Looking at Violence and Care Through the Right Lens

Saidiya Hartman and Davina Ward have opposing views about violence and care. Saidiya Hartman says “Care is the antidote to violence” while Davina Ward countered with the idea that “Violence can exist as care.” The existence of these two sides of the argument is very interesting. There is no way to fully prove or disprove either side. Both sides made me think about examples from the course where violence and care intersect, in one way or the other. Throughout the course we have talked about violence and its consequences in both fiction and real-world events, like in Hurricane Katrina. We have also talked a lot about care and where that exists in violent real-world events and fiction. I believe that both of these claims about violence and care are correct, but only when looked at through the correct lens.

Saidiya Hartman’s claim that “Care is the antidote to violence” is a great idea to explore. Is she saying that as long as someone cares about someone or something, they are immune to violence, that they will be safe? I don’t think that interpretation can be seen as true. It could be easily disproved by any number of areas we looked at in the course. The example that comes to mind first is Hurricane Katrina. People near and far cared about Hurricane Katrina, they cared about the people of New Orleans, they cared about the city, but that did not prevent the horrible violence that struck the city in August of 2005. Nor did it prevent the violence that developed and lasted in New Orleans for the months after. We witnessed the violence from the storm and the people by watching Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke. During the second act of the documentary, we see an interview with Darnell Herrington, a resident that was impacted by the violence of the storm, and the violence of people that developed after Katrina. Darnell was just walking down the street with his cousin after Hurricane Katrina hit when suddenly he was shot with a shotgun for no reason other than that he was walking by. There was a lot of seemingly senseless violence during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, despite all the care that people around the country felt. So that should completely disprove Hartman’s theory, right? Care is not the end to violence in this situation, so she was wrong, it is not an all-encompassing truth that care is the antidote to violence. However, I would argue that Hartman’s claim could be true when looking at it through the right perspective. Going back to Hurricane Sandy, the violence could have been prevented and/or lessened through care, but it had to be the care of the right people. People all over the country cared about the people of New Orleans, but they did not have the resources to prevent the violence. However, some people did, the government officials and the Army Corps of Engineers who built the levees that failed. From the book Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, we found out that the levees built to protect New Orleans failed due to negligence on the part of the Army Corps of Engineers. They knew that the levee walls needed to be higher to prevent overtopping. They knew that the levees were not properly reinforced in many areas. Why did they allow these inadequacies to slip through during the construction? It was because of the cost. The government did not care enough to spend the money necessary to prevent disasters like Hurricane Katrina. During Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were President and Vice President of the United States. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the people in the city were in desperate need of assistance, they lost their homes, their jobs, their families, their entire lives. Despite this, the care for Hurricane Katrina’s victims and the city came very slowly. There was not enough government aid coming to truly help the people or the city. We saw that in When The Levees Broke through a number of different ways. We saw the amount of people suffering in the streets and dying while little to no help was arriving. We saw people waiting for weeks and months to get temporary homes after their home was destroyed. And all while that was happening, while the city was in ruin, garbage everywhere, George W. Bush made an appearance in New Orleans. A camera crew and government team tidied up an area and set up lights and generators to make the city look like it was close to being back up and running, minimizing any signs of damage when the president gave his speech. His visit to New Orleans came far too late, and with far too little actual help. He was there for himself, to boost his image. If George W. Bush had cared about the tragedy that hit New Orleans, he could’ve sent aid that would have prevented so much of the violence and further tragedy that occurred after the storm hit. Essentially what that means is, Hartman’s claim is not wrong, it just needs to be interpreted the right way. Care can be the antidote to violence, when that care comes from the right people.

