Who cares about a third world tragedy?

10,000 people - a conservative estimate - die in a typhoon in the Philippines, and another million lie in the direct path in Vietnam.

You'd think it would be the breaking news story. But no - the breaking news story starts off 'Tony Abbott says Australia will beat people-smugglers...'

I'm wondering why it is not important that 10,000 human lives were lost. During 911, there were 3,000 Americans (and people from other countries) killed. America is about three times as far away as the Philippines. But twelve years later, we still have documentaries and memorials and televised stories about a tragedy in America

Think it's different because it was an act of war? I don't think so. Hurricane Katrina was eight years ago, and everyone remembers the name. 1836 people died in that tragedy. It is embedded in our consciousness - the name Katrina invokes a memory of a hurricane, the word 911 invokes not an emergency phone number but an act of terrorism

You could argue that the media plays an important part in how we react to tragedies and loss of human life. Granted - the powerful images of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers will stay with most people forever. I doubt the Philippines have Fox or CNN. But I think there is a reason we don't care as much about tragedies in third world countries - the people who died are not predominantly white, middle class, first world citizens. They are not 'us'. They are 'them'.

I'm not sure what that says about us, as a civilised nation. But it mirrors the experience of other people who live with disadvantage and who are significantly different. We are the 'them' in your lives - you can assuage your conscience by throwing a few dollars into a tin, or watching footage of those inspirational Paralympians (not so much the Special Olympics, they are more 'them' than 'us') or being nice to a disabled person. But until we are 'us and us', not 'them and us' - the disabled, the different, the dead in a devastated country - things aren't going to get a lot better.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax


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