Saturday, September 03, 2005

Empathy for looters

I'm getting tired of self-righteous condemnations of looting. *Of course* looting is horrible. But it took three days before order started to really break down. Three days of living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, seeing no aid coming, three days of hunger, thirst, sleeplessness, fear, heat, illness, perhaps mourning for dead family, or perhaps watching your wife or children slowly die because of lack of basic medical care, seeing the bodies of your friends and neighbors eaten by rats, finding death as far as the nose can smell, several days thinking that you were being left to die, because government never gave a damn about you since you were poor and black, and why should it start caring now.

It's far too easy to watch the chaos on CNN while eating our hot dinners and say that of course *we* would be better. Almost everyone thinks they'd be better. No one thinks they'd be the sadistic guard in the Stanford Prison Experiment. No one thinks they'd help incinerate Jews in a Nazi death camp. Statistically, most of us are wrong. The fact is, you likely aren't as good a person as you think you are. You don't know how you would act if you were there. It would be nice if people acknowledged that.