Davina Ward’s counter to Saidiya Hartman’s claim is that “Violence can exist as care.” When considering care, violence is not something that first comes to mind. Violence almost seems like the antithesis to care. When you care for someone or something, you treat it kindly, you may try to help it, and act gently. However, when you are violent toward someone or something, you are physically attacking it, hurting it, trying to tear it down. It seems impossible to have violence exist as care, because something cannot be the opposite of itself. However, after considering Ward’s claim, it makes sense. Consider William Shakespeare’s final work, The Tempest. In that story, Prospero wields his power to inflict violence on nearly everyone in the play, excluding his daughter. The reason Prospero inflicts violence on the others in the play is because he cares for his daughter, he wants to provide her with a better life, and violence is the avenue through which he is caring. In that example, violence is being used because of care, but the violence is not inflicted on the person that is being cared for. Is it possible for violence to be used on the thing you’re caring for? I think yes. We can look at Colson Whitehead’s Zone One for examples of that. In the book, Mark Spitz is a survivor of the zombie apocalypse. In order to survive the zombie apocalypse, you have to kill zombies, even if you recognize them. “It happened every so often that he recognized something in these monsters, they looked like someone he had known or loved. Eighth-grade lab partner or lanky cashier at the mini-mart, college girlfriend spring semester junior year. Uncle.” (Whitehead, 19). This is a very important idea because it deals with death, memory, and forgetting. These zombies that Mark Spitz recognizes were once people too. Some that he loved and really cared for, despite that, he has to kill them. But that is an act of care itself. Once those people that he knew and loved turned into zombies, they were no longer really themselves, they looked like them, but they forgot who they were. Mark Spitz holds the memories of these people and cares for them, and himself. The best thing that he can do for them, and for him, is to kill them. And that act of violence is the best care that they can receive. From these examples it’s clear that violence can exist as care, but not all violence is care. For violence to exist as care, it needs to be in the right circumstances, and be used in good faith. 

Both Saidiya Hartman’s and Davina Ward’s were correct, as long as you looked at them through the right lens. Care can be the antidote to violence, and violence can exist as care. If you take the quotes at face value and apply them to everything, they don’t work as well. However, if you take the time to unpack and understand what the quotes mean, then they will take on a new meaning that can be applied in the right cases. These quotes helped to illustrate how important it is to look at things through different lenses. They wouldn’t make as much sense unless you really looked at them in the right way and unpacked them. This is also a great example of why it is so important to unpack every piece of information you can, that way it leads to a deeper understanding. Saidiya Hartman’s and Davina Ward’s claims about violence and care are both correct in their own respects, when looked at through the right lens.

Cyclones Idai and Kenneth: Strength Through Adversity

by Jordyn Stinar, Kevin Malone, Benjamin Cook, Eleanor Walker, Emily McIntosh, and Leah Beecher

The beginning of our research began with a group discussion regarding the research we have found about several cyclones and typhoons. Interestingly enough, each of the researched storms were all regarded as “the deadliest” for the region it touched. After our discussion, we decided to focus our expenditure of energy on a cyclone known as Cyclone Idai which was the deadliest Cyclone that has hit Africa. The origins of Cyclone Idai began March 3rd, 2019 as a “tropical disturbance” in the Mozambique channel which is located between Mozambique and Madagascar. Storms that are located in this area don’t typically strengthen; however due to the nature of the warm waters, Cyclone Idai did get stronger. At this time the cyclone was regarded as Tropical Depression 11 (meaning it was the 11th tropical depression). A tropical depression according to NASA is “formed when a low pressure area is accompanied by thunderstorms that produce a circular wind flow with maximum sustained winds below 39 mph” (NASA). The difference between a tropical storm and a tropical depression is that a tropical storm occurs when the cyclonic circulation becomes more organized with maximum sustained wind gusts between 39 and 73 mph. As the storm got nearer to the African coast on March 5th, it caused heavy rains in Mozambique and Malawi, which resulted in severe flooding in these areas. Over the next few days this storm maintained its status as Tropical Depression 11 as it made its way over land. However, something interesting occurred in which Tropical Depression 11 “performed a counterclockwise loop near the border of Malawi and Mozambique, before turning eastward and re-emerging into the Mozambique Channel, early on March 9th”(Wikipedia). This fact was something that intrigued us as a group because we weren’t quite sure what this meteorological terminology meant. Upon further research it simply just meant the pathway of the tropical storm changed. Tropical Depression 11 continued through March 11th, and on March 14th, Tropical Depression 11 turned into Tropical Cyclone Idai. This cyclone made landfall near Beira, Mozambique as a Category 2 storm, with winds exceeding 105 mph on March 14th (World Vision).

