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Cognitive Dissonance Reigns in Louisiana – The Transition from Myth to Reality

WKOG Op-ed

August 18, 2016

By Forrest Palmer with Cory Morningstar

 

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Residents wade through floodwaters from heavy rains in the Chateau Wein Apartments in Baton Rouge, La., Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Heavy downpours pounded parts of the central U.S. Gulf Coast on Friday, forcing the rescue of dozens of people stranded in homes by waist-high water and leaving one man dead who became trapped by floodwaters. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

As the current political nominees pander to their bases over the next few months in hopes of occupying the White House where the next occupant will be in the driver’s seat of the United States as it leads the Western world in destroying the biosphere we depend on for species continuance, there is a deluge of epic proportions happening in Louisiana. Although there are some mainstream news stories concerning this ongoing catastrophe, it has not reached the level of everyday importance that it should considering the ramifications of this being one of an ever increasing amount of climate catastrophes, domestically in the U.S. and globally across the world. As Louisiana is a notoriously conservative state whose elected representatives comprise a who’s who of climate change denial, a cynical individual would have to say that it is poetic justice for this region to now experience the end result of policies supported by the masses collectively by way of its chosen leaders.

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A handout picture provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows a flooded area of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Aug. 15, 2016. MELISSA LEAKE/US COAST GUARD/HAN / EPA

Therefore, in an unbiased look at the political extremists that comprise the state house in Louisiana and those in Washington, D.C., it must be asked what has been learned by the residents of Louisiana from the time of Hurricane Katrina, one of the most horrific of ‘natural disasters’ in modern U.S history, to the present day? Even though the truth is that the levee system was faulty due to a crumbling, under maintained, neglected infrastructure and its inevitable collapse caused the New Orleans flooding, the intensity level of the storm was ultimately the catalyst for the levee breach and storms of its kind have increased since that moment in history, all due to climate change. Yet, since that time we have seen the following responses by the inhabitants of that woeful state:

  • Former Louisiana State Representative Lenar Whitney has called climate change a hoax
  • Louisiana senators David Vitter and Bill Cassidy signed a letter asking that FEMA eliminate the requirement that states address climate change in disaster planning to receive federal funding
  • Former Governor Bobby Jindal said that climate change was a ‘trojan horse’ for more government regulation
  • S. House Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) stated that climate change is a myth and doesn’t need to be addressed
  • Congressman John Fleming (R-LA) said that climate change isn’t a threat and is fighting even the toothless White House legislation with a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment to curtail government spending in this regard

 

What do these people have in common? They are all individuals that were elected in the state of Louisiana AFTER Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Therefore, this has been the response by the masses to the death spiral of their state: open and blatant disregard of the truth by the populace in electing officials such as these. Even among the presumptive more ‘climate change friendly’ Democrats in the state, there hasn’t been much discussion by these party politicians regarding the cause being climate change, as Democratic governor John Bel Edwards has discussed the problem, yet has not come out and placed the flooding at the feet of climate change. Hence, at best, the establishment is sidestepping the issue presently and will continue to act like it is nonexistent by its actions in-between these occurrences, which are becoming shorter and shorter in duration.

This August 14, 2016 US Coast Guard handout photo shows Coast Guard personel evacuating people from a floodwaters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Emergency crews in flood-devastated Louisiana have rescued more than 20,000 people after catastrophic inundations that left at least five dead, news reports said August 15. As many as 10,000 people are living in shelters after a weekend of torrential rains that has prompted the federal government to declare a disaster, according to Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards. Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon GILES / US Coast Guard / AFPThis August 14, 2016 US Coast Guard handout photo shows Coast Guard personel evacuating people from a floodwaters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Emergency crews in flood-devastated Louisiana have rescued more than 20,000 people after catastrophic inundations that left at least five dead, news reports said August 15. As many as 10,000 people are living in shelters after a weekend of torrential rains that has prompted the federal government to declare a disaster, according to Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards. Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon GILES / US Coast Guard / AFP

 

Also among right wing pundits, who are the voice of the primarily conservative citizens inhabiting the state of Louisiana that are underwater now, there is denial of climate change being a factor in this catastrophe or its presence at all. Of course, these pundits offer words, but no resources to address the ongoing disaster, other than more plaudits for the same market economy which is the cause of their undoing.

So, it begs the question:  when will Americans stop being their own worst enemies?  As there is much debate by some people regarding the efficacy of Near-Term Human Extinction (NTHE), it is the modern day American citizens, like those in Louisiana, that continue the behavior which lends the most credence to the argument that we will face species extinction in the not too distant future. The individual actions of the majority of voters in the state of Louisiana and their elected officials is a microcosm of the American mentality as a whole, where it can’t and won’t accept the fragility of our existence on this Earth or digest the ramifications of these set of living circumstances.

