Swans Commentary » swans.com January 17, 2005  



Tsunami Relief: A Study In Hypocrisy


by Joe Davison






(Swans - January 17, 2005)  The past few weeks has seen saturation news coverage of the largest natural disaster in recorded history.

The tsunami which swept over the Indian Ocean over the Christmas period left in its wake destruction and death on a biblical scale. Indeed, the death toll is currently estimated to be somewhere around 150,000, though due to the difficulties involved in identifying the dead and tracking down the thousands still listed as missing it may take months before an accurate accounting is provided.

Perhaps fittingly, this epic natural disaster which resulted in an epic loss of life and the destruction of entire communities all the way from Indonesia to Thailand, leaving mile after mile of coastline completely devastated, has been the catalyst for an epic relief operation in response. Aid pledged by mostly First World nations has now reached somewhere in the region of a billion dollars (though how much of this aid is to be given in loans as opposed to grants and what conditions are to be attached has not yet been divulged, nor ever will be I suspect), with charitable donations close behind. All over the Northern Hemisphere a veritable fever of goodwill and kindness, influenced undoubtedly by the blanket news coverage and outpourings of grief by world leaders, has infected all but the most cold hearted.

On a personal note, spending the New Year break on a remote Scottish island, I was both amazed and impressed to see tsunami relief collection cans in the only pub on the island, along with same in the only shop, illustrating the power and scope of the media to influence and shape public opinion on a global scale.

Moreover, on last night's UK TV news, and splashed all over the following day's newspapers, were pictures and images of those illustrious British royals, Prince Harry and Prince William, mucking in at a warehouse, helping to pack relief supplies into boxes and cartons preparatory to them being flown to the disaster area.

Esteemed politicians from all over the developed world have literally poured into the disaster zone to take a look for themselves, holding press conferences throughout to pledge their respective nation's support and commitment to rebuilding the communities that have been destroyed, regardless of how long it takes or the cost involved.

Yes, the entire world has been whipped up over the tsunami, with columnists and lay preachers having a field day with their pronouncements of so much human kindness and collective grief constituting irrefutable proof, in this age of runaway consumerism and individualism, that hope remains for the future of the planet.

Now I ask you: am I the only one sickened by the cruel irony and hypocrisy that lies at the heart of all the above?

Notwithstanding claims that thousands of lives could have been saved if a relatively inexpensive tsunami warning system had been in place, or if there had been a way to communicate a warning from seismologists in Europe and the US to the affected areas in time, and deeply regrettable though the huge loss of life is, it was a natural disaster and therefore unavoidable.

Compare then the huge loss of life incurred as a result of this unavoidable natural disaster to the equally huge loss of life incurred as a result of the avoidable man-made disaster inflicted on the people of Iraq, then compare the lack of in-depth news coverage and pictures of the carnage wrought, lack of concern for the identities of the estimated 100,000 killed thus far, lack of an international relief effort to rebuild destroyed and devastated Iraqi towns and communities, and you go some way to understanding the savage and barbaric nature of the ruling classes in both the US and the UK, aided and abetted as always, and with vigor, by their respective corporate media outlets.

For the past 13 years, since the beginning of the First World War, the "tsunami" of bombs, missiles and economic warfare unleashed on Iraq and the Iraqi people has killed upwards of one and a half million. Twelve years of sanctions accounted for an estimated half-million dead Iraqi children, not to mention the countless tens of thousands who've suffered unimaginable injuries and illness despite managing to survive. It would, in fact, be difficult to find in history a people so systematically and brutally attacked for so long and so continuously.

Yet, despite all of that, the world in response has for all intents and purposes wrung its hands.

Daily, we are reminded of the significance of the collapse of the Soviet Union, of the fact that many of us, and by us I mean the "enlightened" Left, allowed ourselves to be suckered into believing everything we were told about the "evil empire" and its desire to inflict on us such savage cruelties as full employment, housing, education, healthcare, and solidarity with national liberation movements throughout the Third World.

That currently out-of-control juggernaut, US imperialism, as it brutally and ruthlessly asserts its right to consolidate wealth and power around the globe, provides proof that the much vaunted role of the United States of America as the champion and defender of liberty and human rights around the world is and always has been a lie. Never, whilst the Soviet Union was in existence, would the sons of Yale or Harvard, or whatever other Ivy League production line of the ruling class they come out of, dare so much as contemplate smashing their way into a country in order to assert control over its natural resources, with the resultant massive loss of innocent human life and the wanton destruction of an entire nation's infrastructure.

Then too the UN since the Soviet Union's collapse has allowed itself to be bullied and intimidated by successive US administrations, to the point where, as an international governing body, it has been irretrievably neutered, shorn of all credibility and power.

The huge antiwar movements which sprung up before the start of Gulf War II, and which offered us a brief period of hope that humanity could and would change the course of history, have since contracted and largely dissipated in a sea of apathy brought about by a severe case of demoralization. And who can blame them? After all, we did everything we could, didn't we? We marched through every major city in Europe, the US, and around the world in our millions, demanding that this madness be stopped and that our leaders listen to us, the people.

A harsher lesson in the contempt in which the UK and US ruling class truly holds the people and their aspirations for a world in which human life is valued more than profit could not have been provided.

Among the intellectual elite, with few exceptions, considerations of career advancement and prestige have heralded an astounding absence of principle and integrity, and among those who have spoken out most attempted to beguile us into believing the solution to our problems lay in the shape of John Kerry, the Democrats and a bourgeois US Presidential election, a circus put on by the rich for the delectation of TV pundits, pollsters and big business donors, where true power resides.

Indeed, is there even anyone left who actually still believes the United States is a democracy rather than the plutocracy it truly is?

Now, as another year of struggle and suffering for the people of Iraq, Palestine, Colombia and the entire Third World begins, in addition to the continuing class war being waged against working people from the occupied six counties of Ireland to the oppressed black communities in South Central, Los Angeles, it is time to begin anew. Not only do we owe it to the Iraqi people, whose continuing resistance to the New World Order is being waged in the name of all peoples around the who would dare opt for freedom and independence rather than slavery and colonization, we owe it to ourselves and to future generations who one day will look back in search of the same inspiration that we draw today from the legacy of great revolutionary fighters who've gone before: men such as Lenin, Trotsky, Connolly and Malcolm: women such as Mother Jones, Rosa Luxemburg and Bernadette Devlin.

For the only force our enemies understand is force. By pandering to the institutions set up to maintain the hegemony of the rich we continually disempower both ourselves and our belief in a society governed by principles of human solidarity rather than human greed. We must, if we are to stand any chance of success, reject completely and utterly the mild and acceptable forms of protest and actions engaged in up to now as the only way forward.

Only a coherent, focused and militant movement can ever hope to change the world.

Therefore, we must, wherever in the world we live, find it within ourselves to unleash our own man-made "tsunami" on that scourge of humanity otherwise known as capitalism and its bastard child imperialism.

Let the struggle commence.

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About the Author

Joe Davison, recently returned to his native Scotland, after spending five years in Los Angeles, California. There, his original objective of carving out a career in Hollywood as a screenwriter gave way to unpaid work as an organizer within the antiwar movement. He was also active within the Workers World Party, a Marxist-Leninist organization, in addition to being a member of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement. In Scotland, he currently alternates between writing, political activism, and putting food on the table.



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Published January 17, 2005