After many prayers by the affected citizens, the storm dissipated March 21st. Between that time to the 27th, governments and humanitarian aid began their response procedures with life-saving relief supplies to the affected areas which included family-sized tents, blankets, mosquito nets, as well as clean food and water. After a week of rescuers looking for survivors, the Mozambique government decided to call off the search for survivors. Personally intrigued as to why the government decided to call off the search for survivors, I researched information but couldn’t find too much information regarding the situation. It’s baffling to our group that this call was made so soon as more time could’ve been spent helping the affected citizens. As a group we considered what the implications could possibly be in the staggering difference of numbers of confirmed people killed from Cyclone Idai: 1,593 versus the number missing, i.e. presumed dead: 2,262. In our initial investigation of cyclones and typhoons the number of confirmed deaths usually exceeds the number of those missing. However, in this natural disaster the opposite was true. Roughly, forty percent more people were confirmed missing, than confirmed dead. A quick overview of the social structure of Mozambique reveals that within the country’s rural population tribal lines and allegiances are still honored. Every nation has its social structure which is reflected, though not always spoken of, in direct policy. In fact, “Most Mozambicans see themselves primarily as members of their ethnic group, and only marginally as members of the nation” (Study.com). Our group theorized that this lack of national cohesiveness may account for the seemingly premature hault of search and rescue and the high number of missing persons.

Through our research on Cyclone Idai, our group discovered that six weeks later, another devastating cyclone known as Cyclone Kenneth had hit the same region. This would be the first time in history that two strong tropical storms have hit the same region. Cyclone Kenneth originated “north of Madagascar and the Mozambique Channel. Fed by warm ocean temperatures, it strengthened from a Category 1 to a Category 4 storm in the 24 hours ahead of making landfall [on Pemba, Mozambique] April 25” (World Vision). This double event of storms affected many areas including but not limited to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. 

The Republic of Mozambique is located in southeastern Africa with a coast on the Indian ocean. Mozambique is home to around 32 million people who are predominantly Bantu.The Bantu people are not a homogeneous group but rather refers to a language group. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “approximately 85 million speakers of the more than 500 distinct languages”, and Mozambique is just one country of many that the Bantus call home. Although Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975, there is still a strong trading relationship between the two countries. Mozambique is quite rich in natural resources, especially with its coastline. The country as a whole is still quite underdeveloped with two thirds of the nation living in poverty. Although the majority of people in Mozambique are Christian, the second largest religious following are traditional African faiths. 

The cyclone’s impact on the people of Mozambique started when a meteorological office in the area issued a weather alert beginning three days before the storm. The alert warned people in high risk areas to evacuate. According to an article written by Internet Geography, many people in rural areas that were suggested to evacuate either did not listen to the warnings or didn’t receive them in the first place (sec. 3). Flooding and heavy rain hit the country hard. According to Internet Geography, 90% of the coastal city Beira was destroyed, along with a year’s worth of crops. Thousands of people were left without necessary resources such as clean water, food, plumbing, and shelter. Outbreaks of cholera were sweeping through those affected by the storm. There were more than 4,000 confirmed cases and seven fatalities by April 10th. Women and girls can encounter a different kind of post-clones suffering. Mothers had to travel to find work, leaving young children to take on a more parental role and leading them to drop out of school. “Mozambique is a source, transit, and, to a lesser extent, destination country for men, women and children who are trafficked into forced labor and sexual slavery”, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2018 Trafficking in Persons report. “Children are often forced to work in sectors such as farming and mining. Women and girls are often lured to cities in Mozambique or South Africa with promises of employment, only to be sold into domestic or sexual servitude. Furthermore,  “post-disaster trafficking has become common in developing nations as an increase in extreme events caused by global warming leaves the already poor even more vulnerable. Mozambique is already among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest rates of child marriage – around 48 percent of girls are married before 18,” said Anne Hoff, Plan International’s Country Director in Mozambique. “We do know that when there is a drought and there is a lack of food, we tend to see an increase in early marriages. There is a high risk it could happen as the crops have been destroyed and it will be very difficult for people to recover.” “Children in Mozambique are among the most deprived children in the world. According to the 2017 census children constitute more than half of the 28 million population. It is estimated that 6.1 million households are headed by children (12-14 years). There are about 2 million orphans and vulnerable children. Only 47% of students complete primary school. This figure is higher for girls due to school based sexual harassment and abuse, early pregnancy, high rates of early marriage, and the lack of gender sensitive sanitation facilities at schools” concludes Hoff. 

