When the barometer drops, so does our courage.
Boston was not hit hard, yet the "courageous" leaders saw fit to cancel just about everything. Schools were empty, the financial district was a ghost town, and subways and buses were yarded. This criticism extends to both private and public sectors, and to the the well-honed panic mechanisms in media who work everyone into a panic. It was really the tsunami in Japan that made me realize that we are collectively, not the group we thought we were (or say we are). As individuals, we may be resilient and self-reliant, but as a group, we are panicky dooms-dayers. After the tsunami, the citizens of Japan pulled together and self-governed in the way that we wished we were capable of, and it was then that I realized that we were in denial.
The financial sectors in my city shut down as did most retail. Yesterday, it was only the new citizens who had the backbone to open their businesses and to keep the gears of industry turning. People who started businesses against all odds and oceans and green-card red-tape were standing behind their counters, ringing cash registers, etc., while the MBA's from the "best schools" cowered at home hoping that Skippy's treehouse would survive the wind and debris, and that their ESPN feed would not cut out.
We did not keep calm and did not carry on. Commerce halted and our fragile spirits quivered. Children were kept inside parked in front of televisions and parents called one another to foment panic and anxiety. Don't wait for the city or town to clear the downed tree. Don't wait for the cavalry or for Superman or for someone else. Pull it together, organize your crumpled neighbors and get things moving again. Take your ax chainsaw, two-way radios, canoe, water filters, and anything else you have and put it to immediate use. And for God's sake, save the generators for those who have medical needs requiring electricity, not for your damn coffee maker. Unfortunately, communities often discourage self-reliance with radio and television telling us that it's too cold/wet/hot/humid/windy/dangerous/whatever to go outside. If we're outside, we can't be in front of the TV or radio, and we will realize that it's never as bad as we are told.
There are plenty of people for whom the storm did much damage and do need a hand. There is a reason that the early colonists didn't build their houses on the beach.
I had a conversation with a friend over at FEMA and one at NYC Transit. They shed some light on it in a way I hadn't considered. One told me that his theory was that people (governments and private sector) not actually in danger (Boston during the Hurricane) feel collectively left out of the action and want to feel like they are involved in either suffering or saving. I think he's right. Why spend time worrying about others and possibly feeling helpless or guilty from one's own inaction when you can trump up your own involvement to the point where you feel justified not assisting others? Once again, the theme of selfishness and narcissistic obsession seems to explain plenty. New Jersey and NYC are pretty screwed and need help immediately. Many will need clothing as winter is arriving shortly.