Sunday, September 11, 2005

Yup, 20-20

Amidst all of the recriminations about Katrina, Michael Kinsley has a good article about hindsight. Knowing what we know now, would we have done things differently? Sure. But we (and by "we" I mean thee and me, not just Presidents, Governors, and Mayors) are too good at ignoring things we don't want to see or hear, and not thinking that the "inevitable" is going to happen tomorrow, not ten, twenty, or thirty years from now. And that our perceptions of the inevitable arise from what has happened to us in the past, not what might happen to us in the future:

But just Google up a phrase like "commission warns," or "urgent steps," or "our children's future" -- or simply "crisis" -- and you may develop a bit of sympathy for the people who stand accused today of ignoring the warnings about anything in particular. Far from being complacent about potential perils, we suffer from peril gridlock.

Did all the attention and money devoted to protecting us from a terrorist attack after Sept. 11, 2001, leave us less prepared for a giant flood? Undoubtedly. And if the flood had come first, the opposite would be true. We, the citizens, would have demanded it and then blamed the politicians and the institutions when it turned out to be a bad bet. There is no foresight. We fight the last war because hindsight is all we have.