport, but only the U.S. Military is doing anything.
It allows fear to overcome responsibility:
Earthquake victims, writhing in pain and grasping at life, watched doctors and nurses walk away from a field hospital Friday night after a Belgian medical team evacuated the area, saying it was concerned about security.
The decision left CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta as the only doctor at the hospital to get the patients through the night. …
CNN video from the scene Friday night shows the Belgian team packing up its supplies and leaving with an escort of blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers in marked trucks.
Perhaps we cannot confidently predict the decisions that we’ll make under pressure of panic, and surely nobody is innocent of poor, even unjust, choices made at a distance of time and space and probability from their consequences. But the likelihood that we’ll choose well increases, it seems to me, to the extent that we keep Redjeson Hausteen Claude’s expression ever poised just beneath the skin.
Wonderfully, there are no shortage of methods of donating toward the assistance of the people of Haiti. Here are two opportunities: