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August 30, 2005

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alain

It would seem Zizek's take on human aid would apply here as well: humanitarian aid presents itself as apolitical but it is the political gesture par excellence. Of course we want to help the victims of a natural disaster, but it also becomes the opportunity for power to be exercised on the micro level.

We in the United States have come to expect a decisive response when natural disaster hits. In fact, when the government is seen to fail at responding there is an outcry. Unfortunately, this is one instance where progressives cannot really intervene. To say one will get help out more efficiently, more "empathetically," is rather non-sensicle. But I think you make a great point that natural disasters are another instance of the state of exception.

Jodi

Yes, Zizek shares this view with Hardt and Negri.

What would progressive aid look like? Surely the proper measurements aren't necessarily efficiency and empathy. What about aid that begins with the least well off, that looks for sustainable ways of rebuilding and reconstructing, that works to organize people on the ground to argue in their own behalf, that aims toward some kinds of redistribution of wealth and opportunity away from casinos, insurance companies, corporations claiming losses and toward communities, the unemployed and underemployed, the working and nonworking poor?

alain

Jodi, you make an excellent point. I apologize for sounding glib. Giving people the opportunity to really shape the reconstruction and aid effort is clearly preferrable to what we actually have. I was really referring to what I see as the current democratic response.

Jodi

Alain, I didn't think you sounded glib. I thought you sounded frustrated, and rightly so.

Karlo

This is a great post, Jodi. I've been meaning to discuss something of this nature on my blog in connection with the latest sky-is-falling rhetoric about Chavez.

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