This photo recently became my most “favorited” on Flickr. With 26 favorites it has surpassed Big Cloud, which is gratifying because I think this is a much more interesting shot.
I took this one on October 13, 2006 in Gentilly, on Mirabeau Avenue near the London Avenue Canal breach. In the background you can see vacant flooded homes becoming overgrown with vegetation. You can even see some waterlines on the sign itself.
Need I say more? I think the power of this photo is that it tells a story all on its own. You don’t really need any of my explanations.
Except, perhaps it does bear noting that the London Avenue Canal breached because of a design flaw; this part of the city flooded because of an infrastructure failure. Thus an important point emerges: This was a manmade disaster, a disaster created by government.
And yet I don’t think that’s the point here. Of course, I don’t know who made the editorial graffiti on this sign or what they were thinking. But I suspect this is a comment not on the flooding, but on the rebuilding. As anyone who was here at the time can attest, as we struggled to rebuild, government seemed to be a bottleneck at best and often an outright obstruction. This photo was taken a year after the flood waters had receded, but citizen anger at government incompetence was rising rapidly. It would crest three months later.
I’m skeptical of those who blame government for their problems, just as I’m skeptical of those who look too much to government for the solutions. But in this case, I think the anger was (and is) entirely appropriate. You can be as libertarian or anarchist as you want, but in times of crisis we’re stuck with the system we have, like it or not — and that is a system in which the State and the government have massive power over our lives.
This photo is published under a Creative Commons Attribution license, so you can use it as you see fit so long as you give me credit.