Thursday, January 06, 2005

The 12 most stupid tsunami quotes 

For some, natural disasters of the magnitude of the recent tsunami provide an opportunity to engage in acts of kindness or heroism. For others, it's yet another opportunity to embarrass themselves. If you chance upon more stupid quotes, let me know.

In no particular order:

1. Them darned monkeys did it: Bestselling author
Simon Winchester offers an "ancient Chinese astrology meets modern Western New Age tripe" explanation for the disaster:
"This year just ending - which the all-too-seismically-aware Chinese will remind us has been that of the Monkey, and so generally much prone to terrestrial mischief - has seen killer earthquakes in Morocco in February and Japan's main island of Honshu in October...

"In recent decades, thanks largely to the controversial Gaia Theory developed by the British scientists James Lovelock, it has become ever more respectable to consider the planet as one immense and eternally interacting living system - the living planet, floating in space, every part of its great engine affecting every other, for good or for ill.

"Mr. Lovelock's notion, which he named after the earth goddess of the Ancient Greeks, makes much of the delicacy of the balance that mankind's environmental carelessness increasingly threatens. But his theory also acknowledges the somber necessity of natural happenings, many of which seem in human terms so tragically unjust, as part of a vast system of checks and balances. The events that this week destroyed the shores of the Indian Ocean, and which leveled the city of Bam a year ago, were of unmitigated horror: but they may also serve some deeper planetary purpose, one quite hidden to our own beliefs."
The good old Mother Earth must be a part of the evil multinational-Bush-neocon conspiracy, as her wrath seems to particularly affect the poor of the developing world. I say to all my left-wing friends, time to boycott Gaia and move to a more tolerant place.

2. Let them eat sea-grass:
David Holcberg, a research associate at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, California, demonstrates he's not for any sissy labels like "compassionate libertarian":

"The United States government... should not give any money to help the tsunami victims. Why? Because the money is not the government's to give. Every cent the government spends comes from taxation. Every dollar the government hands out as foreign aid has to be extorted from an American taxpayer first."
3. "Christian" charity: The ultra-homophobic Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas proves it has a dirty, one-track mind: "Thank God for Tsunami & 2,000 dead Swedes!!! How many tsunami-dead Swedes are fags and dykes?" Beyond parody.

4. Sounds like yet another case of sour grapes: The former UK International Development Secretary and an anti-Blair rotweiller
Claire Short:

"I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate [the aid effort] sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up... Only really the UN can do that job... It is the only body that has the moral authority."
As you're reading these words, the UN's "moral authority" is rescuing, feeding and caring for hundreds of thousands of survivors. Meanwhile, in the real world...

5. The sad devastation of the mind:
Jeremy Seabrook is seeing things:

"The ruins of Galle and Banda Aceh called forth images of Falluja, Mosul and Gaza. Imperial powers, it seems, anticipate the destructive capacity of nature."
How clever of them.

By the way, this is Gaza:

And this is Banda Aceh:

6. If the moon was made of cheese...: It's always morbidly fascinating to watch the mainstream media being attacked for not being sufficiently anti-war.
Mike Whitney provides the car-wreck:

"Where was this 'free press' in Iraq when the death toll was skyrocketing towards 100,000?... If Iraq was covered like the tsunami, public support would erode more quickly than the Thai coastline, and Americans would have to buy their oil rather than extracting it at gunpoint. What good would that do? Looks like the media's got it right; carnage IS different in Iraq than Thailand, Indonesia or India."
Look at the bright side, Mark: since the tsunami is covered like the tsunami, the public support for natural disasters will erode quicker than your credibility, and so pretty soon there won't be any earthquakes or floods to distract you from your single-minded task of attacking the United States. And it might also come as a surprise to most of us that the US is actually getting its oil for free, as opposed to buying it. I guess the oil companies must be pocketing all the profits.

7. We're from the UN and we're here to help you: Some comments are simply beyond parody -
Ray Hanania:

"The Tsunami in South Asia has demonstrated how important the United Nations is to the world, and how political the resentment of Western and wealthy nations like the United States really is. Whether it is Kosovo, Iraq or Palestine, the UN is there to help as the nation's most equipped to help seem driven more by political agendas."
Which is why the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo had to stopped by an unilateral US action, Saddam would still be in power today, and the Middle East conflict is in its sixth decade.

