Lessons from Harvey.


You are a strange species. Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are at their worst.  —  Starman, 1984

The above quote is from an almost forgotten science fiction movie in which a visitor  from another planet is confronted with the human condition for the first time.  He was right.   We are a savage and violent species, but when we face a common threat, we have always been able to put our differences, even enmity and hatred aside — and work together for the common good.   If it weren’t for that, I doubt we’d have survived for long.

Last week Houston was hit by what many are calling the worst storm to ever make landfall in the United States, maybe the worst storm in 500 years.   Harvey was a Category 4 hurricane, but it wasn’t the high winds or even the storm surge that caused so much devastation — it was the fact the storm sat in virtually the same place for days, dumping 50 inches of rain on the Gulf city of Houston, Texas, leaving hundreds homeless and stranded, with no way to escape.

In spite of the current political mood of divisiveness and hatred that threatens to tear our country apart, all that seemed to be forgotten during the days following Harvey’s arrival.    Hundreds of Texans who were able to unselfishly donated their time and risked their lives to rescue others.    They brought out their own boats, worked all day and night without pay,  in very dangerous conditions, to rescue complete strangers —  in some cases strangers who were very different than them.   No one cared whether the person they were rescuing (or was rescuing them) was white or black, Christian or Muslim or atheist, gay or straight, rich or poor, or conservative or liberal.    For a few days, we were all part of the human family, and nothing else mattered.

One of the most touching stories I heard was of a Mosque that opened its doors to everyone, including non-Muslims, and even stranded pets.   The mosque volunteers offered food, clothing, shelter, and emotional support to the people (and animals) who came to them for help.       Another story that touched my heart was the help Mexico offered to help the flood victims — even after our president repeatedly insulted our neighbors to the south and wants to build a wall to keep them out.  Their repayment for this insult? Only compassion and kindness.

I kept hearing other stories from Harvey that proved kindness and caring are not dead after all.   It occurred to me that maybe, as terrible as Harvey was, we needed something like this disaster to show us that we are all brothers and sisters, all part of the human family, and instead of hating groups of people who are not like us, we need to work together to help each other and promote the common good, regardless of petty differences like race, religion, or creed.

18 thoughts on “Lessons from Harvey.

  1. Pingback: Harvey: a wake-up call for unity. — Lucky Otters Haven | cornfedcontessa

  2. I’ve seen this phenomenon so many times, and too often, when the emergency is over and something like a safe normal is returned all the old grievances and prejudices come back. We must do better than that. We must remember that community. We face real threats, such as climate change that do need the same common response.

    “In a crisis we cut away
    What we don’t need anymore.” [from “In A Crisis” by World Entertainment War]

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    • I agree. We always seem to forget when things go back to normal. Unfortunately, it’s going to take more than Harvey to teach us what we need to learn, and I’m afraid there are going to be more disasters like this, and worse. Climate change is real — what will it take for the Powers That Be to stop denying facts?

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  3. I agree and I took hope as it shows that there are far more who have respect and empathy for their fellow humans, than there are haters who can only see differences they must destroy. It was very uplifting to see the outsourcing of kindness and caring. Hugs

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  5. A crises like this reminds us of something very basic, that people need people well it forces us to. Then in normal life when we no longer need one another to survive we return to the illusion that we don’t. To take it one step “deeper”, the deep, unconscious fear from our unresolved childhood trauma, that people are not safe… becomes stronger than the real danger and starts its hidden control of our minds. Another factor is that we very much return into the illusion of connection that social media serves us, I call it #onlineisolation…. These 6 minutes clip https://youtu.be/I-Jq_RiEGiU by a wise man who unfortunately died this January helped me to understand this. Even in a country like Sweden, with a social welfare system since 50 years that you Americans can’t even imagine, people suffers from the deeper level of this problem. A society where nobody needs anyone else not even to survive…. Is dangerous to our mental health … The clip is from the very end of a close to 2hr documentary on the Swedish public television called “The Swedish Theory of Love”. The whole film is excellent though far from appreciated by everyone…. It breaks through your psychological defenses almost in slow motion, to quote Foo Fighters “I’m the voice inside your head you refuse to hear…” rare in today’s media flow were everything seems to be either pure escape from reality or resignation to an idea that it’s already too late…. The full film is unfortunately only available in Sweden but these 6 minutes sums it up up to a tee. Oops, this became a long comment … But I’ll save the words for a future post on my own blog. This, our basic, actually mammalian need to be among people IRL is a core theme.

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    • Thanks for letting me know about this film.
      I have heard the suicide rate in places like Sweden and Scandinavia is very high. I always thought perhaps it was due to the very long, dark winters (as a sufferer of SAD I can relate to this), but maybe it has to do with a welfare system so efficient that people do not feel like they need to help each other because the government provides for everything.


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