Crime, Fear, and Orwell

May 7, 2008 by

Violence. It surrounds us these days more than ever. From the vicious slayings of the city streets to the consistent array of rapes and hazings at Tulane University we are suffering a deluge of it. Both the city and the University desperately need enforcement. This is an issue with pre storm roots.

Along with the violence comes the pungent aroma of fear. I know I am subject to it.

City streets seem darker and more threatening than ever and small movements caught in the eye’s corner make you jump almost out of your skin. Everyone has those moments whether they admit it out loud or not. Its part of life in the city, especially these days.

So how far do we allow fear to propel us? Where do we find the line between making ourselves safe from extraordinary circumstances and sacrificing our liberty for perceived safety? Ben Franklin once said that those who abandon liberty for safety deserve neither. But how to stay firm in that resolve when you have a family?

Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans and the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association want us to sign their petition to keep the National Guard in NOLA. With my office located in the Bywater and a lovely wife at home Uptown I find myself supporting that aim. At the same time I cringe at the thought of endorsing the concept of armed troops on American soil, especially ours.

In the French Quarter a new initiative has begun – cameras in every window. QuarterSafe is something I only just discovered when they sent me an email about an hour ago. Its a movement to have people hook up cameras to their computers watching the streets of the Vieux Carre. “Orwellian,” was my first thought. “Could it work?” was my second. After reading in the Times-Picayune that violent crime is up 20% and rape is up 85% I find I am not not as secure in my ideals as I would like to be. Perhaps the 20+ funerals I have been party to since the levee failure has something to do with it as well.

I am merely ruminating here. I have no magic solution, no wave of a Harry Potter wand to dispel the complexity of what faces us. I just know this:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
We must face our fears and determine our proper course. In the final analysis it is a dialectic between each individual and their own conscience.
So, how do YOU feel about the New Orleans Brand ™?
Loki, HumidCity Founder
[EDIT: And then Karen G. points me at this as a coda.]

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