An Inconvenient Beheading

Posted on March 24, 2010


A few months after Hurricane Catrina I went with my old boss, Bruce, down to New Orleans for an experiment in Entrepreneurial Philanthropy. We went with heat machines in order to dry out houses. The experiment didn’t work, no one hired us Yankees, I didn’t get paid and my Boss lost twenty five thousand dollars. Cosmic justice perhaps? Like the evil carpetbaggers of old, we hoped to make cash off of the tribulations of the ravaged southern city. Still the whole episode had about it an air of tragicomedy, and so I did kind of get paid, not in cash but rather in Kafka Currency, which can only be redeemed on absurd things, such as expensive electronics that don’t work, ex- girlfriends that haven’t even been girlfriends yet, and a kick-in-the-teeth cocktail made from two parts failure, one part funny buisness, and a dash of nihilism. In the end we got what we deserved.

In Nola everyone was talking about Cosmic Justice. The manager of the RV park we stayed at across the lake from the city had a lot of speeches on the subject. “Katrina means purity,” he would yell, and “by jingo the place has been cleaned up!”  which meant for him that all the redneck’s homes had been blasted to smithereens. Another white bastard in a lacoste polo shirt getting drunk in the French Quarter, told me that all the black folks got their comupins: their homes were all wrecked and many of them left the city. “We’ve been trying to get rid of those people for years!” he said, cheering the diaspora on and laughed when his sister called him up from Houston, complaining about the new populace, “Take them back we don’t want them!”

“To late” Lacoste said, “they’re all yours,” as if all black people were a kind of plague that you could just pass around city to city. Then he told me, “You know, that Hitler had a pretty good thing going.”

“What?” I said.

“You know what I mean?” he said, nudging me grinning, as if to say, hey, we’re both white, we can speak frankly.

“No!” I yelled, “I don’t know what you mean!”

Or I knew exactly what he meant but didn’t want to.

Everyone else blamed George Bush.  Of course the government did an all around terrible job. But then what do you expect? There was apparently a promised total of 116 billion dollars that either went missing in the reconstruction effort or never arrived in the first place. So why not blame him?  It is enjoyable to imagine him sitting next to a level five hurricane switch, deep in texas, turning it on and chuckling in his sly secret way.

Or perhaps it was Al Gore that has the switch, just so he had a disaster about which later he could make a sweet documentary? The brilliant thing about An Inconvenient Truth is the title of course, which is so blithe and twee it has inspired me to make a documentary about the guillotine, entitled, An Inconvenient Beheading.  “Sir! you’ve just cut off my head and it is really rather inconvenient!” But the other brilliant thing about the movie is that it finds the vague human agency of all western mechanized civilization guilty for hurricane Catrina, which in turn boils down to one more cunning stroke by the politics of fear. Meaning in-turn, implicitly, if you don’t vote eco-democrat you’re dooming the world to a thousand more Katrinas over and over until humankind is eradicated. Not to mention the death of all polar bears everywhere. I say forget saving the environment. But what about that space program?

Some people may say that we have kings because the King must rule and oppress us. But I say we have kings because then we have someone to blame when shit goes south. And that’s the great thing about the flood in genesis: it is obviously God’s fault. Almost as if God woke up in the morning and wondering what he was going to do that day, looked at his iPhone planner. “Right!” he said, remembering, “Drown everyone! Like kittens!” Then he did.

This then makes Christ’s crucifixion at the hands of the mob, a little more understandable. It was revenge. Everyone was still hot and mad about that flood incident. They were like, “You killed us, God? All right, well we’re going to put tongs and a blowtorch on your precious begotten!” Of course this is heretical, don’t get me wrong. But I say a heresy is holier than disbelief. As evidenced in Graham Green’s novel The End of the Affair, isn’t it better to say I hate you God, you’re to blame for everything! than to say there is no God?

In the end blaming a transcendent invisible deity for all death and destruction everywhere is as much to ask, rhetorically, why does death always have to be shrouded in elaborate explanations?  Couldn’t death just be what it always has been? The absolute inevitability, the event horizon, the irreducible end?

Still it always seems the case, thus far, that, amazingly or sadly, depending on your temperament, after devastation, after terror and tragedy, after the death of friends and family, like Noah after the flood, there is always someone left, to start over.