Prompt 129: Disaster in Comparison
129. In 2004, a massive earthquake and tsunami killed more than 200,000 people in 14 different countries. Why do you think an event like this isn't talked about nearly as much as 9/11, where the loss of life was much smaller? How would you try to help if you heard about such a terrible incident halfway across the globe and why?
NOTE TO SELF: I was feeling in a particularly rambly, ornery mood while typing this up.
Here in the United States, the "anniversary" of the bombings on 11th September 2001 is practically a national holiday. In response to a single attack where nearly 3,000 people were killed in the United States, there were more than 18,600 killed every year after that in Afghanistan. For the past 20 years. What's more, most of those deaths weren't soldiers.
The US has a history and reputation for believing it's the "good guys." As it happens, the good guys will sometimes roll up their sleeves and bust some heads of the bad guys - behaving just as bad or worse than their enemies. This story is what is retold every year since those bombings on 11th September. The US "knew who sent them terrists here, and we had to teach 'em a lesson." So the CIA manufactured intelligence that was accepted as face value (by war criminals in the US government, to be clear) in order to justify the occupation, the destruction, the drone bombings, and all the massive non-fighter casualties.
The entire myth of the War in Afghanistan, the War on Terror, is built on the idea that the US is the "good guy" in this fight. How could the average US citizen otherwise live with themselves and their barbecues and their dislike and distrust of Muslims and their worship of guns? Unless they went insane with cognitive dissonance, it couldn't happen.
So "American Exceptionalism" keeps this mythology afloat year after year. To help US citizens deal with it, of course it's at the forefront of every newscast. Now that "the war is over," it would be nice if news outlets in the US could stop touting the USA Myth over and over again.
Maybe we'll stop hearing so much about the War on Terror. Maybe we'll finally have logistics and distribution networks that can address shortages and disaster response within the United States. Hurricane response? Flood response? Winter storm response? Vaccine distribution? US efforts are an insulting joke.
Disasters half-way across the globe mean nothing if there's a glut of violent crime, drug abuse and overdose, and unemployment in one's own neighbourhood.
To answer the second part of the first question: you don't hear much about tsunamis and typhoons that wipe out hundreds of thousands of people halfway across the globe as much as this myth, because it doesn't make any money for US-based corporations, in general and for the short term. If an overseas factory is wiped out, the affected US corporation will simply have a facility built elsewhere in the developing world. They use local resources and local labor, minimizing costs in the process.
From the viewpoint of the dominant culture in the USA: The rest of the world is important to USA interests only as far as it can generate more stuff cheaper than it is when made in the USA, or if rich folks can keep their wealth secreted there. Otherwise, it's either flyover or vacation land, and disposable. To USA's Joe Average, the people in those places are just as disposable. Joe Average still has Wal-Mart, so he doesn't care.
Not sure where this is coming from, but... Time for some prediction/speculation: Now that China is going to be in charge of Asia and all its ports, and to the west Russia will continue to muscle around with Europe, the USA is gonna have a massive attitude adjustment. They'll easily paint themselves as the victims of "liberal socialist scumbags" or whatever they want to call them... "Enemies from within, on the Left." These folks, advocating for women's rights, for workers' rights, for anti-corporate / anti-monopoly / anti-oligarchic policies, "diluted the fabric of America" and allowed for the "rise of China as the dominant world power."
Personally, I'm not convinced China will become -the- dominant world power for at least another 20 years. While its production engine and momentum is definitely superior to the USA's at this point, I'd be concerned that the current Chinese PM will fall victim to typical political power plays. The USA will struggle a bit, but it's China's biggest customer. The USA may need to feed the monkey on its back, so it will keep agitating and manufacturing money for another few decades.
Sources (at least for the first part):
Civilians Killed & Wounded: Costs of War, Brown University