No One Life Is Greater Than The Other

Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flooding in southeast Texas are a terrible tragedy marked by a loss of life and property that will leave deep scars.  However, Texas is not alone, and we here in the U.S., engrossed in our own drama, have largely ignored the even more damaging storm and accompanying floods in South Asia, where the death toll is estimated at more than 1,200.  Just this morning, flooding caused a building collapse in Mumbai, and thousands more are at risk of collapse due to their foundations being weakened by the flood waters.  Millions, not thousands, of people across the region are seeking emergency shelter.

flood-2.jpgA headline in the ‘letters to the editor’ section of The Guardian yesterday asks the question:

Why more coverage of floods in Texas than in South Asia? Are American lives simply worth more?

While I have the greatest sympathy for those who have lost friends, family, pets or property in the Texas floods, I am disgusted at the relative number of column inches and amounts of airtime devoted to its coverage. During precisely the same period huge areas of Bangladesh, Nepal and India are suffering an even greater catastrophe, with 1,200 plus lives lost and millions made homeless. Let’s get some balance here. America is a rich country and will cope, despite inept leadership. Or are we saying that American lives are worth more?. – Susan Howe, Ross on Wye, Herefordshire

And this …

The probability of these extreme weather events has increased as a result of global warming. Focusing on America might have been justified if Donald Trump had used his visit to Texas to announce the US’s return to the Paris climate accord. In the absence such good news, can we assume that the UK media values an American life at 80 times that of an Asian one? – Peter Williams, Heaton Moor, Stockport

Granted, there is a natural tendency to be more concerned, more interested, in events nearby than those half a globe away.  Most of us have friends or family members in Texas, some of us have visited or lived in the very places that we are seeing in the news in Houston and other areas, which makes the flooding and devastation in Texas much more personal.  Few of us have ever been to India, Nepal, Pakistan or Bangladesh.  However, we must not overlook the tragedies there … tragedies so much more severe than even those in Texas.

flood-3.jpgA few snippets from a variety of news stories …

“Downpours on a broad arc across the Himalayan foothills have damaged or washed away hundreds of thousands of homes and vast swaths of farmland, as well as causing landslides, damaging roads and taking down power lines.”

“Across the South Asian region an estimated 40 million people have been affected and children are unable to attend 18,000 schools, leading to fears for their future education.”

“Vast swaths of land are underwater in the eastern part of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where more than 100 people have reportedly died, 3,097 villages are submerged and almost 3 million villagers have been affected by flooding.”

“The storm reached Pakistan on Thursday, lashing the port city of Karachi, where at least 14 people have died, and streets have been submerged by water. Among the dead was an eight-year-old boy who was crushed when a building belonging to the Federal Investigation Agency collapsed. Most of the dead were electrocuted.”

It is important to remember the differences in economies that affect not only rescue and relief efforts, but also the ability to rebuild.  Much of the devastated area in South Asia are small villages. In some areas, crops were destroyed, placing food security in jeopardy. The infrastructure in South Asia is much older, less stable than in the U.S. The governments in the South Asian nations do not have the resources to help victims that the U.S. has. Overall there is less wealth, fewer people who are able to contribute much in the way of disaster relief and re-building the area.

flood-4.jpgWhether it’s here at home or across the ocean, children and families have been stranded in their homes. Many have lost everything. Education has been disrupted. Businesses have been closed, destroyed. It will take a long time for people to restart their lives.

So, while proximity and familiarity make it natural for us to pay greater attention to the human tragedy in Texas, let us also remember our fellow human beings on the other side of this globe we all share. And let us remember that no one life is greater than the other.

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26 thoughts on “No One Life Is Greater Than The Other

  1. Jill, thanks for pointing the spotlight on other areas of need. Our nation remains largely uninformed on most issues outside our country. Truth be told, we are also uninformed or misinformed about stuff here.

    I admire all of the people in Texas and Lousiana who are helping those in need. They are worthy of attention. But, we are not addressing other gallant efforts abroad. Thanks again, Keith

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    • Thanks Keith! It just seems that we often forget that even in our worst times, we are better off than many of our fellow humans. It’s easy to get caught up in what is going on in our own community or country and not give a thought to what is happening elsewhere. No wonder Americans are often thought of as ‘arrogant’ abroad.