            In short, when there is  a combined high rate of both poverty and a high population of children, natural disasters only exacerbate the victimizing of children. Recalling the work, Echo in the Bones by Joseph Roach, he drew this conclusion, “because it appears to make available a human super abundance for mutual assimilation and at this promising yet dangerous juncture catastrophe may re emerge from memory in the shape of a wish”. The cynical observer could conclude that an excess of poor, rural, orphaned children in a country with dire economic problems, is a human traffickers dream come true. And these children will not find many advocates. 

The Republic of Zimbabwe is a landlocked nation located in southeastern Africa bordering Mozambique. Zimbabwe was previously known as Rhodesia, an unrecognized successor of British rule, which maintained a government that was predominantly white. After a 15 year civil war, the republic was recognized as independent. Unfortunately Zimbabwe is fraught with political instability even into the present day. Zimbabwe also suffers economically, with hyperinflation being an everyday reality for the majority of Zimbabweans. According to Macrotrends, “Zimbabwe poverty rate for 2019 was 85.00%” , highlights how unprepared both the government and people of Zimbabwe were for both cyclones. 

Oxfam, an independent charitable organization, lists responses and good practices for hundreds of Zimbabwe locals who were affected by the storm. The organization informed people that “Locals and outsiders worked closely together to respond to the catastrophe. Their responses covered a wide range of activities, including: counseling and psychological support, casework and child protection support, orphan care, and family tracing; food and non-food item distribution…; dedicated investment of long working hours in the field and in meetings by local civil servants; educational assistance to children, including establishing safe spaces; health, HIV and AIDS, and water, sanitation and hygiene responses.” The organization also observed a general empathy from the public towards survivors of the cyclone including proactive distribution of medicine to help cholera and measles outbreaks. 

The Republic of Malawi is another landlocked country within southeastern Africa. Malawi was previously a British colony, gaining independence in 1966. The Bantu people also call Malawi home as well other ethnic groups such as the Chewa, Tumbuka, Lomwe, and the Yao. Most Malawians are Christian with over ⅘ of the nation being a part of the faith. According to The World Bank, the majority of Malawi’s economy is agrarian, “which employs over 80% of the population”, unfortunately agriculture is at risk to extreme climates such as in the case of Cyclone Idai and Kenneth. According to information from concern.net, Malawi was experiencing a year of drought before Cyclone Idai hit the area. Similar to Mozambique and Zimbabwe, Malawi was heavily affected by flooding following Idai and Kenneth, hurting almost 1 million people (Humanitarian Coalition) About 94% of households in Nsanje and approximately 70% of households in Mangochi, a main city and a township in Malawi respectively, were affected (concern.net). Widespread flooding washed out bridges, roads, and homes, rising waters destroyed dams, second landfall took 2 hydroelectric power plants offline, left 125,382 people homeless, 577 injured, 60 dead. The storms also took a toll on sanitation facilities. With the spread of disease being such a large issue, and causing more deaths even with the cyclones passing, it became the main goal for humanitarian organizations to fix. The UNICEF website says that its clinics have provided healthcare to over 30,000 people.

One year later Cyclone Idai and the following Cyclone Kenneth are continuing to shape people’s lives. As of March 2020, over 100,000 people are still living in shelters and 16.7 million people across the region are faced with food insecurity. Just a few months after Idai and Kenneth first hit Mozambique in March and April 2019, resettlement sites were overwhelmed by more heavy rain and flooding, destroying 3,676 shelters. Idai’s environmental impact on farmland including flooding is making replanting crops more difficult still. 

With all of this devastation, people need a way to express what they have been through. Artistic expressions coming in the wake of tragic events is not a strange or new occurrence. Often traumatic events can be the catalyst for some of the most beautiful and thought-provoking art pieces. Art is not just something created by high level artisans, art can be seen as any form of creative expression, by anyone of any skill level. The artistic pieces that came in the wake of cyclonic storm Idai are no exception, we found extremely moving pieces created by both untrained artists and professionals. In fact, we found that one of the most moving art pieces was created by a child.

