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Tempest Over America


The Tambov students have twice won in the lottery. The first time happened when they got a chance to leave their godforsaken provincial town for New Orleans to have a training session there. The second one occurred when they managed to survive in that very New Orleans. As a result, they brought home a clear understanding of “how perfect their life in peaceful Tambov was”.

Our society however has also witnessed a disaster of a comparable size that is of Chernobyl. The nuclear emergency was no mere calamity, it actually became the moment of truth, which had revealed the inner weakness of the Soviet system. With all that, against the background of the recent New Orleans news, Chernobyl chaos may seem to be an example of the perfect order and the proper functioning of the authorities.

The scenario of the New Orleans flood fits perfectly well in the Hollywood format. The city is seized by panic, there is shooting in the streets, buildings surrounded by water, powerful explosions, well-armed cutthroats on the motorboats, and solitary superheroes. There were also ignored predictions by wise scientists, exactly like in the movies. One of the information agencies had even reported on the sharks, swimming about the city. Maybe, there is some guy in Hollywood who is already scrutinizing over another scenario, calculating budget and estimating the box-office returns of the future blockbuster aimed at beating “Titanic”.

However, all this breath-taking horrors blank out something a lot more alarming, namely the crisis and the collapse of the society. Chernobyl events had immediately uncovered the falsity of the Soviet system: at first the state tried to hold back information about the disaster, then to artificially diminish the sizes of the latter. What disgusts most is the fact that the authorities lied to the participants of these very events, thus making them sacrifice their health and lives when sent to perform restorative works in the area without letting them know the real scale of the danger. Still, it was not about the collapse of the society and the paralysis of the state. All the services functioned properly. People could lose their lives as a result of a foolish order, but all the orders were carried out thoroughly and unconditionally. The local residents were quickly evacuated. There were enough food and buses; everyone knew his or her place. When time passed, the old people, having decided they got nothing to lose, started coming back to their homes: they found their property untapped.

It goes without saying that one cannot put an ‘equals’ sign between villages and small towns of the Chernobyl area and the big city of New Orleans. It is perfectly clear that a natural disaster makes people in the best possible way display their very negative qualities as well as positive ones. Big cities are usually characterized by hatred, envy, and a high rate of criminality. It is a lot harder to maintain the order there. Bearing all that in mind we still cannot help asking some unpleasant questions.

Why did the world’s only superpower, which managed to intimidate most states, fail to raise funds for restoring two dams in the danger zone? Why hadn’t the country, which has officially been fighting terrorism for five years in a row by now, worked out strategies and prepared resources for large scale evacuation from the troubled city? It is clear that nothing had been done at that point, although neither the “Catherine” twister, nor even the flood had come as a surprise for the authorities. It is pointless to discuss how this disaster is related to the global warming, anyways storms and hurricanes are quiet commonplace for the Gulf of Mexico.

Why weren’t the authorities capable of gaining control over the situation in the streets, why didn’t they even show up? How could it happen that thousands of people, left to their own devices, started to act according to the principle homo homini lupus est? And, finally, why did the federal administration’s response come so late?

The United States have enough power and resources to keep numerous military units abroad, to stifle resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq, to control the Presidents’ change in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. At the same time this country is incapable of mobilizing several thousands of the state troopers and reservists with a relevant amount of equipment to prevent the death of the elderly and the youngsters in their home country!

Comparing Chernobyl with New Orleans makes one think that the modern American society copies the negative traits of the late Soviet system, ignoring, however, its positive aspects. The Soviet government was lying constantly, instinctively, even when the lie was absolutely useless or harmful. Well, at least it could provide order and food. American government of today is also lying permanently, but it can’t and doesn’t even try to provide security for the citizens. The purpose Chernobyl disaster had fulfilled was, in the first place, the revelation of the true amounts of the authorities’ lie, and, what’s more important, it had displayed the vanity and uselessness of the latter. Probably, the New Orleans flood will make Americans take a different look at themselves. If it does happen, changes are sure to occur.

Disasters often turn out to be of a particular use for the society. Unfortunately, the lessons we have to learn always cost too much.

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