The Performance of Violence and it’s Consequences

In Joseph Roach’s Echoes in the Bone, he introduces the idea that “violence is the performance of waste.” There are many examples of this, both in the book and in real life. People can be seen as waste by others. This view of seeing others as waste allows people to commit violence against others without remorse. Throughout the history of human society, this idea of some people being beneath others because of race, gender, sexual orientation, social status, etc. allowed for unspeakable acts carried out by people onto other people and treated as normal or acceptable. The hoarding of resources can be seen as violence to people these resources are being withheld from. Roach also raises the idea that “all violence is a performance because it must have an audience.” Throughout this course, we’ve learned about hurricane Katrina and not just the devastating effects it had on the residents of New Orleans, but also the response of the United States government, or lack there of. The United States government’s utterly mediocre response to Hurricane Katrina and the damage it did to the city of New Orleans and its residents is an act of violence in itself, witnessed not only by the citizens of the United States but by many others around the world.

Violence can be seen as waste in that when violence is done to a person or thing, that person or thing becomes waste because damage has been done. The wasting of resources can also be seen as violence. When rich people waste tons of money on ridiculous things no one needs while others could have used that same amount of money on basic needs that they don’t otherwise have access to, that can be seen as violence. On the other hand, the rich may see poorer people as disposable or waste. This way of thinking has contributed to catastrophes across the globe. In one specific instance, this way of thinking of poorer people or people that are different as disposable or as waste had devastating effects on the victims of Katrina as the government and politicians watched as over a thousand people perished and refused to do anything about it because they saw New Orleans and it’s residents as waste.

While the entire city of New Orleans was under water politicians were seen vacationing. This blatant display of ignorance and apathy towards the situation in New Orleans is an example of the detriment done when others are seen as waste. Some politicians even going as far as to say that hurricane Katrina was a cleansing of the city. The waste of money and resources used in other areas that the United States government deemed more important than their own people was another example of the violence used against the people of New Orleans. The people of New Orleans have repeatedly expressed irritation at the waste of money being spent on the war in Iraq while residents of New Orleans continued to die as a result of the hurricane and the heat of the summer that followed. This waste of money was an act of violence against the people of New Orleans. This act of violence was a performance as the entire world was the audience that witnessed it. Hurricane Katrina destroyed countless lives but the poorly constructed safety measures, withholding of resources, and slow reaction of the United States government was the true cause of the catastrophe that came out of hurricane Katrina. Roach brings up the idea that the mistakes of our past follow us into the future. The poor construction of the levees was the past that followed New Orleans into the future and reeked havoc on residents living there. This poor construction of the levees ties into the idea of waste and the thought of human beings as waste. The United States government didn’t want to spend the money for the proper construction of the levees that would have protected New Orleans from category 5 hurricanes such as Katrina. They thought of the money spent as a waste and as a result left the levees unfinished and in turn left New Orleans residents unprotected.

The carelessness showcased by the United States government added to the death tole of Katrina. Without food and water the people that had survived the actual flood were dying. People were also dying because of the lack of shelter and the unrelenting heat that came after the storm. People were dying on the streets waiting for help that would never come. With houses destroyed, people were left homeless. The government promised them trailers, these trailers did come but it took way longer than it should have. By ignoring the suffering of the New Orleans residents, the government wasted the lives of well over a thousand people. Even today the effects of Katrina can be felt in New Orleans. This is another ghost of the past haunting the present. While people continue to come to New Orleans from all over the to celebrate Mardi Gras and experience the rich culture that survives there, the suffering of the residence is very much ignored by the rest of the country and the world. Many places have yet to be completely rebuild almost two decades later. While the initial catastrophe is over the effects of it and the government’s lackluster response continues to effect not only the residence of New Orleans but the rest of the country as people saw just how faulty our government truly is.