Thursday, January 14, 2010

What does the Haitian earthquake mean?

The natural disaster (for resident humans) that is the Haitian earthquake has the capacity of bringing out the human tendency we have to assist those whose lives have been immensely compromised through no fault of their own. People throughout the world will do what they can to alleviate the suffering there. Be that as it may, there are other disasters that cause human suffering on a similar scale involving not the impersonal forces of nature but the machinations of other humans. We have an extensive record of these in just recent history. The induced starvation of the Ukrainian peasants, the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, and China are just examples from the twentieth century of catastrophic events that were the culmination of political activity, rather than the ravages of nature. Are calamities like these outside the scope of assistance? Evidently, not entirely, as much of the world took part in the effort to eliminate the Serbian attacks on their Muslim neighbors. However, in other arenas the humanitarian response is either subdued or discouraged by government. Today knowledge has spread world-wide of the killings in the Darfur area of Sudan but we hear of liitle effort being made to halt them. And the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq had a long record of monstrous treatment of its own citizens and neighbors, yet the effort to lift that yoke from the neck of them has been condemned, not by other monsters and tyrants, but by people who consider themselves true humanitarians. Is there less of a need for help if a child's parents are imprisoned or executed by a despot than if they were drowned in a hurricane?

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