« Mendes' "goal" | Main | Duplicitous Donation-seekers »

January 05, 2005


Peter Nolan

The prioritisation of aid seems pretty strange to me, given what could be done with all this money in dealing with AIDS, malaria and water problems.

I suspect that the main reason that the tsunami tragedy has caught the outside world's imagination is simply that several jumbo loads of Europeans and Americans also suffered along with the region's inhabitants.



Actually relatively few Americans were killed in the Tsunami. I think the State Department estimates that around 16 Americans were killed. So, although your explanation may work for Europeans, it doesn't explain the Americans' response.

I think the reason this disaster has "caught the world's imagination" is simply that it seems so uncomplicated. Most of the recent aid campaigns have been for war zones. War zones entail making judgments about the combatants and also the problem of getting aid to the most vulnerable often entails paying off local warlords.

Also, the scale of this is just unfathomable.

However, I do think there's something to the fact that a Tsunami is 'novel' and novelty is one reason why the press has been so focused on this story (which helps drive the aid campaigns).


I run a new department at a large secondary comp on the outskirts of London. This department is called 'Life' and is designed to explore some issues that other departments do not allow time for. In response to the Tsunami disaster I prepared some lessons which aim to inform pupils who may not (surprising though it sounds) have known about it and to get them to question whether we have responsibility to 'help' (in whatever way that may be).

You may be horrified to know that a common response from pupils of all ages was;

"Well if WE help THEM then they'll just send more of em over here won't they"


"Why should we help them, they shouldn't have so many kids"!!!

Having worked here for 5 years I am used to responses like this, though they continue to pierce and sadden me. These kids are espousing the views of their parents. Some pupils shift their way of thinking when challenged but most do not. This is what we are up against, if our school is anything to go by, a generation heavily influenced by the tide of Daily Mail scare stories - 'Immigrants knicking our jobs and raping our women'. A post 9/11 generation whose generic racism has turned to Islamaphobia. A generation who believes that Iraq was responsible for the destruction of the twin towers and therefore deserved to be invaded....and even if Iraq wasn’t responsible 'their all the same aren't they'....this seems to have extended to this terrible tragedy. It's US versus THEM and why should we help them!

To say 'by virtue of their humanity' doesn't seem to be enough!


Ok so you're talking about Africa and I'm talking about India/Indonesia etc. Blame it on thinking about little else for last week or so.


Frank, did you see this in today's London Times?

Frank McGahon

Kathy, I agree with you that the opinions expressed by your pupils are regrettable but you should be careful not to just assume that the invasion of Iraq was necessarily a bad thing for Iraqis per se. It was certainly a bad thing for Saddam and his coterie. It is possible (although unlikely) that Iraq will spiral into such chaos that even Saddam's brutal capricious rule (and that of his sons and descendents into perpetuity) would be preferable, making his ouster a bad thing retrospectively. But most Iraqis, though they would wish for stability and for the Coalition forces to go home, are genuinely happy that Saddam has gone.


I agree with you. My point wasn't that the invasion of Iraq was a bad thing. Along with most people I recognise that it is a grey area and am unable to draw any definite conclusions about the morality of the war in Iraq.

My point was that irresponsible press coverage which labels all Muslims as prospective terrorists leads to a dangerous generalised impression that Joe Muslim should be feared and leads young minds to conclude that Muslims, regardless of where they are from or what personal involvement they have had in terrorism, deserve either to be attacked or to be given no assistance if needed (not that all the victims of the disaster were Muslim).

