15 May 2008

Hardwood in Burma

Today's Times had a front page story about the cyclone in Myanmar - a story that ran without a by-line because the reporter was in the country undercover. It included the following passage:

It will not take much to get villagers back on their feet in these areas because they had so little to begin with. Being wealthy in the delta means having some furniture and a house made of concrete or hardwood instead of bamboo.

Farmers till their fields with buffaloes pulling a plow. Now they lack both buffaloes and rice seed. During this reporter’s time in the delta, several times as many buffaloes could be seen floating dead on the water as were grazing on land. The villages often have dedicated ponds and large ceramic jars to store drinking water. Many of those jars have broken and the pond water has been blackened from the hay and foliage rotting in it.

I don't know about you, but I think the statement "it won't take much to get villagers back on their feet" smacks of first world arrogance. A house is a house, whether it's made of reeds or bricks. A buffalo is a buffalo, a jar is a jar. Where's that buffalo going to come from? Where's the water bottle going to come from? This is a country that is completely controlled by a military dictatorship, and is hiding the breadth of this natural disaster from the rest of the world. It's going to take a hell of a lot to get those villagers back on their feet.


17 comments:

Eva said...

I guess that was meant to be a throwaway line to introduce the topic of their poverty, but I see what you are saying. In many ways it's even harder for them to get back to where they were, since they have nothing to get there with.

Julie Pippert said...

Until you said that, I had not thought of it that way. Interesting.

Because I always think in terms of "what can I do? what should I be doing?" (hyper responsibility, surely some pharm company will come out with a drug soon...J/K!) it struck me as, "This is do-able."

But now.

Wow.

Yeah, it is pretty "you live in less than 2000 sq ft and don't have a ginormous flat screen so you haven't got much." or something less hyperbolic LOL.

cactus petunia said...

I really didn't take it as a disparaging remark, or even an insensitive one when taken in context. When you have practically nothing to begin with, you may not have much to lose, but that is everything. The real problem is not insensitive, coddled reporters, but the hard core government standing in the way of getting help to its citizens in any way possible.

susan said...

I can sort of see it both ways, but given the depth of apparent destruction and the unyielding stupidity of the junta refusing help, it seems like it's going to take everything to get people back on their feet.

kathy a. said...

i think it sucks. these were people scraping by on the most basic level -- one most of "us" never encounter, even in times of disaster -- and now they have lost everything. how is that going to help them bounce back? what about the relatives they have lost, on whom they depended?

painted maypole said...

i agree!

flutter said...

This is interesting to me. I wouldn't have thought of it unless you'd said something

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I interpreted it to mean that IF not for the junta situation it wouldn't take much to restore the status quo.

Angeline said...

Hmmm...I didn't think of it this way, till you said it...

wheelsonthebus said...

In the writer's defense, I think what was meant was that, if aid was allowed it, it wouldn't take a lot of money to make a big difference. Poor choice of wording, however, if your readers need to make those kinds of interpretations.

Mental P Mama said...

Amen. What a class 1 disaster. Tragic for all of us.

Veronica Mitchell said...

You are so right.

Although his/her language may be intended to indict the junta even further. It might not take much money, but the junta won't allow even that little bit to enter the country freely.

Kelly said...

This is sad and horrible on so many levels. To have everything destroyed and then be denied help...

Kyddryn said...

Amen, sister.

Shade and Sweetwater,
K

womaninawindow said...

I was just thinking of Myanmar 2 minutes ago...talking about flour shortages and then my husband mentioned why not rice prices up too? (I believe they are internationally.) Then it struck me hard this image I have in my mind about what happened there. I heard the rice paddies are (were? hopefully clean up has started) covered with bodies. I was in Thailand and Taiwan years ago. I stood in rice paddies. They are vast and intensely green. A green of life. I can't stop seeing them plugged up with bodies and imagine me standing in the middle of them, clean and sure that I can fly home. Sometimes the world is just too much to bear.

womaninawindow said...

And yes, it might sound easy for us to think of getting a new jar for water, even a new buffalo. I can't imagine it's so easy for them...

Julia said...

What we have here is a failure to contextualize. The problem isn't the absolute amount it would take, but how many years of hard work it would take local residents to get enough money to buy replacements for the things they lost. And lest we forget, desalinating the fields isn't going to happen by itself.