The Occupy Wall Street crowd, upset that government power was being overly wielded by bankers, suggested, as the solution, we give government more power. The funny thing was, they took up other causes themselves (feeding people, protesting bank fees by not doing business with those banks) that were successful because it was individuals meeting a need rather than government imposing a one-size-fits-all solution. The market worked, and people were helped. Churches and conservatives have been doing it for a long time; it was nice to see these kids get a feel for individual charity and individual choices.
Another Occupier has been given a grim remind that government can’t be everywhere, but individuals can be.
The situation in public housing projects in Coney Island, Brooklyn remains a "humanitarian crisis" in which the government and the Red Cross have been nearly completely absent, according to Eric Moed, a volunteer aid worker with Occupy Sandy.
Friday is Moed’s fifth day volunteering with Occupy Sandy, an ad hoc hurricane relief group formed by former Occupy Wall Street activists. Moed, an architect from Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood, goes door to door in the 30-40 public housing buildings in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn to distribute food, water and supplies, and help address sanitation and medical needs. The projects in Coney Island remain without power, and often without water and necessities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Accounts of these conditions have been corroborated in the New York Daily News.
Moed says all of the supermarkets on Coney Island have been flooded or looted.
The result is what Moed describes as a "humanitarian crisis." Sick or older people may be vulnerable to death without heat, or food and water.
He’s there. He’s helping. As I’ve noted before, people who do not believe it’s the government’s job to help people generally are more willing to help people themselves. Moed’s comments suggest he’s not one of those types, but good on him for helping out anyway.
Whatever response there has been from the government — city, state, or federal — or the Red Cross, Moed says their presence in and around the Coney Island projects is non-existent, inadequate, or counterproductive. FEMA has set up a solitary aid trailer on what Moed calls the "sexy area" of Coney Island — near the famous amusement park and Nathan’s — which was not hit very hard. It awaits people seeking help, when those who most need it are stranded in high-rise buildings a few blocks away.
Moed insists that he does not assume anything about the government and Red Cross’s lack of a response, but says their absence is indisputable. "They’re literally not there. It’s not a criticism, it’s literally a fact," he said. "I’ve been on the ground here for four days. I’ve seen zero FEMA people. Occasionally a Red Cross truck will come through with hot meals. But there’ll be one truck for 15-20 buildings."
Moed reserves perhaps his greatest scorn for NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) the city government body in charge of the projects where Moed does his rounds. Moed says NYCHA has been focused exclusively on restoring power and after ten days, they have failed even to complete that task. "People have claimed that they are still being asked to pay rent, despite the lack of power and water," Moed Says.
This is one kid learning that, when things are worst, our best bet is to rely on each other, not the government. Some may suggest that "each other" includes the government, but a bureaucracy hundreds of miles away will not be as reliable as the guy down the street. Or you. The federal government ceased being a good representative of "each other" a long time ago. Some are being helped, to be sure, but if you rely first on government, you are likely to be disappointed.
And even though Moed said that his acknowledging of a lack of government response was not a criticism, as time dragged on, it became that.
Moed has also used social media to express frustration with the inadequate response of the government. On Thursday Moed tweeted:
WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU @barackobama? Citizen here, been in Coney Island Projects FEEDING ppl ALONE no FEMA or Red Cross. People are dying.
— Eric J Moed (@rickersteen) November 8, 2012
He tweeted the same thing to NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In the near future, however, Moed does not plan to go beyond his remarks on social media to campaign the government for help. "I’ve decided to devote my energies to actually helping people who are in life or death situations, as opposed to demanding things," Moed said. "I see the need to demand that Mayor Bloomberg and NYCHA and Red Cross and FEMA get out there and really start canvassing and doing things from the ground up, but the needs are so dire and so desperate at this point that we’ve just been down there trying to get that stuff documented and taken care of."
Don’t wait on government. Don’t rely on government. It is not omnipotent nor omnipresent. Devote your energies "to actually helping people who are in life or death situations, as opposed to demanding things".
Democrats would try to portray Moed’s attitude as one of some sort of social Darwinism, the way they portray Republicans. But it’s not political. It’s literally a fact.