I’m Better Than You? Get Over Yourself!

There’s little I can add that hasn’t already been said or written about the South Asian tsunami disaster or, specifically, the sheer horror we have all seen unfold. We’ve seen huge natural disasters before but, in our lifetime, never of this scale. So many shattered lives in a part of the world where so many were already unspeakably poor… Nature can be as cruel as it can be kind.

The pouring of donations from around the world has been a sight to behold, especially the way in which more individuals than ever before have, in this moment, become true, concerned citizens of the world willing to make a personal sacrifice to help. I’m the kind of guy who, like most of you, has a lot of lean days from one paycheque to the next. Yet in this case, it was a no brainer for me to scrape of few dollars I don’t really have and contribute what little I could to the effort.

I’m not telling you this because I feel superior or anything. Giving is a personal thing, and everyone must pick their battles. Hence I don’t judge those who have not and don’t intend to give to this cause. Well …I would be judgemental if you don’t give on the grounds that the calamity injured mostly non-Christian, brown-skinned people. But no such asswipe also reads aMMusing.

What has really annoyed me, though, is what I perceive as the media harping on the slowness of the Canadian government’s response. The Prime Minister and key federal cabinet ministers have been heavily criticized for not returning from vacation to Ottawa on December 27th. This is 2005, folks! With today’s means of communication, you don’t need to be at your assigned desk to get the ball rolling! And now whatever the PM does is being portrayed as making amends — trying so very hard to demonstrate he’s now at the switch and really concerned.

Then there was even more criticism for not immediately deploying Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), the government opting to send a team first to figure out where the aid would be most effective. Frankly I think the government was damned no matter what it did. How stupid would it have been if all the aid landed in Banda Aceh? or Phuket? What about Sri Lanka? the Maldives? India? Also, realistically, what’s DART expertise and where would it be most useful? Plus, in the wake of the sponsorship (non) scandal, this government can’t afford bad optics. This disaster is bigger and more complicated than any armchair critic can resolve.

And don’t even get me going on the one-upmanship by nations. This CBC article lists the pledges so far by Canada, Canadians, and the rest of the world. The base $80 million from the Canadian government — with promise of more to come — translates to roughly $2.50 per citizen of this country. But don’t forget that the Feds will match dollar for dollar the $65 million amassed by non-governmental agencies. So Germany’s aid is greater? Japan’s? Australia’s? So what! The point is GETTING THE AID OUT, and lots of it!

Meanwhile, there’s already talk about how this massive deployment might be forgotten sooner than it should, and how fundraising efforts for other worthy causes in the near future will be adversely affected. Those are perhaps valid concerns, but let’s cross those bridges when we get to them.