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January 6, 2005

Tsunami Tardiness

In the second half of December I was up to my neck in a paid gig, then I spent my holidays in the Arizona desert of all places, taking care of some personal/family stuff which was hella intense and exhausting (though it had a very happy ending). All this meant I was never more than marginally aware of anything in the news, including what might be the worst tragedy of our lifetime.

So I've feeling guilty for my detachment from the Tsunami story, for not being around to invest all my emotion into it. Then I've been stepping back and wondering what this says about our society in 2005, that I feel derelict in my duties as a world citizen if I'm not fully present as a media consumer. As if anyone who was touched by this disaster needs their loss to be validated by me watching it on TV.

That being said, even my brief glimpses of it are overwhelming, beyond my power to comprehend, to find worthy language for discussing it. My heart goes out to everyone who was indeed touched by it. And for those of you in NY here is a related event:

a teach-in on the history of Aceh and the present catastrophe

When: Saturday, 1/8 1:30-4pm
Where: The Community Church of New York 40 East 35th Street in

AMY GOODMAN, of Democracy Now
ALLAN NAIRN, award-winning journalist and activist
WARZAIN, Acehnese activist
and other speakers

Aceh (pronounced "Ah-chayh"), the province on the westernmost tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, was right near the epicenter of the largest earthquake and was also impacted by the largest Tsunami waves. The coastline of Aceh was shattered, countless villages were wiped off the map, and much of the capital, Banda Aceh, was flattened. The Indonesian government has confirmed over 100,000 deaths in the country; most of these dead are in Aceh.

Despite this level of devastation, Aceh has been getting proportionately less attention and assistance than most other areas. This is due to a combined set of factors. First, a longstanding independence struggle by the Acehnese has led to a military invasion and "civil emergency" imposed by the Indonesian government. Up until the disaster struck, Indonesia had banned most journalists from Aceh. Indonesia is now relaxing that ban, but there are still few journalists present.

Second, because of the "civil emergency," there were no Western tourists in Aceh and, consequently, no interest by the Western media in the fate of their "own" people there. Third, because of its corruption and its repressive attitude toward the Acehnese, the Indonesian government cannot be counted on to provide proper assistance. According to a report from one independent journalist in Banda Aceh, much aid is piling up unused at military bases and airports. He also reports that every night military forces are looting those homes still standing in Banda Aceh.

The teach-in will cover the impact of the tsunami on Aceh as well as how the history of Aceh's oppression has affected the present situation. The event is free, but it is also a fundraiser for grassroots Indonesian and Acehnese organizations doing relief work on the ground in Aceh, so bring your checkbook.


Posted by jsmooth995 at January 6, 2005 5:25 PM

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