At first glance one might disregard the piece as just being a crude child’s drawing, but when you look further into the piece it really becomes an insightful look at the way children viewed the storm. First of all, the drawing is entirely black, white, blue, and red. These colors do a great job illustrating how little color there seems to be. The whole setting looks extremely dreary, it shows the awful conditions his home was reduced to, his house looking to be half blue and half torn down black and gray. Then on top of the dreary background, the use of red creates a striking contrast that shows how brutal the storm was. The red is used to show the blood on a decapitated woman. This depiction of the decapitation and of his destroyed home bring forward the idea of effigy. This drawing is a sort of model depicting reality that might have some cathartic effect for the artist. It is a horrific and brutal depiction of the storm’s aftermath and is only more moving because of the artist being a child. This piece is helpful in showing the way that storms in Mozambique affect the local population. Mozambique is no stranger to cyclones and powerful storms, and this art piece helps show the way that the storms affect the people from a very young age. The storms come so frequently and hit so hard that the people’s lives and personalities are shaped from them. Another point that illustrates this comes from a painting depicting a satellite view of Cyclone Idai.

Part of what makes this piece a perfect example of how the storms affect people’s culture is through a quote from the artist, Richard McDowell “The visual appeal of radar imagery illustrates the beauty in destruction.” The idea of finding beauty in destruction is a mindset that some people must have to develop when a storm hits. Much of the art that has come in the wake of Idai other than drawings and paintings is poetry. Near the beginning of Cyclone Idai-The Poem, by Masimba Mukichi, it says “Yes we’re grieving, yes we’re hurting.” Then by the end of the poem it goes on to say ”Woohoo you’ll never defeat us, the human race, the cream of the crop. What kill us make us stronger, we’ll strike back with a vengeance.” This is a very powerful change. Clearly the poem is acknowledging the severity of the sadness and destruction that Idai brought, however it ends with hope. Mukichi is spreading a message of hope, that there is no way to give up, that the storm will never fully destroy them and they will rebuild. This message invokes the concept of the dirge and the second line, popular in New Orleans culture. This concept is found in nearly every poem we found in reference to Cyclone Idai. From Beyond Cyclone Idai by Onesmus “Out of these troubled waters up you shall rise, every tragedy gives birth to blessings in disguise, as dark clouds disappear, a rainbow fills out the skies.” This again has a hopeful message that invokes the dirge and the second line. There is an acknowledgement of the tragedy, but also a hope and celebration of the future, out of the tragedy. The concept dirge and the second line do a great job explaining the resilience of the people of Mozambique and all areas affected by Cyclone Idai. The people there have been subject to numerous cyclonic storms that have destroyed their homes, but yet they persevere. Every time the world tries to knock them down, they get right back up. Cyclone Idai and other cyclonic storms played a huge role in shaping the lives and culture of the people of Mozambique and surrounding areas.

In our research of how to gauge the impact of Cyclone Idai we found an amazingly exhaustive document titled Mozambique Cyclone Idai: Post Disaster Needs Assessment. Here is its introduction:

The post-disaster assessment was conducted under the leadership of the Government, through the Post- Cyclone Idai Cabinet for Reconstruction, and supported by a global partnership that included the World Bank, the United Nations System and the European Union (EU), using the internationally recognized Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) methodology. This assessment counted on the participation of more than one hundred government staff members from all affected regions, who participated in the training program on the use of this methodology. 

This was compiled in May of 2019; quite soon, considering Idai hit the mainland on March 11th, 2019. One the last day of our group collaborating we noted that we were each having a difficult time finding anything substantial information about the state of Mozambique presently. Our discussion noted how once the “headline grabbing” news of Cyclone Idai passed, any casual searching for information on the Mozambique people proved fruitless. The future of these countries are much like Dido’s Lament, “Remember me, but ah forget my fate”, in the sense that the world looked upon southeastern African and showed them support when the cyclones initially hit but now the world has forgotten the people of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. The world has forgotten how the people of these countries suffered and continue to do so due to the long lasting effects of the cyclones. Through experiencing so many tropical storms, the culture and identity of these people have been shaped in a unique way. Much like how a cyclone follows a path, the support for these countries have also tapered off and has come to its end as well. Their resilience is admirable, they’re constantly rebuilding and fighting against nature and the government in the ways that have hurt them. But regardless of what they face they persevere. The World could learn so much from these countries and the people in them as they have gained so much strength through the adversity faced.

