Integrity Matters
September 7, 2005

Katrina shows dark side of human behavior

Question: (E-203)

Dear Jim:

Does the lawless behavior of New Orleans' urban gangsters mean that American society is one storm away from anarchy and an even further loss of integrity?


Yes, it does. Looting and robbing are behaviors controlled by social constraints and laws. Selfishness, cruelty, criminality and dishonesty are often referred to as the "dark side" of human behavior. They're held in check, for most people, by healthy and constructive interpersonal relationships along with civil and criminal regulations. Penalties for criminality sustain stability.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, criminals are using guns to plunder their communities, intimidating victims. These are nasty people, but not that different from felons who are rich and powerful corporate executives convicted and sentenced for fraud and malfeasance. High-ranking individuals from Andersen Consulting, WorldCom, Enron and HEALTHSOUTH were found guilty of unbridled greed-driven criminal behavior. They stole money in broad daylight, using sophisticated accounting practices. Society has serious integrity issues that need to be addressed, soon: among the rich, the poor and those in between.

The hideous actions of these thugs, preying upon the helpless at their most vulnerable moments, have been made clear by a responsible media. Anti-social behavior cannot be tolerated or explained away.

Firing rifles at life-saving helicopters, attacking vehicles transporting medical professionals to and from hospitals and using the cloak of darkness to rape and murder are indefensible actions. Tired and frightened, hundred of thousands of hurricane and flood victims have no lights, no communications, no water, no food, no police and little hope.

New Orleans' urban vultures and others in rural areas along the Mississippi and Alabama coast have seized the moment to plunder. Viciousness must be universally condemned, whether looting stores or gouging citizens with outrageous profit taking; whether for food, water, medical supplies or gasoline. Bandits come in many forms.

Hurricane Katrina of August 2005 reminds us of the fragile line between dignified human behavior and the violent life of the animal kingdom. Lions, dogs, hawks, snakes, gorillas and sharks hunt for food and instinctively protect their turf. When humans are frightened, frantic, thirsty, hungry, or abandoned, then anger and violence are likely consequences. Dire circumstances provoke dramatic reactions. Those who choose to profiteer in times of pain are bottom-feeders.

Before condemning the citizens of a city, state or region because a small percentage of people are adding to the chaos, take the time to look carefully at the faces of the victims.

Listen to their stories. If you are able, then offer assistance. Encourage prosecution of criminals. Regardless, pray for the victims to manage their losses and their health, enabling them to regain hope that integrity is alive along with compassion.

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