Monday, September 12, 2005

New Orleans

Sorry for the lack of postings since Friday. I was away in Kuantan over the weekend.

Though I am not the only one who have been busy ;P

The reason was that I took part in my company’s annual treasure hunt. We were flagged of at half past seven and our destination was Kuantan. My team reached Kuantan at four.

After resting for a couple of hours, we had a scrumptious dinner. The theme for the night was "Characters from Movies". You know how Malaysians usually don’t dress up for themes and I wasn’t expecting much.

Boy, was I wrong!

There were characters from Star Wars – Jar Jar Binks (most annoying character ever!), Yoda, Darth Vader (we even had two of them!); there were eight Zorros; the Phantom (of the Opera fame) and Christine; a team dressed up as Pharoahs and Cleopatra, Batman (a fat one though), Puteri Gunung Ledang and Men In Black.

There was one who wore the mask from Scary Movie. The one with a longish and curvy mouth.

Not forgetting the most famous contractor from our southern neighbour. We had not one, but four Phua Chu Kangs. The whole team dressed up as exact copies of themselves in the trademark yellow hard hats and black rubber boots. (Phua Chu Kang is a popular Singaporean sitcom about a character of the same name)

It was tremendously fun!

Anyway, my team chose Harry Potter; we were wizards and witches. So I had a red cape on. It wasn’t a full wizard costume as the shop we went to had limited choices.

Later in the night, the results were announced. Suffice to say that I got fourth and lost out on third place by one measly point!

And that point cost my team five hundred bucks!

We spend the night in Hyatt Kuantan, which is at Teluk Chempedak. It is a very nice hotel and my room had a seaside view. The hotel itself is near the beach and it is a very popular tourist spot.

I managed to catch the sun rise. And I also captured it on film.

I think there is always the desire to do so every time I am on the East coast. It's not just me; my colleagues felt the same way too.

Though it finally turned out only my room mate and I did. The rest were sleeping like logs and only woke up after eight.

We left Kuantan at two and reached back in KL after six. That was when I received an extremely interesting text from Will.

On Friday, I was reading through some of the blogs and I found this. It is quite an eye-opener and it really helped me to understand the city of New Orleans better, as it was written by a resident.

I am posting here the parts where he referred to New Orleans and its people and excluded the rest. You can read the full article from the link above.

Notes From Inside New Orleans, by Jordan Flaherty
Friday, September 2, 2005

To understand this tragedy, it's important to look at New Orleans itself.

For those who have not lived in New Orleans, you have missed a incredible, glorious, vital, city. A place with a culture and energy unlike anywhere else in the world. A 70% African-American city where resistance to white supremecy has supported a generous, subversive and unique culture of vivid beauty. From jazz, blues and hiphop, to secondlines, Mardi Gras Indians, Parades, Beads, Jazz Funerals, and red beans and rice on Monday nights, New Orleans is a place of art and music and dance and sexuality and liberation unlike anywhere else in the world.

It is a city of kindness and hospitality, where walking down the block can take two hours because you stop and talk to someone on every porch, and where a community pulls together when someone is in need. It is a city of extended families and social networks filling the gaps left by city, state and federal goverments that have abdicated their responsibilty for the public welfare. It is a city where someone you walk past on the street not only asks how you are, they wait for an answer.

It is also a city of exploitation and segregation and fear. The city of New Orleans has a population of just over 500,000 and was expecting 300 murders this year, most of them centered on just a few, overwhelmingly black, neighborhoods. Police have been quoted as saying that they don’t need to search out the perpetrators, because usually a few days after a shooting, the attacker is shot in revenge.

There is an atmosphere of intense hostility and distrust between much of Black New Orleans and the N.O. Police Department. In recent months, officers have been accused of everything from drug running to corruption to theft. In seperate incidents, two New Orleans police officers were recently charged with rape (while in uniform), and there have been several high profile police killings of unarmed youth, including the murder of Jenard Thomas, which has inspired ongoing weekly protests for several months.

The city has a 40% illiteracy rate, and over 50% of black ninth graders will not graduate in four years. Louisiana spends on average $4,724 per child’s education and ranks 48th in the country for lowest teacher salaries. The equivalent of more than two classrooms of young people drop out of Louisiana schools every day and about 50,000 students are absent from school on any given day. Far too many young black men from New Orleans end up enslaved in Angola Prison, a former slave plantation where inmates still do manual farm labor, and over 90% of inmates eventually die in the prison. [Angola only takes prisoners serving sentences of 50 years or more, thus the high number. -- NK] It is a city where industry has left, and most remaining jobs are are low-paying, transient, insecure jobs in the service economy.

Race has always been the undercurrent of Louisiana politics. This disaster is one that was constructed out of racism, neglect and incompetence. Hurricane Katrina was the inevitable spark igniting the gasoline of cruelty and corruption. From the neighborhoods left most at risk, to the treatment of the refugees to the the media portayal of the victims, this disaster is shaped by race.

Louisiana politics is famously corrupt, but with the tragedies of this week our political leaders have defined a new level of incompetence. As hurricane Katrina approached, our Governor urged us to “Pray the hurricane down” to a level two. Trapped in a building two days after the hurricane, we tuned our battery-operated radio into local radio and tv stations, hoping for vital news, and were told that our governor had called for a day of prayer. As rumors and panic began to rule, they was no source of solid dependable information. Tuesday night, politicians and reporters said the water level would rise another 12 feet - instead it stabilized. Rumors spread like wildfire, and the politicians and media only made it worse.

While the rich escaped New Orleans, those with nowhere to go and no way to get there were left behind. Adding salt to the wound, the local and national media have spent the last week demonizing those left behind. As someone that loves New Orleans and the people in it, this is the part of this tragedy that hurts me the most, and it hurts me deeply.

No sane person should classify someone who takes food from indefinitely closed stores in a desperate, starving city as a “looter,” but thats just what the media did over and over again. Sherrifs and politicians talked of having troops protect stores instead of perform rescue operations.

Images of New Orleans’ hurricane-ravaged population were transformed into black, out-of-control, criminals. As if taking a stereo from a store that will clearly be insured against loss is a greater crime than the governmental neglect and incompetence that did billions of dollars of damage and destroyed a city. This media focus is a tactic, just as the eighties focus on “welfare queens” and super-predators” obscured the simultaneous and much larger crimes of the Savings and Loan scams and mass layoffs, the hyper-exploited people of New Orleans are being used as a scapegoat to cover up much larger crimes.

City, state and national politicians are the real criminals here. Since at least the mid-1800s, its been widely known the danger faced by flooding to New Orleans. The flood of 1927, which, like this week’s events, was more about politics and racism than any kind of natural disaster, illustrated exactly the danger faced. Yet government officials have consistently refused to spend the money to protect this poor, overwhelmingly black, city.

Most recent report put the death toll at more than four hundred.

I definitely agree that the world will never look at America the same way again. Even Americans themselves can't believe the chaos and anarchy, borned out of helplessness, that befell the city in the aftermath of the hurricane.


Legolas said...

Looks like you were having lots of fun there.

Men in Black was kinda easy, wasn't it? Just black suit and black tie and black shades. Kinda similar to Agent Smith though.

Holden said...

Kuantan huh? That's my hometown!

So which one were you? Harry Potter? Ron Weasley?

Red cape, hmmm, Draco Malfoy perhaps or his father? Hehheh..

kyels said...

You had great fun there eh? Hehe.