I am outraged. Yes, I not so much saddened as I am outraged.
It is a great tragedy. So many lives needlessly wasted. So many children dead, so many more with little hope of a decent human existence. Millions homeless without proper water, food, healthcare and education. Entirely preventable because we have the technology and the resources to avoid all this suffering and death. In the end it comes down to human frailty–greed, short-sightedness, ignorance, the lust for power.
And then there was an incident on Sunday when an earthquake unleashed a tsunami in the Indian Ocean and killed about 50 thousand, give or take 10 thousand. It is getting a lot of press and appeals for help on the internet are beginning to rival the pedelers of Viagra in the volume of email and the urgency of their appeal.
Yesterday 55,000 children died premature deaths, a few hundred million people didn’t have adequate housing, hundreds of millions were hungry. About half of all children in South Asia are malnourished. Poverty, a clear cause of malnourishment, is a also a consequence. It is a Silent Emergency.
We are a strange lot. We get on with our lives as if nothing is the matter with the world, when 10 million children die needlessly every year.
Then a stupid large wave hits and a few thousand die and we run around like headless chickens. Some sobering statistics:
Every year, over 10 million children under the age of five die from readily preventable and treatable illnesses such as diarrhoeal dehydration, acute respiratory infection, measles, and malaria. In half of the cases, illness is complicated by malnutrition. [Source]
Where is the breathless reaction to that? The advanced industrialized economies (the so-called “developed nations”) spend hundreds of billions of dollars bombing and killing hundreds of thousands–and spending trillions of dollars in arming themselves to the teeth–and no one bats an eyelid. It is a man-made calamity of global proportions. Then one Sunday morning, a natural event wipes out a few thousand people–almost a rounding-off error to the numbers involved in the man-made calamity and everyone and his brother wakes up and runs around as if the sky is falling.
Two hundred billion dollars or so to bomb some stupid country; and an awesomely magnanimous gesture of promising $0.015 billion in aid for the natural disaster from the US. The sheer incongruity of the figures stuns one catatonic.
Why? Bounded rationality? Or as I see it, unbounded stupidity. Fifty-thousand dying each and every day is not news. Being essentially innumerates, we do not find statistics very useful. What we need is pictures of great devastation for entertainment and distraction. The pictures of tsunami-ravaged coastlines compel our attention unlike the numbers we read in the annual reports of global institutions such as the World Bank.
OK, now back to our regularly scheduled entertainment interspersed with random events of destruction and death.