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Director's cut — August 2005

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August 1, 2005 by Tara Brabazon

Greetings to members and lurkers.

It seems each month I sit at my desk to write the next Director's Cut, another tragedy punctuates our television screens. The horrifying events in New Orleans invoked far more complexity than can be conveyed by the statement 'natural disaster.' There was nothing natural about those images. It was as if modernity corroded and a new ruthless system — of life, death, pity and rage — overcame our facades of civility, order and the rule of law.

Through the tragedy, a truth — a gritty truth — jutted out from the flood waters. Those who are poor, sick, old, young and black are the most vulnerable to any change in the social order. This disaster exposed how many live on the edge of poverty, sickness, fear and confusion.

One image of the last few days will remain in my mind. An elderly woman was sitting on a bridge, stunned and quiet, with nothing to shelter her from the heat and sun. A journalist asked her about her experience. She pointed to the bulky contents of the crumpled blanket by her feet. She explained that this was her husband, and he had died the day before. No one would help her and she did not know what to do. Officials suggested that she move away from the body as it may start to smell. But she had remained next to her husband, as a silent sentinel.

I wonder what happened to this extraordinary woman. I also wonder if the journalist who interviewed her actually did anything about the piteous humanity he discovered. I suppose he — like so many of us — simply moved to the next story, the next day, the next tragedy.

While watching this footage, I was reading Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss. Their book Affluenza revealed 'the consumption binge' of Western societies. Looking at people without water, food or clothes, we see for ourselves that there are whole sections of society that are paying for our exaggerated need for good coffee, sundried tomatoes and designer labels. This is affluenza: we forget what really matters in the search for the new, the beautiful and the fashionable.

The events of New Orleans remind us how close we all are to despair and loss. May our pretensions have been downed in those rising waters.

See you in September.