Throughout the past week, Hurricane Katrina has taught us a great deal of lessons in a most horrific and tragic manner. There are the more obvious lessons of compassion, charity and goodwill that are bereft of the attention they need from us on a daily basis. Far too many Americans keep every dime they earn for themselves, without shame. Nonetheless, we are now lending a helping hand to our fellow man in New Orleans, who most certainly needs it. But over all the noise of relief work and politics, the echoes of our origin have come screaming into our ears.
In the Superdome, where thousands of people sought refuge from the awesome power of a common threat, there were rapes. There was theft. There was murder. In the ruins of the city surrounding the stadium, anarchy struck swiftly. All throughout the city, stores were being looted and people were being shot for no reason. Now, in typical American fashion, everyone is trying to find someone to hold responsible. How fragile the civility of mankind has proven itself to be.
The larger lesson Katrina has imparted to us is one of our own depravities. The philosophers and champions of a postmodern utopia should pay close attention and take notes. No matter how much we have in the bank, how nice our clothes are or how flashy the toys we play with become, we cannot escape ourselves. The tragedy in New Orleans has brought out the best in us and the worst in us. Ultimately, we cannot escape the specter of our own evil nature that has come back to haunt us once again.
It possesses and controls the men that kill defenseless civilians in the name of Allah. It consumed these men, just as it consumed hundreds before them from Vlad III to the Nazis. This spirit doesn't reserve itself for the rapists and murderers. It corrupts the hearts of "good" men and women on a daily basis because it resides within us all. It is the reason little white lies are okay and why sex is becoming more and more detached from the confines of marriage. It's the reason you can't leave your backpack alone in the library or your bike unlocked.
While New Orleans may not be considered a wellspring of morality and wholesome attractions, the city was in a civil state before the hurricane. When the hurricane spread the city's rule thin and the people were left with no consequences for any prospective misdeeds, they took full advantage. You've read about it in the papers and seen it on the news: bedlam ensued. The fact is when they were not being held accountable for what they did. When they had the opportunity to do wrong, they took advantage of the situation.
The more we understand the truth of our own nature, which has made itself evident throughout history time and time again, the more prepared we can be to face it. No one should be surprised by the lawlessness that ensued after the removal of authority and stability in New Orleans. No one except those who have been deceived into thinking man is a purely good creature whose wrongdoings are the result of his environment, that is. Don't be fooled, this is not an issue of government, race or social status. It's an ailment of the soul Christ warned us about 2,000 years ago. A failure to recognize this would prove tragic in and of itself.
Tyler Wittman is a senior speech communications major. His column runs every Friday in Collegian.