Monday, January 10

TSUNAMI RELIEF: THE HIGH TIDE OF HYPOCRISY


Tsunami relief is not what it appears to be. A sea change in putative humanitarian sensitivity? No, just the latest feel-good fad.

It's not the awakening of humanitarian awareness that's objectionable--far from it--but the inconsistent and selective manner in which those awarenesses are applied.

In 1994, people were enthralled by the salacious undertow of O.J. Simpson--screw Rwanda and the Holocaust of one million souls.

The ratings-ruled vulture-culture media feed off white carcasses best. Whether it's Nicole Brown Simpson, or blonde kids in Phuket. Darfur, and the rest of Africa, don't have enough good photo ops.

Does media interest determine public interest? Generally, people don't care enough unless they're told to.

So, where is the media responsibility to remind people that the Red Cross is open for business outside of tsunami season?

Within the relief craze itself is there a more subtle, incipient, critical awareness about wealth disparity and the concentration of our wealth in the first world?

Toronto city councillor Michael Walker behaves like a naive clown when he asserts that our city should donate a million.

Should we feel guilty that we are not a shantytown? Where does that thinking stop? No "wave" of interest for the homeless, Mr. Walker?

Maybe this tsunami feel-good fixation only works because it's a "natural" disaster.

If it's man-made homelessness, or war, or a slow death from malnutrition, or AIDS, it's just less sexy, less melodramatic, less cinematic--think of The Day After Tomorrow.

A victim is still a victim is still a victim ... unless you're from an earthquake in Iran where only a quarter of the dough pledged actually made it.

The federal government has been, in relative terms, responsive and generous with tsunami relief money. So, when someone asks me what I've done for tsunami relief, I respond that I already gave at the office.

It's called taxes.