8. As long as they're brown people: This, sadly from someone on the political right (hat tip:
Tim Blair) Matthew Parris in an opinion piece titled "Imagine there were no cataclysms - what a dull world it would be":

"I watched the TV pictures of the surge of ocean coming ashore, saw the buildings in its path, and had to stifle an inward 'Yes! Sweep them away! Show us how small is Man! Show us how easily this Universe can make matchwood of our dreams!' And no, you do not need to remind me that they were somebody else's dreams, not mine. 'Show us,' I thought, 'how lives and livelihoods can be snuffed out in the twinkling of an eye'."
Sadly, we don't need natural disasters to show us "how small is Man"; a op-ed from Matthew Parris will suffice. Sadly also, because Parris makes some good points about human fascination with disaster. Sadly in the third instance, because in real life Parris's enthusiasm for natural disasters would not survive his favorite coffee shop being flooded.

9. Baby-killers to the rescue:
George Monbiot thinks that the Americans should just stick to what they do best:

"The US marines who have now been dispatched to Sri Lanka to help the rescue operation were, just a few weeks ago, murdering the civilians (for this, remember, is an illegal war), smashing the homes and evicting the entire population of the Iraqi city of Falluja."

Just for the pleasure of it, too. Better call in the untainted military forces of the European Union to assist. Oops, they can't actually get to the region...

10. On moral superiority of natural disasters: Stan Moore writes why tsunamis are better than the US armed forces:

"Earthquakes may have aftershocks, but tsunamis do not return to attack their original victims or to attack rescuers or resisters of their destruction. The invading U.S. led forces attack 'insurgents' who are resisting the brutal subjugation of Iraqis. Tsunamis do not break in doors in the middle of the night in order to detain, arrest, and confine innocent people for weeks, months or even years. Tsunamis do not detain people for lifetimes as the U.S. military leadership is attempting to do. Tsunamis do not torture people with focused technology in order to 'break them' or cause them to divulge information which may not even be in the possession of the victim."
How low is it to compare a jihadi who blows himself up in the middle of a busy street, with an Indonesian farmer whose house has been washed away and his family drowned? Don't worry, the left just keeps digging.

11. Pathetic poseur alert:
Kathleen Butler in a letter to "The Wichita Eagle" demonstrates again the pampered self-indulgence of Western middle classes, which so many people around the world who have experienced genuine suffering find so puzzling and infuriating:

"My apologies to the Asian countries suffering from the effects of that catastrophic tsunami. The $350 million is a lot, but we could be sending a lot more if we were not in Iraq and weren't suffering from our own tsunami of the past four years. That killer wave of trillions of dollars in deficits, pre-emptive wars, and zero respect that's been washing over us is called the Bush administration, and we will continue to drown under its effects for years after he is finally gone."
Ms Butler might not, but I have a feeling that the residents of the South and the South East Asia, if given a choice, would much rather experience life under the Bush tsunami.

12. The empire strikes back: Egypt's
al-Akhbar newspaper proves that as far as the United States is concerned it's heads I win, tails you lose:

"[Washington] uses all occasions and circumstances to consolidate its hegemony, and through all legitimate and illegitimate means... No one is convinced that U.S. motivations are surrounded by humanitarian and moral principles... [The primary American objective is to] consolidate itself as the superpower of the world."
The UN, fortunately, doesn't have any imperial ambitions, which means it will start delivering humanitarian aid in about six weeks' time, after the assessment teams report back to headquarters.

Update: Judging by the Comments section, I seem to have incurred the wrath of my libertarian readers for including among "the Twelve" the quote from Ayn Rand Institute's David Holcberg, who essentially argues that governments have no right to spend taxpayers' money on foreign aid.

While I sympathize to some extent with the libertarian argument, I stand by my inclusion of the Holcberg quote. This is a purely subjective selection, and you, my dear readers, of course have every right to disagree. While I believe that the size of the government is currently too big and the levels of taxation too high, I don't subscribe to the argument that all taxation is theft. And while I'm skeptical of the value of foreign aid generally (liberating internatioanl trade, as well as political and economic reform within the developing world offer a better solution to poverty - hat tip to my mate
Don D'Cruz), seeing how many stupid ways governments find to piss our money against the wall (agricultural subsidies, "arts" spending, and the list goes on), I don't think that providing drinking water and emergency medical aid for people whose lives and livelihoods were totally wiped out is the worst thing that can be done with my tax cheque. So we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.


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