Capitalist Response To Earthquakes/Hurricanes: Send Troops to Protect the Merchandise!

By Jay Janson*

Sudden Natural cataclysm! – extraordinary human suffering and devastation! – immediate if not instantaneous news coverage of grippingly interesting personal human tragedies! – specific high detail satellite photography of the stricken area! – but the fastest organized moves of capitalist governments beheld in the aftermath of such pathetic events are troops arriving to take control of the local population and protect private goods and property.

With fellow community members dying all around, what would make a mass of citizenry jump at the chance to steal? And if this is not so much the case, what would make the merchants and wealthier classes worry and seek protection?

Howard Zinn had the answer to such questions: the class division inherent in capitalist society.

On TV, hurricane Katrina, earthquakes in Haiti, Chile – one watched government troops (Blackwater Corporation Military in the case of hurricane Katrina ) being rushed in where humanitarian aid was still in life-costing urgent need.

Spectacles of considerations of money and capital over people are commonplace in capitalist nations, especially in the U.S. where capitalism is wild and unregulated. (Tens of thousands die for lack of insured medical care so fortunes can be made insuring and caring for the surviving.)

But still, why is it so taken for granted as necessary, these armed soldiers patrolling among the victims in New Orleans, in Port-au-Prince , in Concepción? Why is outrage confined to the locals hit by circumstances beyond their control? Why is there no embarrassment expressed by audiences in the so called advanced and developed nations of capitalist political economy?

Do not our brothers and sisters in less capitalistic countries, especially in Muslim lands look aghast at such use of military to face down real or threatening illegal confiscation? During the 1998 earthquake in Afghanistan was any thought given to protection against stealing of convenience?

We Socialists , who indeed are embarrassed, can point to examples of a behavior in fellowship during unavoidable onslaught from Mother Nature.

– The totally organized cooperation of the whole Cuban population in the face of oncoming or ongoing calamity to protect life and limb intelligently in a democratic political economy where not only ethics but ordinary uncommercialized and uncommodified human sharing makes looting unimaginable.

– The absence such concern for securing valuables shown by a Peoples Liberation Army hurrying to save the victims, not merchandize, during the Sichuan Earthquake.

When capitalist greed and great economic inequality are no longer the norm, there will likewise be no fear that some, within a made poor and made resentful purposely under-book-educated underclass, might seize an opportunity to appropriate a few things they feel unjustly denied by an even more desperate and frantically selfish socially undereducated upper-class gang.

Then, when disaster strikes, there will be no need for a military occupation that interferes with incoming medical aid. (Originally published on


* Jay Janson is an archival research peoples historian, activist, musician and writer, who has lived and worked on all the continents and whose articles on media have been published in China, Italy, England and the US, and now resides in New York City.