You are on your own. Your government doesn't care about you. Now, if you have an income, your government cares about taxing it. Yes, if you are a politically active member of a politically valuable demographic, your government cares about periodically getting your vote. But don't be a fool, your government doesn't care about you. Or your family. Or friends. Or property.
"Hello, I'm trying to find out the status of my mother's claim."And that's how it works. Your government is a mandarin class of tan Docker-clad elites, shuttling in SUVs from anonymous office parks to anonymous exurbs, windows rolled up, AC on full blast, Amy Grant on the CD changer. They insulate themselves from contact with the public, who they theoretically work for, with a phalanx of minimum-wage call center operators, and mega-tiered automated voicemail prompts and Byzantine organizational structures. You will never ever be able to talk with a person who can make any decision to help you. You will only hear "No", or maybe, if the drone you're in contact with still has some residual soul, you'll hear "I'm so sorry, I wish I could help, but I'm not authorized."
"I'm sorry, you've reached the line that's for taking new claims only. You have to call the Help Desk at this other number, they handle existing claims."
"That's the number I called, and got you."
"Oh. Well, maybe because of the volume of calls you got bumped over here, you'll have to hang up and call that number again, or log on to the website."
"You realize we have no home, no phone lines, and thus no access to the web, yes? And that the only reason I'm able to call on behalf of my mother is that I'm fortunate enough to have a cell phone, yes?
"I'm sorry, sir. I really wish I could help you, I'm just at the call center."
FEMA is doing nothing for the victims of Katrina. FEMA is nowhere near here. Official-looking FEMA shirts and hats are everywhere, worn on the backs and heads of earnest-looking sunburnt middle-aged men, often with moustaches and Oakleys. Imagine a fly-fisher, now put a navy blue FEMA shirt on him. But you soon realize that it's only a shirt. These are just drones. Dispatched by the mandarins to appear caring. These are usually local volunteers given two hours training and that official FEMA gear, and sent out to give people the 800 number by which you can file a new claim.
That's it. An 800 number. A mega-tiered, bilingual, automated, never-answered-by-anyone-who-can-think 800 number. That's how much your government cares about you. That's what the earnest volunteer blue shirts can help you with. When they realize you need more than an 800 number, their moustaches droop a little, crestfallen, impotent, and they give you some inside information. "Look for the red shirts, those are the actual FEMA guys."
I haven't seen any red shirts. Maybe they're the ones that have occupied all the motel rooms within 400 miles. The motel rooms with AC and cable and phones and internet and Amy Grant on the CD changer.
That picture above was taken on the morning of 9/11. Last Sunday. On the right is the little tent where the earnest blue shirts have set up their six laptops to take new FEMA claims. On the left is the beginning of the line of victims waiting for help. The first twenty feet of the line had shade from the 100 degree baking sun. By ten o'clock the line stretched all the way across the Kmart parking lot. The old guy on the middle-right, seated, with the oxygen tank, he had been there since 5:45. Behind him to the right? You see that guy with his hands up near his head, in a cartoon pose of exasperation and impotence? That's one of the earnest blue shirts.
You are on your own. My advice to you: have lots of private insurance for everything. Have fresh water on hand. Batteries and gas lamps. A generator. MREs and Powerbars. Plenty of cash. A gun, preferably a 12-gauge shotgun. Know how to use it, it will be worth it's weight in gold. It doesn't matter how the destruction will come. Hurricane. War. Terrorism. But when it comes, know that you are on your own.
You are always on your own. The government takes care of itself, not its citizens.