Good heavens people, it’s hurricane season!
Let’s start with a new twist on an old philosophical conundrum: “If a tree falls in a tropical forest and lands on a Canadian tourist, does he make a sound?” Or, better still, “Is the first sound he makes a demand that the federal government immediately send someone to remove the tree and fly him safely home?”
Essentially that’s what a large number of Canadians in the hurricane hit Caribbean, Florida and Texas areas are demanding. They have been raising their voices loud and clear suggesting that the government has handled the crisis badly, ignoring their plight and leaving them more or less to their own devices. Which brings me to the next question. So?
Where is it written that the government – read Canadian tax payers – has some unwritten responsibility for our fellow citizens who, for their own enjoyment, often travel abroad to semi-war zones, drug lord-controlled beach resorts, earthquake-prone islands and any number of other clearly identified danger spots? What possible reason would someone have to believe that the comforting arm of the federal bureaucracy would be there to pick them up when they fell?
Don’t get me wrong. The hurricanes that have swept through the Antilles, Cuba, the Bahamas and parts of the southern United States are a tragedy of major proportions. The people there, particularly the ones who couldn’t flee their island home, deserve our compassion and support. I’m even sad that a lot of vacations were ruined, but heading south on a holiday is a personal choice not an act of God.
Personally, when I head off on a trip I generally take a look at what kind of climate I can expect. If it’s the rainy season I pack my slicker, if it’s January and I’m going north I pack a parka. Good heavens people, August through September is hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico! Odds are if you don’t get an Irma or a Harvey flattening your resort there’ll still be a good chance of a major blow. On top of that, those who headed south were given ample warning of the coming debacle. For a week and a half every news outlet in North America was predicting a weather Armageddon and telling people to batten down or beat it.
Another problem in this age of instant connection and instant demand is that much of the real world still functions under the burden of time constraints. Evacuations take time. Planes don’t fly really well during hurricanes. Ships take days to arrive even if you have them, which we don’t. Airports cease to exist or those that make it through the storm have to be cleared. And let’s face it, during disaster triage, with the attendant dead, missing, injured, lost and homeless, stranded resort refugees are going to be a low priority.
Apparently, Canadians are split over the government’s role in all of this. A recent poll carried out by CTV asking if we should depend on the government rescuing stranded citizens had about 45 per cent saying yes and 55 per cent saying suck it up buttercup and find your own way back. (There was no indication of how many of the 45 per cent have a winter home straddling the San Andreas fault or a vacation condo with a view of the Mt. Pelée volcano in Martinique.)
Yes, the hurricanes we witnessed over the last few weeks were horrific. And yes, some of our fellow citizens were stranded in terrible conditions. But the bottom line is that no matter how quickly our communication devices can report our plight, no matter how quickly the government can be told of the problem and no matter how badly we might want help in our time of need, sometimes it’s just up to us.