The Blue Raccoon

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Catastrophe in Burma
More than 100,000 thought dead

"Images from a NASA satellite show the impact of Cyclone Nargis on southern Burma. Before it hit, on 15 April (top image), features are sharply defined. In the aftermath on 5 May (bottom image), much of the Irrawaddy river delta region is clearly flooded." Via BBC.

We cannot even imagine the immensity of this event. As horrendous as Katrina was to the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, or hurricanes that pounded Florida in recent years -- those people perhaps have some inkling. But the rest of us can't fathom...100,000 dead. That's if I walked out into my neighborhood and all I saw was stacks of bodies. Like the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake that triggered incomprehensible tsunamis, killing some 225,000 persons through eleven countries, such death and devastation in such a short time--outside of war-- seems unreal.

In the meantime, a humanitarian crisis is piled upon an already desperate situation concerning food shortages that are affecting large swaths of the nations along the southern side of the globe. I thought of these rolling enormous disasters while watching the most recent returns on the shabby, pathetic horse race that is the present U.S. Presidential election process. And how, on the major news outlets, here wasn't much discussion of anything substantive. Not by the moderators and really not by the candidates, either.

I'm these days reading newspapers of a century ago, of a typhus epidemic in Italy during early 1909, and of earthquakes, volcanoes and floods, and thousands dying, with seeming appalling regularity. People desire explanations or reason or see in these occurrences symbols and signs from beyond. I don't know about any of that.
What it is demonstrated with these history-altering upheavals is that Nature makes quick work of what we'd call civilization and proves just who is the guest here.

I recall how in 2002, during a visit to New York City, when Amie and I saw Albee's The Goat, a thunderstorm booming and rolling over the towers of Manhattan. And how people in that city still nervy from the 9/11 attacks, jumped, and some on the sidewalk near us said, "Woah," or inhaled with sharpness. Something was bigger than even New York.

Burma is called the Union of Myanmar by its military junta, in power since 1989. The Blue Raccoon noted the protest of Buddhist monks this past fall, and the human rights situation there is horrendous. Perhaps this horror will cause the government's collapse, but as it often goes with these things, what replaces the strongman rule may not be any better. Civil order--even in the best of circumstances--is often an agreed upon illusion.

Mourn for the Burmese people. Help if you can. And understand, billion-eyed audience, that none of us knows what could happen next to us, or anybody, anywhere.

See descriptions here,
and here.

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