The Scale and Consequences of Violence as a Performance of Waste

“Violence is the performance of waste.” This quote comes from Joseph Roach’s book Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. In both the book and the quote, there is a lot to unpack. “Violence is the performance of waste” is a quote that can be interpreted in many different ways and applied to many different situations that we see in real life and fiction. However, before looking at the different ways it can be applied it’s important to unpack and define the meanings of each word in “Violence is the performance of waste.”

In order to better understand the quote, we can look at each word individually and find meaning there. Each of the words that make up the quote are important words that we have in our list of course concepts. The first word we see in the sentence is “violence,” a word that conjures brutal imagery. It is a powerful and clear word that gives the reader a lot to unpack. Joseph Roach defines violence in a few ways, the first being that “violence is never senseless but always meaningful” (Roach, 1996). What he’s saying is that the use of violence is always making a point. There is never a time when violence is used where a point is not being made, intentionally or unintentionally. At first, I disagreed with this statement because immediately the term “senseless violence” came to mind. However, after thinking about it, I can’t come up with any good scenarios where violence is not making a point. Even in cases where one might use the phrase “senseless violence” like about war, there can always be an argument to be made that there is a point. Roach goes on to say that “violence is excessive, because to be fully demonstrative, to make its point, it must spend things—material objects, blood, environments” (Roach, 1996). This addition to the definition of violence helps to show how broad a term violence can be and how many ways it can be demonstrated. To spend things like blood, materials, and environments implies that violence is not purely human, violence can be enacted on both living and nonliving things. The final way Roach defines violence in reference to this quote is that “all violence is performative, for the simple reason that it must have an audience-even if that audience is only the victim, even if that audience is only God.” (Roach, 1996). This means that violence can be inflicted not just on others, but on the world around you when no one is watching, and even on yourself. This also helps to understand why the word performance is used in the sentence.

The next course concept we find in the quote is “performance.” At first, the word “performance” here sounds sort of weird. When someone thinks of performance, they probably think of things like plays, ballets, or orchestras. Further, “violence” and “waste” are two words that make some sense together. They both have negative connotations that follow them. However, after learning about Roach’s definition of violence, the use of performance makes much more sense. Performance involves doing something for an audience, sometimes involving an emulation of something else. It can also be used to note the accomplishment of a task of some kind. (Merriam Webster). Using these meanings of performance, we can find how it connects to “waste” and “violence.”

The final course concept used in “violence is the performance of waste” is waste. Throughout our class time we’ve talked a lot about waste. We have defined waste in a few different ways. One of the most obvious being trash, like garbage. We would call that waste. The other way we look at waste is by defining it through other course concepts like sacrifice, expenditure, and supernumerary. Things that are sacrificed could be considered waste, like the way some cultures might sacrifice animals to God. Those animals become waste. In other words, they were able to be used as expenditure, they were expendable and therefore able to become waste. And supernumerary things often become expendable, in other words waste. In all of these examples, waste is the product of some sort of action or environment. 

After defining each of these concepts the idea of “violence is the performance of waste” becomes much more clear. Now it is very clear to say that the performance of violent acts creates waste. This idea can be seen across the world in many contexts, both in fiction and real life events.

