January 05, 2005

Fast, Newsworthy, Guilt-Tripping

Did you know that over 8 million people die every year in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India etc from preventable diseases like malaria? But you won't see that on the news, night after night, begging people to give to make a difference.

We like our disasters fast, devastating, visually intriguing and with lots of human-interest stories. I don't know how many times I've seen on the news:
"This is X. He lost his mother, wife and 6 children. Now he wanders his shattered village, desperate for aid that is too slow in coming."

It isn't actually news anymore. We know. We are giving money to help. But we like to watch the pictures and hear the simple "these people are worse off than you by far. Don't you feel guilty?" stories.

In Sri Lanka, 30,000 people were killed by the tsunami. 64,000 people have been killed by the Tamil Tiger rebels in the Civil War. In Sumatra, rebels have been killing their countrymen and terrorising aid workers for years. They've only stopped threatening to kill aid workers since the tsunami.

Remember the earthquake in Bam, Iran about a year ago? People there are still living in tents because promised aid money never materialised. Aid is promised in huge quantities in the glare of the media spotlight, but often it never happens. The Monterey summit in 2002 brought promises from the USA to set up a Millenium Fund to supply $5 billion per year to Africa. NOT ONE DOLLAR has been given from the account.

Yes, give to the Red Cross in the time of crisis. But, more importantly, give to the Red Cross in times of seeming calm, because it's never calm, it's just not a good soundbite for the telly.

Posted by phreq at January 5, 2005 06:45 AM | TrackBack

Good on India, deciding that they had resources on hand to sort themselves out with. I hope its more than government rhetoric and some poor peasant folk are not left to rot for pride.

Posted by: Vincent at January 5, 2005 10:13 AM

Your absolutely right regarding sensationalist news etc. Of course we shouldnt forget this included western nations and how much of a difference that made?
However, should we not be asking the governments of these countries why more funds are not put into helping to eradicate such preventable diseases?
There are those who give more from compassion than guilt - giving generously to charities like the red cross at other times apart from when major disasters like this happen.
If I can - I do, hey its only money after all huh!?

Posted by: Debs at January 5, 2005 06:49 PM

re: the Iran earthquake aid - was reading something on stuff from Kofi Annan saying not to expect I think it was more than a third of the promised aid to appear cos it won't as happened there. & that people are still waiting for aid in Iran. One of the things I do think is a little rude - others will probably disagree with me - but that people are being critcised for what they are donating to the red cross. I mean some people just can't afford to give money but can afford to pass on some unworn clothes. The red cross are saying that the clothes are unsolicted & basically useless cos they're too expensive to send but what about all these army planes etc going over. Surely the can take a few piles of clothes?

Posted by: Chelle at January 6, 2005 08:57 PM

Yeah it's a tricky one, ay? Particularly as you have to ask - what is the aid money spent on once it's there? Clothes, food, water, shelter, healthcare - I mean, all those tangibles have to come from somewhere, the refugees can't *eat* money. I guess for the Red Cross, some of the logistics will actually be storing and transporting them in NZ, where it is expensive to handle bulky items like that.

Compassion is a better word than guilt, I agree. I can never quite work out which it is. I think what happens is first I feel compassion, and then I feel guilty for not acting on the compassion.

Posted by: phreq at January 9, 2005 05:57 AM


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