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What a Disaster

May 22nd, 2008 | by Omnipotent Poobah |

It’s always something.

Myanmar DisasterA cyclone wallops Myanmar or Burma or whatever the hell else they’re calling themselves these days and close on its heels, an earthquake rattles the fillings from a quintillion Chinese teeth. Both are totalitarian regimes, neither has a long history of doing much for their people as they float away of get crushed under rubble.

Myanmar is displaying an off-the-shelf totalitarian response - just hose the dead bodies off the streets and issue lots of press releases saying everything is fine and a total triumph for the jingoism du jour. Of course, they have to reject aid, except for token amounts, just to make it look good. To do otherwise would be to admit their brand of jingoism is pretty much like any other. You can’t really expect starving people with sticks for advanced farm equipment and coconuts for a communications system to do much on a regular day, much less the day after Noah’s Flood. If they’re led by gun-toting thugs too busy skimming the gross national product to pay attention, you can look Myanmar up in Wikipedia and see a picture of the devastation.

Wet, Uncooked Rice
It doesn’t really matter if the rest of the world offers help - and they have by the shipload - if the junta won’t let it in. And, they don’t look willing to change that either, despite plenty of diplomatic pressure. Presumably they’re busy setting up Swiss bank accounts to deposit all the aid money they’ll steal. However, a few countries (minus the US) are agitating to force the aid through or air drop it. The problem is, if you force your way in there’ll be plenty of shooting and more people will die. If you air drop the aid you’ll either crush some starving sop or start a riot when it lands with no one on the ground to quell the riots - and I speak from experience here, this will kill more people. Besides, half the country is awash and wet, uncooked rice is hard to handle.

Disasters haven’t been China’s forte heretofore either. They’ve usually suffered from that whole face-saving thing - the consequences of which they avoided by letting the victims die so nobody knew the true extent of the carnage. But a funny thing happened on the way to quasi-capitalism, money has created a population that now expects a little more than PR releases when the ground crumbles beneath them. And these people are fast becoming computer programmers, medical researchers, and lead paint manufacturers - all of whom are more expensive to replace than peasants swinging hammers and sickles. This time, China has mounted an impressive disaster recovery.

No Ideologies Questioned
There are reports that some first responders arrived within minutes of the first shake. Government officials have apparently abandoned 5-year plans in favor of quickly mobilized, very flexible response plans. They aren’t rejecting aid and they’re welcoming any and all who’s kind enough to send it - no ideologies questioned. The Bamboo Curtain may still cover most of the doorway and not everything is running as smooth as fine Chinese silk, but give them a break. They have a major catastrophe on their hands. For a country just entering the 20th Century, they appear to be doing as good or better a job than our 21st Century Federal Emergency Mismanagement Agency did with a smaller-scale Katrina.

This time the Chinese totalitarians are doing good. Yes, there are still plenty of issues where they don’t play well with others - human rights, deplorable ecological and working conditions, and more than enough ill-maintained peasants for a true workers’ paradise, but it’s a progress we should acknowledge. In fact, they’ve done well-enough with this whole disaster response business that, perhaps, we should overlook how outsourcing jobs to China is a bad thing for the American worker. Maybe we should outsource FEMA to China before our next hurricane season or California quake.

That’s what they call a win-win in the disaster biz.

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  1. One Response to “What a Disaster”

  2. By Lisa on May 22, 2008 | Reply

    “they appear to be doing as good or better a job than our 21st Century Federal Emergency Mismanagement Agency did with a smaller-scale Katrina.”

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