Something Completely Different

Wilfred McClay at Mere Comments has a unique take on the New Orleans disaster. He lived there for 12 years, and got my attention right out of the box with this comment I completely agree with, my gratitude for Satchmo notwithstanding.
It is as if there is a national agreement that we will pretend that New Orleans really is what the glossy travel literature says it is. No one really wants the Mardi Gras mask to come off. Let me add that I write this as one who genuinely loves the city, though more for its gritty, everyday blue-collar virtues than for its celebrated domestic architecture, its Creole pretentiousness, and its rather dull and unspontaneous parading of its putative naughtiness.
But then he decides to leave the requiem for the city and analysis of What Went Wrong for another time and simply muses: can't things "just happen" sometimes? Stipulating that many criticisms may be valid, he nevertheless questions the sanity of jumping right into blame mode.
Someone can and must be held accountable for this vast calamity. This, it seems to me, is a powerful confirmation of something that I have argued in the pages of Touchstone before: that the increase in our mastery over the physical terms of our existence will not make us happier or more content, and may even lead to chronic political and social instability and unease, precisely because of the unsatisfiable expectations it generates.

From there he reminds us of Gordon Wood's essay about "the paranoid style" in political thought --basically, that overblown conspiracy theories are not irrational but hyper-rational. Post-Enlightenment, we never accept "chance" as an answer for anything. We alway assume human hands at work.
If one were today rewriting Candide, the mocked Pangloss figure would be the one who says, "Well, these things happen, and one should learn to accept them gracefully. Although we cannot control our world, we can at least strive to do our best, and understand that there are risks in living below sea level in a hurricane prone region." And he would be ridden out of town on a rail, by an angry mob.

He even brings Tocqueville into it, which proves he's onto something.

This points to an increasingly familiar pattern of expectation, which only grows as our scientific knowledge and technological wizardry grow. It parallels our society's growing rage at a medical system, including the pharmaceutical industry, that has been remarkably skillful, and more skillful in each passing year, in successfully addressing a range of diseases and conditions that were formerly thought to be untreatable. But modern medicine cannot banish the existence of risk. Which is why the system is all too often a casualty of the very expectations it raises. There is a sense in which, the more things become mastered, the more intolerable are those remaining areas in which our mastery is not yet complete. This parallels very neatly the observation made by Tocqueville that times of revolutionary upheaval occur when social expectations are rising, and that the growth of social equality in America would exacerbate, rather than relieve, Americans' sense of class injury and class resentment.

Read the original for his conclusion. Good stuff.