In 2007, a financial firestorm ravaged Wall Street and the rest of the country. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy obliterated a substantial chunk of the Atlantic seaboard. We think of the first as a human-made calamity, the second as the malignant innocence of nature. But neither the notion of a human-made nor natural disaster quite captures how the power of a few and the vulnerability of the many determine what is really going on at ground level. Causes and consequences, who gets blamed and who leaves the scene permanently scarred, who goes down and who emerges better positioned than before: These are matters often predetermined by the structures of power and wealth, racial and ethnic hierarchies, and despised and favored forms of work, as well as moral and social prejudices in place before disaster strikes.
When it comes to our recent financial implosion, this is easy enough to see, although great efforts have been expended trying to deny the self-evident. “Man” did not bring the system to its knees; the country’s dominant financial institutions and a complicit government did that. They’ve recovered, the... Read more