Hurricane Sandy, the ant, and the grasshopper

Last night I briefly flicked on the TV to catch the updates on the Sandy situation in the Northeast. I’m sorry I did.

One of the bubble-headed news readers was berating some FEMA bureaucrat for not moving heaven and earth to help stranded citizens in Staten Island who  have been without power, food or water for the past three days — stranded citizens I’ll add, who ignored many warnings to evacuate.

Have we really become so infantilized and irresponsible as a society that we would sooner put our blind faith in hapless bureaucracies like FEMA rather than taking measures into our own hands to prepare ourselves before disasters strike? Did the Katrina debacle teach us nothing?

And speaking of disasters… Of all cataclysms (natural and man-made), hurricanes are one of the most avoidable. In most cases, you get several days warning that they are coming. In the case of Hurricane Sandy, the news reports and National Weather Service were warning us for 4 days that this one would pack a serious wallop across the Northeastern U.S. from New York City to Washington DC.

Put simply, those who decided to stay ignored those warnings and made a choice — they chose to stay in an area where they risked not having access to food, water, power or shelter.


But with that choice comes responsibility. Responsibility to be well prepared with backup power, food, potable water and a plan. If you are not prepared there is no one to blame for any consequences but yourself. You need to be willing to accept the risk that you are likely to be completely on your own.

If you’re unwilling to accept the risk? You have another choice — Leave.

And if you fail to either adequately prepare or leave, I’m sorry to say, the government owes you nothing. Sure there are always circumstances where preparing or leaving can be difficult — if you’re elderly, disabled, or destitute. In those cases certainly the government and your fellow-man have an obligation to lend a hand.

But the news images from the past several days show something different: Seemingly completely able-bodied residents of hurricane ravaged areas berating the government for not being Johnny-on-the-spot with the emergency necessities that these residents themselves should have had on hand.  

I know it sounds harsh, but the fact is that the calculus here is very simple… It’s about personal responsibility vs. entitlement. At the end of the day your are responsible for your own life. No one else. Hopefully you will prepare, not only for yourself and your family but for your community. A strong resilient community has a better chance of surviving any type a cataclysm than a community where the residents are waiting for someone else to take care of them.

There’s a fun little fable written more than 2300 years ago by a slave named Aesop… It’s about an ant and a grasshopper. And for all the residents who ignored warnings to evacuate or failed to adequately prepare, its message is as relevant today as it was then.




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