November 17, 2013

Thoughts: Typhoon Haiyan

I am confused.  So utterly confused right now.  Typhoon Haiyan (aka Typhoon Yolanda) has hit the Philippines a week ago, and media coverage and aid has been spotty as best, portraying the disaster more along the lines of a horrific, foreign event than as a pressing, worldwide matter.  Not to mention the whole China aid fiasco.  By the way, how can the world's "second-largest economy" care so little about humanitarian aid--so much so that it lags behind, embarrassingly enough, Swedish furniture giant Ikea's donation to Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts?

But I shouldn't be calling out only China over its nonchalant stance on the issue, for even in the US, Typhoon Haiyan publicity remains relatively quiet, as reflected on Etsy.  Remember the comaraderie that was duly expressed during Hurricane Sandy and the Japan tsunami and earthquake disasters?  Etsy teams sprung up for action, donation items were swiftly added for sale with proceeds benefiting disaster relief.  This has not been the case for Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, in my opinion.  As of this afternoon, I typed "Typhoon Haiyan" in Etsy's search box and a mere 217 items* for sale came up.  I then searched "Typhoon Haiyan" and "Philippines" under Etsy teams, and there were no results that were specific to the typhoon relief efforts.  This finding stunned me, since there are/were at least four Etsy teams (in total) that were devoted specifically to Sandy or Japan relief efforts--I know this because I joined those very teams.

So why is Typhoon Haiyan different?  I honestly think it's because the Philippines, in contrast to Japan, is a vastly poor nation.  The following story supports this stance: in the days after the tsunami in Japan, I saw a news segment on a man who donated proceeds from sales in his hardware shop to Japan aid and recovery efforts because "They are just like us."

What does that mean to be just like us?

When we think of the Philippines, if we ever do, we envision a nation of poverty with a painful colonial history.  It is unfortunate that socioeconomic class (and racial bias) informs our perspective about others on a local, national, and global level because we are in fact all in this together: global events set in motion chain reactions that reverberate throughout once-separate-and-still-unequal communities, which are now connected through globalization and the increasingly mobile role of technology in our lives.  I should correct myself--technology in the lives of those in developed nations because the rest of the world typically cannot afford it; and if they can afford it, the purchase is made at the expense of most everything else (ie: important things such as healthcare and community improvement).  That's the difference, which is worth the risk of reaching out.

* An Etsy search of "Hurricane Sandy" and "Japan relief" came up with over 700 and over 400 results, respectively.  The search results for the phrase "Philippines relief" was similar in number to those of "Typhoon Haiyan."

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