Common sense is so very uncommon. Why don’t we have a course in school called Common Sense 101? Most likely that could never happen, because no one would agree on what common sense really means. What would we teach in such a course? In the city common sense means waiting till the blinking man turns green before you cross the street. But in the country it means wearing bright colors before you go out walking in the wilderness during hunting season. Would we ever be able to agree on what common sense really is?
In any case, common sense is a matter of survival. But surviving in the country is obviously very different than surviving in a city. Do we have enough common sense to keep ourselves from starving, for example? After Katrina I found myself wondering why all those people still stuck in the city, looting the convenience stores for packages of Ruffles and Twinkies to stave off hunger, didn’t hop on over to Audubon Park and roast themselves up some good duck; flocks of them came right back to their regular stomping grounds immediately after the storm. I’ll bet you those ducks had the common sense to evacuate early.
The Haitians of Port-au-Prince are now fleeing to the countryside in an attempt to fend off starvation. In a small way I know that feeling, we also fled to the countryside from New Orleans after Katrina. Of course, starvation was not our main concern, or even a small one. We were concerned primarily with safety and shelter. But what if starvation had been our main concern? What help could an exodus into the countryside possibly achieve for the average city folks? Do you know which plants are edible? Can you build a simple shelter? Know how to hunt or trap? Can you grow food? Where will your clean water come from?
As images of New Orleans were bleak, with looting and mayhem highly publicized, and other former residents flocking to nearby cities like Houston and Baton Rouge, we assumed we would be safer and happier in the country. A colleague graciously offered us his camp, where we were soon robbed, apparently by the nearest neighbor.
Still, even as evacuees we were among the most privileged. In comparison to the Haitian evacuees, that means nearly every one of us as Americans. Katrina was a calamity, no doubt, and we were all rather disgusted with the ineffectuality of our local and national governments. Looking back now with Port-au-Prince pictures splashed across the media, those two months waiting to get back to our home in New Orleans, hopping from couches to motels, unemployed, out-of-touch, homeless, at the time they felt pretty miserable to me. But in this new light, they look like a two-month evacuation vacation.
To all those city folks fleeing to the countryside, there in Haiti now, or someday again right here, I so wish there was a course for us called Rural Common Sense 101, because I really can’t imagine what city common sense could help you a hoot out here.