Today I attended a conference for first responders and medical personal in association with my line of work. In presenting the state of the art in technology which had the goal of providing a higher level of service to victims of exceptional emergency situations there were some important themes in all of the various discussions that rang through each. It was clear that "Hurricane Katrina" and the flooding in New Orleans that took place afterward was a a high calamity of near biblical proportions.
As I listened to the various speakers, each from different disciplines I could not help but to understand yet another very important truth - many of the political opportunists who wasted no time in attacking the government's response (and this is both on the right and the left) have no clue as how complex the systems that deliver our STANDARD OF LIVING on a daily basis are and the challenges of returning them to proper order during and after such a disaster. Thus when you have no idea as to what goes into running these various systems them criticism in the delay of having them return to proper working order is that much easier to distribute upon others.
The presenters that I saw introduced various technology solutions that would assist in expediting medical treatment, tracking lost individuals and allowing medical personal to communicate to the the field and thus project their knowledge more effectively. I couldn't help but notice that the biggest critics don't have any technical skills that are going to prevent the same situation from happening again. They instead play the role of the "angry consumer" who's job is to raise hell for not being SERVICED.
It seems to me that the magic of creating an environment where there is abundant and good paying jobs resides in the presence of a society with a rich fabric of expert people who are part of a SYSTEM or PROCESS who's goal is to continuously reform and improve the way they do things so that yesterday's problems are resolved and new ones are tackled with the time that has been freed up.
As it stands now so much of New Orleans is unable to "help itself" because many of the prime people with the embedded interests to help themselves lack the skills and perspective to contribute at the level of management and engineering which is necessary. Typically institutions of higher learning direct their education efforts toward resolving a particular challenge that is present. Much of New Orleans, however, seems to be decoupled from this entire process of problem solving and definition of new systems to insure that it will not happen again - or at least not in the same deleterious manner.
This I conclude that the activist track where frustrated citizens are urged to walk their own streets in protests for the so called "Right To Return" to their own neighborhoods. The right to return is indeed present. The problem is the context to which they are returning with respect to employment, availability of public safety services, utilities and of course housing. The very predicament in which so much of your being is placed in the hands of outside bureaucrats is a problem into itself.
Where as what I saw today represented applied science to insure that the bottom would not fall out of a response in the future, I see little that can be said to be the act of positioning for a more self-sufficient and more secured state for New Orleans in the future.