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This aerial image shows flooded areas in Denhamp Springs, La., on Aug. 13, 2016. (Patrick Dennis / The Advocate)

Hence, these disasters will continue unabated in the near term and definitely continue to grow in ferocity and intensity with the coming years. When will the masses of people begin to take this with seriousness that it needs to be taken is anyone’s guess. Yet as the old saying goes, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  Since that is the case, the future does not bode well for those in Louisiana or any of us in the West or the world as a whole since we continue to be the enemy of the drastic changes necessary to circumvent the ongoing ecocide to any type of appreciable degree.

Although these words are not hopeful or positive, they are honest. This is something that is wholly missing in the mainstream discussion about climate change. Or more importantly, the dialogue regarding what we must do to address it in attempt to stave it off, be it futile at this juncture or otherwise.

As religious faith, especially of the Christian persuasion, is a pillar of the American landscape, what we are now learning is that close to 40 inches of rain are to be feared a lot more than a biblical (or mythical) rain inundation of 40 days and 40 nights. Will we heed the warning? All signs point to this not being the case.

And like any time that faith is put before facts, an open, honest conversation about climate change is literally heresy in these times. Yet, the truth is the truth. And the current washing away of Louisiana is proof of this whether anyone wants to accept it or not.

 

5 Comments

  • ivo on Aug 21, 2016

    Cory/Forrest,

    Just a note of appreciation for your efforts as I have been following your work for a while now. I think they have great merit but are also very limited in their capacity to alter perceptions or the trajectory of society.

    Unfortunately, souls like Jane will probably never understand the larger context of their existence (that is a lot of work), preferring to ensconce themselves in their little own socially-approved, middle-class morality play. Anything else would threaten the material and psychological basis of their existence. And this is not unusual, as confirmation bias is the basic dynamic that filters out information that threatens world views. And the system is quite effective, particularly with the advent of social media, at maintaining/affirming your bias with ever more sophistication. That is a fundamental social problem that journalism can not address.

    But your take on the south is partially accurate. Having to travel into the deep south annually to visit relatives for the last twenty years, my own personal experience with its culture and its people is somewhat bifurcated. The affluent, white middle-class are highly educated/skilled but remarkable ignorant/arrogant, vacuous, money grubbing, self-absorbed and pathetic caricatures of the kind human being people like Janet likes to see themselves as. It is safe to say that, from within their narrowly constrained reality, they simply can not see, or bear to see, the nature of the operation of the larger system at work since they are the ones who materially benefit from it. Powerful forces are at work on people and they are just as captive to it as the slaves were two centuries ago.

    My own relatives relocated there from the North 20 years ago went from being your typical affluent Northern Democrat Progressives to being card carrying members of the profoundly racist, fundamentalist lunacy that seems to infests all white sectors of the society these days – north and south. The reasons for that transformation appears pretty clear to me. All the social institutions of white, affluent Charleston are that way and in order to find acceptance and community, one is, for the most part, is forced to internalize the norm less you know how to survive as an outcast. Not that its better anywhere else. I mean its bad up North in the mid-Atlantic but up here there is no gentile facade of goodness, caring and that not-so-feint of odor of southern superiority in the middle classes. People up here are just plain NJ fucking ignorant, snotty assholes and they are happy to let you know it. They also think very highly of themselves.

    On the other hand, I have met many genuine souls in the south (also in the North) but they are usually poor and working class who have absolutely no power or control of the larger circumstances of their existence and for whose meager daily life takes all the energy they possess. They have no illusions about who they are or where they are going or how much better they are then the next person. They are disenfranchised at the voting booth by virtue of bourgeois democracy, their schools are systematically deprived of access to funding and quality teaching, and wage slavery, poverty, systemic racism/classism exacts a terrible toll on the mind and body. The southern ruling elites (just like elites anywhere) and their middle class professional managers, technicians, administrators, etc tacitly, and not so tacitly, conspire to keep the mass of poor and working people, ignorant, at the margin and preoccupied with a stupidity-inducing culture in order to preemptively subvert any sort of organization and resistance to the dominate paradigm. It is this middle class layer of society that is, I would argue, the larger problem since they manage the day to day operations of corporations, universities, schools and government and they lend their intelligence, expertise and skills to maintaining the status quo. As Upton Sinclair infamously quipped: It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

    To that end the discussion really should be about the water’s we swim in and this is where I would take you to task. I understand your angst and frustration about the state of the world and the invective directed toward people who mindlessly embrace it and defend it, but your view regarding the origin of the problem is incorrect.

    While the United States is currently the center of the world system, it is not the originator of this thing we call ‘civilization’. There are significant of bodies of serious work that are investigating the external terrains of the world system such as Andre Gunder Frank, Janet Abu Lodgud, J. Freidman, et al, which more than demonstrate that Western Civ is actually a continuation of one long, continuous project that spans 1000s of years, the dynamics and processes of which govern all civilizations. The dynamics and processes are essentially the same, namely ceaseless accumulation and all result in the same outcome – the ecological destruction of the known world. The only difference today is that the ‘known world’ is the whole world and there is no escape to a new world, this time. Although clowns like Steven Hawkins rants on about the need to start colonizing other planets.

