Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Matter of Perspective?

I suppose it's part of human nature that we tend to ignore or put off things of such dreadful import that we can scarcely imagine them. Is this why we hear so little about the tragic cyclone in Burma a week ago? Thousands upon thousands dead. Some reports say up to 100,000. No clean water or food. People still missing and dying. Entire villages submerged. Unspeakable terror. A government which, unbelievably, has up till recently refused any aid from the West, while its own people are dying. For them, it's the end of the world.

Kind of puts things like 9/11 in a different perspective, doesn't it. Don't get me wrong, that was a dreadful day too, especially since it was an enemy attack, and not, as the mainstream media tends to call it, a 'tragedy' (Burma is a tragedy. 9/11 was an act of war, but I digress). About 3,000 died on 9/11. And 3,000 is a figure large enough to take your breath away. I know it did mine.

But there are those who tend to think that since 9/11 was so cataclysmic, it was a kind of new event, never before seen, or on a scale never before reached. And that's simply nearsighted.

Horrid deaths of thousands, even millions, do happen.

Think of the tsunami a few years back. Do you remember how many died? I mean, we all know that 3,000 died on 9/11, right? OK, how many died in southeast Asia in December 2004?

(I'm as guilty of this nearsightedness as anyone, by the way, I remember that it was December 2004 because that's also when Green Bay Packer football legend Reggie White died.)

So, do you know?

The answer: around 240,000.

Which is almost 100 times more than on 9/11.

And now this: possibly as many as 100,000 dead in Burma (which I refuse to call Myanmar, because the disgusting totalitarian regime insisted on the new name).

Yesterday morning the news reported on Burma for about five minutes or so, and then went on to talk about a huge sinkhole in Texas, some twisters in the Midwest, and a killer on the loose in California.

I'm not really sure what conclusion to draw from this, or what lesson. I just think it's odd, and perhaps hopelessly myopic.

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