Building the Civic Narrative After Disasters

The needless function of disasters: They blow a hole, short lived, into the media narrative that people are selfish and stupid. That the free market solves everything. That every person is an island.

Because people step up after a disaster for a good 3-4 days, until exhaustion sets in. They react heroically, selflessly-  they share or liberate lifesaving supplies-  they coordinate critical missions to save lives. They are more than consumers; buyers or sellers; employees.  They’re part of a community.

And that’s kind of covered in the media.  But not really.  It’s mostly ignored actually.  It’s being ignored this very moment- in Puerto Rico and North Carolina and Houston..  but if you want stories on looting, price gouging, or roofing scams- that’s a lot easier to find.

It’s easy to see why.  Within 5 minutes of watching Corporate News the narrative is clear:  people are  selfish-  there are threats and disasters around every corner- this is all unfixable- so don’t bother trying- and you don’t owe the world a thing. Some stations pioneered this broadcast of mass cynicism- but at this point they’re all following suit.

Even the narrative of the reckless billionaires serves a purpose-  it tells us that if we can be useless to society, so can we.  It normalizes the abandonment of our obligations.  We don’t owe shit to our community.  We estrange ourselves to our own Main Street; neighbors; city council.

One thing is clear- this is a race to the bottom.  And when that race is over-  and the sociopaths take off with their winnings – 99% of us will be losers.  Our treasuries depleted; average household debt skyrocketed towards bankruptcy- national lands pillaged with the trees gone, oil pumped, water dried up.  That future is dead- sterile and hopeless.  Someday- we may shake our heads and call it a tragedy.  But it’s being actively perpetuated by those who could care less about the future- and who promote the narrative of cynicism as inevitable- and the narrative of of sustainability as a naïve or privileged.

True sustainability is for everyone- everything- it is a honest discussion about what we actually want in life and how we can all simplify those desires into something shareable.  It’s not about winning lotteries or being the best in the universe-  it’s about being good and a part of a solution.  That can be good enough and the rest of life’s joys and passions can still follow. That’s what I’m hoping to be a part of.

We don’t need a disaster to discover these potentials in each other.  All that violence and destruction- it should be needless.  It is within our reach to make it needless, because we can build that society without losing everything first.  And we have every reason to call on the media to showcase such selfless virtues in the stories that come out of them.   The corporate media has their narrative, but we don’t have to accept or or let it become reality.  There’s plenty of community journalists out there still.  People who share our narratives- and show us hope- and move us act.  Not just for 3-4 days after the flood until we are depleted- exhausted. But for 3-4 generations until we figure this out.



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