The Uses of Disaster

Interesting essay, especially when you look at the failure of authority in New Orleans.

Luke Mitchell of Harpers says: “We have excerpts from a great essay by Rebecca Solnit up at Harper’s right now, about how authorities deal with disaster, and I am hoping I can get it as well distributed as humanly possible, because it might help to build a counter-narrative to the story that is being constructed this very minute about what is going on in New Orleans. Rebecca’s argument is that disaster always calls authority into question, and when authority is in question, the powers that be will often attempt to create a narrative of human behavior that calls for (surprise) even greater authority.

“It’s a great essay, and the postscript (written yesterday, for the Web only) plugs it into what is going in New Orleans (in terms of mythical race riots and cannibalism) more directly. (Also, if we get lots of traffic, the powers that be here at the magazine will let me do more of these sorts of things.) The amazing thing is, Rebecca wrote the essay before Katrina hit. Indeed, we were printing the piece that Monday. Thanks to Harper’s

The Uses of Disaster