The recent deadly storms to hit the Philippines were an eye opener for the world. Ketsana and Parma resulted in widespread flooding, landslides, dams busting, houses and bridges collapsing and massive population displacement, and from what I understand over seven million people were affected. Yet to international news broadcasters this type of story is unfortunately becoming all too common day after day, month after month.
Within the Philippines the site of dead bodies being broadcast appears somehow to be acceptable; yet in Europe and America the networks work on the theory that such images might upset their viewers as they tuck in to their bowls of cornflakes over breakfast; so they edit out such awful scenes. And anyway with the constant coverage of bombs going off in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the reaction of loved ones screaming in anguish in front of the camera, you cannot just move straight into the latest football results without some “softer” news to counter the maimed and the walking wounded.
Indeed, to watch some of the international broadcasters such as BBC and CNN, you might be forgiven for thinking that this was a 48 hour wonder; that within a week the Phils would be back to its old self as the world moved on to yet more bloodshed in the Middle East.
But eschewing the big players and watching some of the smaller TV stations and web outlets gave a different perspective. Reading the blog reports describing the cleaning up operations – not just removing the mud, but allowing everything to dry out so as to prevent the build up of mould – I was moved by the amount of bloggers who were able to put things into perspective; who had lived through a tragedy but could, in the face of adversity, learn to be stronger and hopeful that their flood-damaged homes would once again be beautiful some day.
We were also able to gauge the reaction of the Filipino communities around the globe as the news came in about the extent of the devastation and the amount of people affected. Yet again the sense of community was there for everyone to see. Here in Dubai I can’t think of a single Pinoy friend – and I have several – who was not involved in some way with fundraising, awareness raising and garnering help in some way.
The local independent TV station, City7 which has many Filipinos on its staff, broadcast night after night in its news bulletins about the relief efforts being made across the UAE to send over to the Philippines. It was both touching and a lesson to the rest of the world as to how disasters can pull communities closer together – a bit like World War 2 brought communities together in the UK as everyone faced a common foe …. so we were taught in school, though such evidence is much harder to find now in the “developed West”.
Perhaps the most telling statistics that came from the UN are what so “little” money can achieve - $18 can provide a family with rice for 2 weeks. Weigh that against the obscene amount of money being poured into armaments in the Middle East and you start wondering what kind of a damned fool world we are living in.
Think of the amount of aid money being thrown into some of the countries of Africa where – dare one be so politically incorrect – many of the problems nations, such as Zimbabwe or Angola or Sudan or Nigeria etc etc, face are of their own making.
But Africa represents the new conscience of the West, whist the Middle East has its oil; so countries such as the Phils cannot hope to compete on such terms. Thank goodness they have a community spirit which is ready to be mobilised at a moment’s notice.
Yes, it’s a crazy world that we live in. And all in all, it does make you question what is news? And who decides?