In ancient times, civilizations like Rome and China maintained fortifications along the fractal edge of the frontier of chaos to provide a front line of defense against the onslaught of barbarism. Unlike the Great Wall, most of these barriers provided little in the way of physical defense. They established an objective line of demarcation between the two perceived extremes of reality to be acknowledged by defenders moreso than attackers. This was the line that shall not be breached, for beyond it is chaos and destruction.
A major feature of these fortifications, was the signal tower. Positioned along the frontier, these fortified towers were located such that each was visible, regardless of conditions, from its adjacent towers. The towers did not contribute anything to the fortifications in the way of substantial capability. What they did provide for the Armies defending the line, was the essential function of communication. The signal tower superimposed a telegraph network across the line of fortification. In times of crisis at any one portion of the frontier, fires were lit in the nearest signal towers. Adjacent towers picked up the signal by immediate ignition. The alert travelled down the line directing help to the place it was needed calling legions and citizens alike to the defense of the breach.
America watched last week with shock and amazement as Hurrican Katrina battered the central Gulf Coast along three states. We watched with disbelief and horror, the aftermath of her destruction; both the physical destruction in Alabama, Louisianna, and Mississippi as well as the civil destruction in the City Of New Orleans. Katrina opened a breach in the levee there; the fortifications that hold back water from land... and the one that holds back monsters from within men.
Much is being made of it all in the aftermath. Emerson's aversion to consistency not withstanding, hindsight is the hobgoblin of little minds. The discussions, debates, and abject idiocy will continue to churn for months. Its both inevitable and somewhat proper. but as sand and dollars are poured into the breaches, it is important to ask ourselves...
What have we learned from it now?
If nothing else, Katrina was wielding a warning in addition to nature's sledgehammer. She pummelled communities all across the Gulf, but opened no breaches there. The fortifications held firm despite the onslaught. We look closely at New Orleans now, not to the exclusion of those places nor their suffering, but because the signal fire burns there still. Something ugly poured through the breach in that place; far more putrid and toxic than the wormwood from Lake Pontchartrain. Cthulhu itself slithered through the breach last week for a lovecraftian orgy of primeval metaphysical devastation... consuming souls honed thin by the a plague of valueless progressive depravity. Beasts and victims were devoured together until the breach was manned, and the demon forced to retreat once again beyond the frontier.... to wait.
It will come again.
In addition to the myriad of natural bludgeons that can be hurled against a major American City – tsunamis, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, blizzards, epidemic – there are very real man-made calamities that are far more likely now. A WMD deployed against any one of the nation’s major cities could make Katrina look like a tempest in a teapot relative to the loss of life… and the size of the breach it could expose.
Certainly the government at all levels needs to review the lessons of New Orleans, and determine what worked and what did not. But, we all need to acknowledge the signal on a personal level as well. Every American has been urged to prepare an emergency plan and survival kit for them and their families. For over two years, Local and Federal authorities have asked us to be prepared for 3 days without essential services – food, water, power, communication, and security. The Red Cross maintains a guide for this purpose. FEMA has one for kids and schools. Survival ultimately is an individual’s responsibility… as well as civility. Moral fortitude in times of crisis is as critical a provision as food or water, so don’t forget to include a dose. And while you’re at it, indulge a dose of imagination and think about the conditions that might descend on your world in times of extreme crisis and recall that disaster is little more than a systematic collapse of expectations. If you need help with that, look at New Orleans.
The Signal Tower Project...
All that being said, I would like to float an idea for extended consideration and discussion. How might we bloggers be the signal towers that communicate emergency messages from areas touched by calamity? Granted it already happens to some degree. Certainly, many great bloggers stepped into the breach themselves with Katrina and the Tsunami before that. Whether local or remote, motivation was the only mechanism necessary to participate. But, is it possible and even useful to have a preassembled network of regional bloggers ready to react in particular locations feeding into a hierarchy of outposts?
Similar to a volunteer Civil Defense network, the Signal Tower Project could help to maintain local emergency information, link regional plans, coordinate response efforts, disseminate information, and broadcast news directly into the sphere. We have been discussing this among ourselves (Dueler, Major Mike, and myself) and intend to develop our ideas further. But, we would like to open a preliminary discussion on this post about how this idea could work. Please use the comments to contribute your thoughts and ideas and we will include them in future posts on this topic. Also, feel free to extend the discussion on your own blog and with any additional ideas that you have. We think the idea has tremendous potential to protect the frontier from a future and possible lethal breach of the moral fortifications that separate civilization from chaos, and men from monsters...
... the ones that lurk within.
UPDATE 09.21.05: RITA SIGNAL TOWER BLOGGING
Do you have a blog, live in the Houston-Galveston area and plan to ride the storm out?If so, we'd like your help with an experiment in citizen journalism.We're launching a blog this afternoon called Stormwatchers. We'd like volunteers in key parts of the area with experience blogging to tell us what they're seeing as the Hurricane Rita comes closer, makes landfall and moves on.
Whether it was our idea that spawned this or not, the Signal Tower Project is underway. We'll be watching to see how it works out.