Here Thar Be Monsters!

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3.9.17

King Canute Ascendant

My rant du jour will likely "trigger" some folks, but it needs to be said.

Many humans are complete and utter idiots.

As a native of Houston, Texas, and having spent a significant amount of my life living there, and having never been flooded out of my homes, I feel eminently qualified to say that a great number of victims of the recent Hurricane Harvey floods are complete bozos.

Don't get me wrong - every man's death diminishes me.  I feel the loss of life and I can deeply empathize with loss of property, but if you are one of the people who lived in a flood zone, you are a victim of your own hubris and lack of foresight.  Thus, I do not feel the least bit responsible, nor do I think taxpayers have an obligation to compensate you for your stupidity.

Since many folks in many countries are the results of government education, many folks will not know about a 12th century Celt king by the name of Canute.  Canute was a rather wise and calculating fellow who had his head screwed on straight.  One of his most famous antics was to prove the futility of fighting Nature.

Canute had his throne carried down to the beach in jolly old England, when it was part of the Norse Empire.  He was on a mission to demonstrate the true power of government.  He sat on the seaside and commanded the tide to halt and not get his royal feet wet.  Well, you can image what happened, but if you can't, the tide came in as usual and soaked him clear to the knees.  He rose and declared that earthly power means nothing in the face of Nature.

Jump 900 years ahead, and we land on the shores of Brays Bayou (what we call rivers in east Texas) and a neighborhood called Meyerland.  In my 56 years trodding on this planet, I can distinctly remember Meyerland getting epic floods at least 20 times.  That's roughly 30% of my personal memory, and it's probably a lot higher.  Locals joke that flushing the toilet causes Meyerland to flood.

Yes, folks, this area that has had major flooding in each of the past three years, is full of people who are actually wondering if they should rebuild.

Forgive me for being so blunt here, but are they complete and utter idiots?  It would seem so.  Sure, the rolling landscape of the river's banks, the oak-lined streets and the nice jogging/bicycle path along the river makes this an attractive upper-middle class place to live - when you are not swimming to the kitchen to grab another glass of electric Kool-Aid.

And in addition, the residents will likely stick their losses in the pockets of taxpayers, seeing as how they didn't have the common sense to stay out of a flood zone, much less stay there after decades of flooding.

The logical thing to do would be to bulldoze every house that had water inside as a result of Hurricane Harvey, and let Nature have Her domain back.  But common sense is not an attribute that is common amongst humans.

Houston was founded by a pair of Yankee swindlers who sold swampland to a bunch of unsuspecting Yankee families, who arrived to find a mosquito-infested bog shot through with half a dozen rivers that drain a significant part of East Texas into Galveston Bay, via the now-enormous Houston Ship Channel and Port.

Despite repeated destruction by hurricanes and just plain old Texas gully-washers, folks still build houses in low-lying areas that are drainage ditches (albeit big ones) for half of Texas.  Even worse are the great numbers of blithering buffoons who currently live in former rice paddies, for which Houston was once famous.  If you are not familiar with rice cultivation, it requires the fields to be flooded until the plants top out in late summer.

Not only are millions now living in areas that used to be farm and cattle land, a full quarter of America's oil refining capacity lines the shores of bayous and the Gulf of Mexico, which areas have been repeated hammered by hurricanes and floods since the Gaia super-continent broke up a few billion years ago.

In other words, only the most dense, room-temperature IQ nit-witted bonehead would have been surprised by this latest flood.

What makes it such a disaster is NOT the amount of water or the area submerged.  No, this disaster is entirely of human genesis.  Millions of people now live in places that were once pastures and swamp.  When I was born, Houston had a population of a quarter million.  It now has 4,5 million registered residents, and who knows how many unregistered ones.  They have built homes and vital infrastructure in places that everyone knew (if not knows) was flood prone on an annual basis.

King Canute was making a point about the limits of his power, but modern Houstonians simply defied common sense and Nature Herself.  And to compound the idiocy, victims expect government (e.g. Taxpayers) to bail them out.  Why not?  American taxpayers bailed out the bankster after decades of systemic corruption and stupidity.  Everybody can make everyone else pay for their lack of forethought and complete boneheadedness, right?

If you build a house in an area that is known to have flooded at least every five years since humans have inhabited the region, and then find yourself fishing and fighting alligators in your living room, I have a grand total of Zero Sympathy for you.

Nor do I feel bad for people living in high-rise towers in earthquake zones, nor piles of ash that once lived on the flanks of volcanoes, nor fish food that once inhabited hurricane and flood zones.

One assumes that people who do these things receive some extraordinary benefit - as any extreme risk should offer - and they don't share that benefit with me.  So why should I share in their losses for taking those risks?

I lived in Houston for 40 of my 56 years and never once had flood water in my house.  The closest I ever came was about ten feet from the door.  I chose the places I lived based on topographical information and local anecdotes.  If no one could remember the last time it flooded, and the topographical maps of the area showed sufficient elevation above mean sea level, I figured I was pretty safe, but in any event, I would have taken full responsibility for CHOOSING to live in Houston in the first place.  I do the same while living in Jakarta, though here there is about a ZERO chance of government handing out money, like it does in America.

Is this harsh?  Yes.  It is not easy to look at people in distress and remember that their suffering is a direct result of their actions and choices.  They must, however, take responsibility for those choices, as they presumably made them based on some perceived benefit that they were not going to share with the rest of us.  Why should we share the negative results of their choices?

If, like the residents of Meyerland, you were fully aware that your area flooded regularly, and you have had floods in the recent past, and you chose not to visit someone further inland when the hurricane threatened, and you choose to rebuild and continue living in the same place, I feel absolutely no sympathy for your future losses.  Your losses are entirely the result of your hubris and unwillingness to accept that you - like King Canute - have no power over Nature.

As the undisputed master of clear thinking, George Carlin, opined, "People build their houses on the side of a volcano, and the wonder why they have lava in the living room."

Man up, take your whacks, learn from your mistakes, and try to make better choices in the future.  It's called Life, and Nature is in full control of it.  Moving your throne to the edge of the sea and commanding the tide to stop to accommodate your whims is a rather stupid thing to do.

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