    If ‘Western Civilization’ were to collapse, there are other competing centers that would relish the opportunity to expand their own projects. The Chinese are racking up serious technical and scientific achievements and looks as if they will rise to a position of superiority in the coming decades. They just finished the world deepest bore hole and are in the process of unlocking a hydrocarbon reserve on par with the largest world producers. So they are well on their way to being able to energize their power complex internally and the net effect would be no different then that of our ‘civilization. So in an important sense, this is more than an issue of western civilization, its of civilization in general.

    The other body of work I am thinking about deals with the internal terrains of the ‘bourgeois’ mind as the primary means in which our system socially reproduces itself. The work of Jon Hansen, Adam Benforado, John Bargh, Harvie Ferguson, F. G. Bailey et al have developed insights into this terrain and in particular the operation of ‘naive cynicism’ and situationalism.

    The middle class mind is the product of a social system that is designed to channel wealth and power into the hands of a small elite. They are the buffer class for who the material and social basis of their existence precludes it to being an agent of change that would threaten the elite it owes fealty to. Environmentalism has largely been a middle-class preoccupation which is why it has been such an abysmal failure as Cory as revealed, in so many words, in here reporting.

    Blaming those who are, for the most part, a product of a social system is problematic, at best. I am sorry to say that it leads us not to a shared understanding of the forces at work devastating the planet, but simply to blaming people for something they have no control over and have absolutely no reason to see or understand in the way we do. The destruction of the biosphere is too abstract and when confronted with one’s ignorance and powerlessness, it is far more preferable to believe in solar panels or god.

    We must find another way.

  • Forrest Palmer on Aug 19, 2016

    Regarding the above response to the op-ed (which is an opinion piece and not a scientific article or investigative study):

    1. As referenced in the piece, the infrastructure of the levee system in New Orleans hadn’t been maintained adequately. This is expressly stated above. There was a link provided to backup that a portion of the disaster was the result of state resources not being allocated to the area for a long time, which made this inevitable regardless of the strength of the hurrican. That is clearly stated in the piece.

    2. The article states that the elected officials were elected AFTER 2005. It doesn’t say that they still hold office or the exact date they were elected. Once again, this is an opinion piece and not an article on Louisiana electoral politics.

    3. The authors of this article have an equal amount of enmity for Western civilization as a whole, which is the cause of the ongoing ecocide that is harming the inhabitants of the Global South by the thousands presently. As far as my personal feelings in regards to Southerners, I would not want to relegate my revulsion to just the Southern portion of the United States. I am pretty much disgusted by all Amerikkkans on the whole who comprise a vacuous population by any honest analysis. The citizens residing in the Southern part of Amerikkka are just the worst of the worst. Any opinion poll in regards to the environmental catastrophe that is afoot will show that in no uncertain terms, the majority of Southerns hold opinions that are entirely against addressing the environmental catastrophe in any cogent way.

    4. Wrong Kind of Green is not religious in any way, shape or form. We are not against religion, per se, since people are free to think what they wish about things that are metaphysical in nature. However, we rely on facts, figures and evidence in regards to our analysis. Not faith. As the name is not copywritten by us, other people are free to use it as they wish, even if their thoughts are wholly different than ours.

    Please feel free to respond to the article and/or question any of the opinions held above. We will be happy to address any and all subsequent feedback.

    Thank you.

    • Jane Brewster on Aug 19, 2016

      “The southern part of Amerikkka is the worst of the worst”…? No, thank YOU for clarifying, Mr. Misanthrope. Wow, I hope the folks at WKOG are reading this. Keep pulling on your mouse, I’m sure a new thought will arise. However, I’m comforted to know that this op-ed doesn’t reflect a christian connection. Those of true faith and/or conscience are going down to Louisiana to help the thousands of people who’ve lost their homes, their pets, and their livelihoods – even some loved ones. “If you want peace, work for justice.” Pope Paul VI.

      • Rose Alford on Aug 24, 2016

        No matter what, ignorance of climate change repercussions will hurt the lower lying regions prone to flooding more. People need to be prepared and need to buy flood insurance. The politicians must tell this to the ignorant masses befoRe they lose their homes. Doesn’t matter what the flood history of where you live is anymore.

  • Jane Brewster on Aug 19, 2016

    I live in the New Orleans area, and a well meaning friend sent me a link to your article. I looked up WKOG, the source of the article, and it’s a religious radio station in Indiana, which suggests that cognitive dissonance reigns there as well. Of course the article has numerous facts wrong, most importantly that Hurricane Katrina was a Federally-made disaster, not a natural one (I recommend a viewing of The Great Uneasy, a film Harry Shearer produced that evaluated the facts behind the flood). And the politicians highlighted (Jindal, Vitter) no longer hold public office. Otherwise what disturbed me most was the “those stupid southerners” attitude thinly masked by a veneer of intellectual objectivity *sigh.* It’s so easy to make obtuse judgements about people you don’t know. “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” Tennessee Williams