Hurricane Irene has come and gone, leaving a swath of destruction in her wake. The latest reports indicate 21 people died, millions are without power, and the high winds and flooding have probably caused hundreds of millions if not billions in damages on the densely populated East Coast. Yet, it was not as bad as it could have been.
What strikes me about this event is the combination of media and government hype versus the backlash by many people because this event was not as bad as it could have been. Both the hype and the backlash prove that virtually everyone involved failed to get the real point: you should have already been ready before the hurricane came and you should still be ready now that it is gone.
Readiness is not piles of canned food and bottled water collected in advance of a known emergency. Readiness is not panicked preparations just before a disaster. Readiness is not falling for the hype then returning to apathy after it has passed.
No, readiness is being ready for whatever comes next both when things are calm and when things are in chaos. Readiness is a way of life, one that is so different than what most Americans live in 2011 that the mere suggestion of this kind of readiness seems alien and apocalyptic.
Nevertheless, the kind of readiness I describe is the only way to be ready. It means establishing a certain kind of autonomy from the very society that encourages us to be unready then panic when something bad seems about to happen. It means doing hard work for yourself and establishing local networks for what you can’t do yourself. It means being ready to feed, clothe, shelter, and defend yourself when no one else is able to do so. It means being ready to be a leader when all the so-called leaders have abandoned everyone.
My hope is that people will see Irene as a warning instead of an arbitrary occurrence. Be ready because you never know what will happen next.