I'm not saying Iraq was a better place under the brutal dictatorship of Hussein (and family) in fact I might go so far as to say the invasion of Iraq and subsequent removal of Sadaam from power was, on balance, a positive thing for the Iraqi people (though that sounds awfully glib). What I am saying is that there is a need to be honest about the reasons for invading Iraq, rather than an attempt to justify it by perpetuating a falsehood that Iraq was to blame for 9/11 (90% of Americans polled believed this to be the case) or that they intended to use WMD. Say Sadaam is an ‘evil doer’ as Bush might, and that he needs to be removed for the sake of the innocent people of Iraq (although this would, of course, raise all kinds of questions about Britain’s failure to involve themselves in e.g; Zimbabwe)

Perhaps I am being Naive. You could argue that the ends justify the means and that the Govt can give whatever reason they think will allow them to get the job done. I’m just saying that I am fearful of the effect propaganda, used in order to justify certain actions, has on all of us, young and old alike.


saying that I am fearful of the effect propaganda, used in order to justify certain actions, has on all of us, young and old alike.


I very much agree with that Brian character :-) as well as you on the health questions and Friendman on efficient giving. I read a few days ago an African year in review thing on BBC online. There was a piece on how the UN had pled for assistance last year on locust prevention campaigns but got basically no response. Then there was the locust invasion this year...


[Sorry if I ramble a little here--lurker]

"Well if WE help THEM then they'll just send more of em over here won't they"

"Why should we help them, they shouldn't have so many kids"!!!

Katherine and Frank--while I certainly do think these are regrettable sentiments if taken in their simplistic terms, they do have a degree of truth to them.

While some fears of immigration may be driven by simplistic fear of "brown people," I think the main forces driving fears of immigration today are (1)The poor economic and adademic performance (on average) of many immigrant groups to Europe and the U.S. (2)The costs, crime, and "no-go" neighborhoods associated with these low-performing groups (3)The hostility some groups (especially Muslims) to Western values and democratic/capitalist governments. If all immigrant groups were as successful as say, most East and South Asian groups to the U.S., I think anti-immigration sentiment really would be primarily limited to a bigoted and simple-minded fringe.

As for the part about people in poor countries having so many kids, I think it *is* a problem. I think anyone should realize that people having kids that they can't really afford is a problem. That said, I don't think that's an excuse not to help people--just a reason to redirect (some) of the help towards population limitation--especially pushing birth control, even if it's unpopular or "culture-destroying." While I'm not a fan of abortion, I think it is short-sighted for people like George W. Bush and other social conservatives (as well as some on the left-wing fringe who think any attempt to control population growth in poor countries is "classist" and "racist") to fight all family planning efforts.

Frank McGahon

For starters we are talking about a bunch of kids here so it isn't unreasonable to assume that a lot of this is just parroting what their parents are saying, probably as they flick through the Daily Mail, and not some carefully considered cost-benefit analysis.

Secondly, remember this is London we are talking about so the standard gnxp-anti-immigration boilerplate is not entirely apt:

1)The poor economic and adademic performance (on average) of many immigrant groups to Europe and the U.S.

I am loath for this to get diverted into another long thread on immigration but I would just note two things: a) There isn't any evidence that immigrant groups do actually perform poorly from an academic or economic point of view in the UK b) From the point of view of the rest of society there's nothing wrong with "poor academic and economic performance" per se so long as there isn't a massively redistributive welfare system in place which isn't the case in either the UK or the US. The costs of such "poor" performance are borne by the actual "performers", if they voluntarily immigrate one can conclude that they are happy to bear that cost.

(2)The costs, crime, and "no-go" neighborhoods associated with these low-performing groups

There are plenty of no-go areas in the UK but they are not "associated" with "low performing" immigrant populations. Many of these no-go areas don't contain any immigrants, some of which have recent immigrants but were no-go areas long before they arrived and it is often those immigrants who are on the receiving end of the unpleasant aspects of such neighborhoods. The problem of crime and policing is a complex one, there are some undoubted contributing factors such as the way incentives created by the welfare and social housing systems work towards undesirable outcomes. It is just lazy thinking to pin it on immigration


Frank--I assume you do not want immigration comments about a post orignially not about immigration to clog the comments, so I will reply on Gene Expression under "bb." If you are interested, my reply *should* be ready by the end of tomorrow (Wednesday 1/12/05, Pacific time).

The comments to this entry are closed.

March 2008

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          
Blog powered by Typepad