>> Thursday, October 21, 2010
I have a pet peeve. Oh, well, actually, I have a number of pet peeves, but this is the one I'm going to talk about today. Here, in the US, we are completely self-absorbed. Although I'm sure it's not just an American thing, I live here, so here's where I notice it.
I don't mind it as a general rule, but it's become a real problem when it comes to keeping track of things that matter to me world-wide. Non-US stories fall by the wayside (except for the Chilean miners, for some reason. I wonder if we're fascinated because so many of our recent mining accidents have ended in tragedy, but I digress.)
I keep track of natural disasters, for some reason. I'm sympathetic's part of it. It's a reminder how lucky I am not to have had my family swept away, my child wrenched from my arms, by a the Boxing Day tsunami, or to have my family and everyone I've ever known buried under a dozen meters of mud in a mudslide thanks to Hurricane Mitch, or to have my only child (as so many Chinese children have to be) crushed in a substandard school during an earthquake. I remind myself how lucky I am and that I'm not really entitled to self-pity. If I have pity to spare, there are many who deserve it more. They're people and I grieve that they suffer.
It's also a lesson for me in resilience. So often, these tragedies happen in parts of the world where no one has much of anything, where, if whole towns disappear, there will be no one coming by with trailers and checks to take care of it. But they pick themselves up and, somehow, next time it happens, they're better prepared. Japan, though not a third world nation, is pretty much pounded by every kind of natural disaster imaginable: volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, land/mudslides, typhoons that make Katrina look like a squall. But the weather them all. They were hit by a Katrina sized typhoon within ten days of Katrina, dead on Tokyo (which is also under sea level) and they lost three lives, one from a heart attack and hardly broke stride.
Burma (now Myanmar) was absolutely devastated by a cyclone (the word for a typhoon/hurricane in the Indian ocean) in 1970 that took an estimated 300,000 lives. They've been hit again since, but each time fewer lives have been lost, by orders of magnitude. And they're poor like no one's poor here. That kind of resilience and progress impresses the hell out of me (even if Myanmar's government doesn't).
So, if you haven't heard of Megi, that's too bad. She's beautiful and deadly and, although she was a strong Catagory 5 when she hit the Philippines, she only killed nineteen people. Some of the wind has been taken out of her sails but she's headed for mainland China and she's still pretty strong. So more for to come with this monster storm. Too bad our media doesn't cover it.
And the Phillipines, though low in casualties, has a long hard road ahead what with rice crops destroyed, tens of thousands homeless and infrastructure destroyed.
I wonder why we never hear stories like that here.
Gorgeous, wasn't she?