Throughout our time in class, we watched the film The Day After Tomorrow by Roland Emmerich. Roland Emmerich is a director well known for his use of violence, waste, and performance in films. Most of his films involve worldwide disasters that wreak havoc and create waste. In The Day After Tomorrow all three are used constantly in multiple contexts. The first and most obvious is the storm. The main perpetrator of violence in the film is mother earth. After years of humans mistreating and polluting the earth, the other shoe finally dropped and catastrophic consequences ensue. The consequence is a winter storm so massive that it completely covers the northern hemisphere and sends the earth into a new ice age. In this film we can see the storm as the main performance of violence. This performance came in multiple forms. One notable performance was the formation of multiple powerful tornadoes in Los Angeles. These tornadoes almost completely destroy the city. We see the aftermath of the storm as buildings are either completely torn down or cut completely in half. We also see trash, garbage, and rubble covering the streets of Los Angeles until the whole city looks like a landfill. This is the waste that the violent performance of the storm created. The film serves as a criticism of humanity’s role in destroying the earth and uses violence as the performance of waste to illustrate its point. The film also makes some more interesting points about what else becomes waste in violent circumstances. In the film the main area of effect of the storm is in the northern hemisphere, therefore the president orders a mass evacuation of the United States to Mexico. What becomes really intriguing to me is what becomes expendable and/or supernumerary. Because the government reacted to the violence of the storm too late, they could not recommend that people in the northern half of the United States evacuate. Instead, he urged them to stay indoors and keep warm. The entire northern half of the country became expendable at that moment, whether they wanted to admit it or not. It was a complicated issue because even the protagonist of the film, played by Dennis Quaid, admitted that evacuating the north was a lost cause, he still decided to venture north to get to his son, who he did not see as supernumerary or expendable. Even Dennis Quaid’s trek north can be seen as a violent performance that created waste. Against all odds he decided to brave the storm and fight against it. His performance was hiking north to New York City to get to his son. Unfortunately, along the way one of his partners became a waste product of his violent performance when he fell through the ice and could not be saved. Although I did not enjoy The Day After Tomorrow as a film, I can see its value in illustrating violence as the performance of waste. It does a fantastic job illustrating the scale that the quote can work at, which is any. It works when looking at a worldwide phenomenon, and it works when using it in the context of a father’s journey to find his son. 

Some nonfiction texts we looked at this semester were Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedker’s Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas and Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke. This book is a nonfiction assortment of maps and articles about the city of New Orleans’ history. The maps don’t only cover the physical spaces of New Orleans, they also document cultural, political, and economic factors affecting the people in New Orleans. Spike Lee’s documentary is about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. It is a raw and brutal look at the city and its leaders that does not pull any punches. As a city New Orleans is full of examples of violence as a performance of waste. Hurricane Katrina was the performance that laid waste to the city. Corruption has plagued the city and created waste throughout history. This quote from Roach runs deep in New Orleans. In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit was an obvious example of the way violence can be a performance of waste. The violent performance was the storm, and the city and its people were the waste. In the eyes of the government the people were expendable. This can be seen on a federal level when aid came to New Orleans in too little numbers and much too late. The federal government also used the disaster as a way to gain political support by having “George Bush staging a photo-op in Jackson Square.” (Snedecker and Solnit, 2013). This example is given more context in Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke when we see George Bush’s address to the United States. We see him standing in front of a lit-up Jackson Square, it looks like the lights are on and there is hope for the city when in reality it was just a performance. There was no electricity or rebuilding happening yet at all. It was just a ploy to make New Orleans seem like it was almost back on its feet and let George Bush take the credit. It can also be seen on a local level as shown in the text. In a map illustrating both the helpful and harmful elements of Katrina’s aftermath, we can see “Matt McDonald is shot in the back by police.” (Snedecker and Solnit, 2013). In the aftermath of Katrina, we see violence go up by a lot, people are vulnerable and afraid. Some of them enacted violence out of necessity, but the police were different. They performed violence and created waste to send a message. They shot Matt McDonald in the back. They wanted people to know that they can and will shoot. This is also shown in Spike Lee’s When The Levees Broke when we see a clip of Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana at the time. She says something along the lines of “We are sending in police (or troops) with weapons, and they have my orders to shoot and kill when necessary.” This is a performance of violence in itself. It sends a message of excessive force and lets people know that they are waste, they are supernumerary and expendable. During Hurricane Katrina, it wasn’t just the buildings and the city that became waste, it was the people too.

“Violence is the performance of waste” is a quote from Joseph Roach’s Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance that perfectly encapsulates what waste and violence are and how they are connected by performance. We now know that violence is always a performance with a meaning behind it. We also know that violence creates waste. And although it’s possible that some people before thought that violence was purely human, it’s now clear that violence can come in many forms from many sources and on any scale. Although this concept exists very clearly in fiction, as we see in The Day After Tomorrow, it also happens in real life. We saw that during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. This is an important quote because it helps to explain where waste comes from and why violence is used. Hopefully through deeper understanding of this quote people can avoid creating waste and using violence. In every example we see, there are no winners when violence is used, and there is no case where waste is not created. “Violence is the performance of waste” is an interesting quote to consider whenever something disastrous seems to be coming, no matter how big or small the situation is.