Tsunami Tragedies

It’s heartening to read that governments like the US and the Japanese are now increasing the amount of aid they are giving to the countries and people affected by the Tsunamis. The stories appearing daily about the human and societal impact are heartbreaking. It was most appropriate that we all spent some time on New Years’ Eve reflecting or praying, but as John Quiggin points out, we must all take care to be vigilant in keeping this event in our minds as time passes.

Last week, Scott rightly pointed out that words are often cheap in these sorts of awful contexts. It has distressed me that writers in the media and the blogosphere have misused these terrible events to score political or religious points. I don’t want to name names or say too much but I want to endorse this comment by yellowinyl:

on the last point, I have found the various op/ed pieces over the last week about whether the awful disasters prove that god does or does not exist or whether latte sippers will blame it on George W. exceptionally distasteful, if not thoroughly contemptible and repugnant. I wish some of these columnists had listened to Scott’s call to shut the fuck up.

I don’t think it makes a skerrick of difference whether the commentators she refers to come from the Right or Left. At this time, politicisation of such a tragedy is deplorable, and these people ought better to employ their talents and resources in doing something to help, and to ensure that the help continues. As ought we all.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I’ve read some interesting Op/Ed pieces on how God might feature in making sense of these events – Rowan Williams had a very honest appraisal in today’s UK Telegraph – but I haven’t seen anyone “scoring religious points.” The most egregious political point-scoring I’ve witnessed was Emma Alberici’s profoundly silly ‘7.30 Report’ assertion that Asians ‘obviously’ mattered less than the victims of 9/11 (many of whom were Asian) in the comparative compassion assessments of westerners. The days since have shown otherwise.

I’ve been impressed by the shared humanity ethos that’s framed much of the discussion. Of course, people do tend to personalise disaster as a first step to making sense of it, hence the initial focus on tourist casualties in home country nedia. But the broader narrative has been about all of us. I should also note that the most assiduous and prodigious Ozblog chronicler of the unfolding story has been Tim Blair. Now there’s a sterling example of someone “employing his talents and resources in doing something to help.”

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Yes, Geoff a lot of the coverage and its spirit have been really good. And full marks to Tim Blair.

I can’t speak for yellowvinyl but I did see a rather silly op/ed from the Times of London which ranted about “the blame culture” and suggested that disbelief in God would lead people to blame Bush or try to make comparisons with the War in Iraq. There’s been some dodgy left-wing oriented op/ed stuff in The Age as well. One ausblogger who shall remain nameless pointedly asked if “Muslim countries” were giving money in petrodollars, but failed to answer the question.

C.L.
2022 years ago

Here’s your answer: Muslim countries, by and large, are doing nothing particularly worthwhile or grand for their co-religionists and others. As usual.

And with respect to Scott: bullshit. If everyone “shut the fuck up” there wouldn’t have been any movement to raise private aid monies or pressure governments to do more. That’s politics.

Finally, it was the left and the UN that politicised the disaster. They may have been as concerned as everyone else but they didn’t let that get in the way of something they obviously regarded as equally important: getting Bush.

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
2022 years ago

While being a critic of the use or misuse of US armed forces, I am nevertheless most moved by reports of the US navy carrier using choppers to move material from Banda Aceh to areas on the 200 km stretch on the South West of Aceh. On the map these areas are serviced only by road from Banda Aceh and not from the central road network. Helicopters or ships are the only way to move aid in.

SMH has photo of RAAF Hercules with apparent record of 170 pax being airlifted back to Medan, a bit like cyclone Tracy and 700? on a 747.

Good work Uncle Sam !

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
2022 years ago

C.L: If being called ”stingy” politicised the issue so be it. Increasing aid to 350 million USD was commendable if somewhat belated but it seemed to be the result of the ”stingy” epithet.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

C.L., you’re rather proving my point, I think.

I’m happy to join Peter in praising the contribution the US and its military are making.

Here’s the latest from the UN on the US contribution:

” Mr. Egeland, who stirred anger in the Bush administration this week when he said that despite growing prosperity, rich nations were becoming stingy in providing development aid to poor countries, went out of his way on Saturday to praise the American effort in the current campaign. Since his earlier comments, the United States has raised its commitment from an initial figure of $15 million to $350 million, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Friday that it was likely to go higher still.

“The United States, the wealthiest nation in the world, is doing a phenomenal job in this unprecedented challenge, not only with a very large cash donation but also bringing in military and civil defense assets that is precisely what we need,” he said.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/02/international/worldspecial4/02nations.html

Here’s a link to the article by Archbishop Rowan Williams that Geoff referred to. I agree it’s worth a read:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml;sessionid=SLVEMGFV3CIFFQFIQMFCM54AVCBQYJVC?xml=/opinion/2005/01/02/do0201.xml&secureRefresh=true&_requestid=34775

If you don’t want to register, his comments are summarised here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/01/02/nbish02.xml&sSheet=/portal/2005/01/02/ixportaltop.html

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“C.L: If being called ”stingy” politicised the issue so be it. Increasing aid to 350 million USD was commendable if somewhat belated but it seemed to be the result of the ”stingy” epithet.”

Maybe. It seemed to me that everyone initially pitched support conditionally, against an evolving picture. Certainly Australia’s initial contribution was announced on those terms. I think that’s pretty much the way to proceed. The key with all aid is not so much the total amount (though more is generally better than less) as it is the way that it’s targeted, co-ordinated and disbursed to maximum effect.

yellowvinyl
yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

Irant has some examples of some pretty repulsive comments from religious leaders both Christian and Muslim:

http://www.immanuelrant.com/comments.php?id=169_0_1_0_C

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Irant has some examples of some pretty repulsive comments from religious leaders both Christian and Muslim:”

Yep. But I don’t think that the Westboro Baptist Church is “religious” so much as it’s a cult headed by a sociopath. Can’t think what Phillip Jensen’s excuse is other than he seems to be living out some latter-day Calvinistic fantasy. The poor guy was born 500 years too late.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Whenever Phillip Jensen says something dumb, he normally claims he’s been misquoted by the “secular media”. Watch for it…

Irant
Irant
2022 years ago

I didn’t want to get into the religous debates regarding the disaster but the comments really ticked me off. Mark is not far off the mark in that Jensen will likely fall back on the “misquote” defence.

kyan gadac
kyan gadac
2022 years ago

The staff at Mentawai sanctuary at Padang on the west coast of Sumatra are urgently appealling for direct aid
http://www.mentawai.com/aceh.html
to get boats into ground zero. They are being bypassed it seems but need direct cash support urgently.

There is a supply ship leaving from Geraldton tonight for Padang IIRC. But what’s needed locally is more urgent – funds can be sent direct or thru
Surf Aid International
http://www.surfaidinternational.org/index.html