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  2. Thanks for this post. It provides a bit of balance at a time when the global media does seem skewed out of shape. We’ve been hearing about Texas for days but it was only today that we finally started hearing a bit about our neck of the woods. It’s a ridiculous situation because you are absolutely right, no one life is better than another. Perhaps if we did hear and see more about the global community, we might not be so quick to start wars. Not actually talking about tRump just now because you-know-who is even more isolated and parochial. God we need so inspiring leaders…. :/

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    • Yes, we in the western world have become so self-focused that we forget to look outside our own world and see what is happening. At one time I had hoped to use this blog to bring to light the situations of those less fortunate than us around the globe … and then came Trump. Sigh. But back to the point … we are fortunate in that the very poorest person here in the U.S. would be considered rich by some standards around the globe, but we fail to appreciate that. I think some have gotten so engrossed in “protecting” their own race and ethnicity that they have forgotten we are all of the human race. Sigh. And YES, my friend, we definitely do need some inspiring leaders! I cannot speak for your country, but here, we are not likely to see inspiring leaders until we have a major shake-up of the rules of campaign finance, for these days it is all about money. A candidate who doesn’t promise to act in favour of the big businesses and lobbying groups has little, if any, chance at competing in election campaigns.

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      • Ouch. Our elections are very low key in comparison which means real ‘independents’ have a chance of getting in. Their influence waxes and wanes depending on how much the incumbent government needs their votes, but by and large, they do provide a moderating influence.
        Let’s hope the present situation is like a really bad case of the ‘flu. One day we’ll all wake up and realise that the worst of the symptoms are over and we’re immune again for a few decades.

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  3. Well said, Jill. To those across the Pond the events in India would have greater interest because of the relationship between the two countries. It is understandable that the English would resent overblown coverage of the calamities here in this country where, as they say, we are wealthy and better able to recover than are those people. But drawing attention to the effects of global warming, wherever it occurs, is essential. No one life, as you say, is any more important than any other and what happens here is no less a tragedy than what happens somewhere else — as in the case of “collateral damage” from the drones that we send into crowded marketplaces to “take out” suspected terrorists — about which we hear nothing. A death is a death, full stop!

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    • Well spoken, my friend. And yes, it should be obvious to all by now that we cannot simply ignore man’s effect on the environment, and we all need to let the ‘powers that be’ know we take climate change very seriously and expect our elected leaders to also! We owe it to every person on the globe. And I agree with you on the drones … I was reading earlier today about how many innocent civilians we have killed in Syria with them and it is an abomination. We have become such an arrogant nation, haven’t we?

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  4. You are making a moral statement of what should be not what is the human condition. Who considers the sickness of a stranger more than a family member? Although we are empathetic we are also survivors by evolutionary inheritance. It the west we put our own families and countries first , we perform delicate heart operations while many have no hygiemne. If we did not have this built in selfishness we would not be here , the struggle is within ourselves we cannot be perfectly moral , indeed some would argue we should not try to be. Politics is about just how moral we should or should not be , religion also enters the argument as a great persuader. I heard Richard Dawkins say to an audience ‘ we are all decent people I was surprised he should knowingly better. The psychopath shakes of the moral bondage and frees him or herself from all responsibility , they know that we should not have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; in reality evolution gave us no choice.
    Environmental lawyers are gearing up to sue companies for environmental damage ; I can see the glow of the dollar sign in their shining eyes.
    Acts of God are becoming our responsibility , you can’t sue God.

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    • Your points are, of course, all valid. Human nature being what it is, we all have some selfishness to a lesser or greater extent. That said, I think it is something we should work on. To your example … a building we are in catches fire, yes, I would undoubtedly get my family out first. However, assuming my family were quite capable of walking out on their own, I would tell them to go and I would try to help another who might not be so fortunate. We may put “our own” first, but it should not be to the exclusion of all others. I am not religious, but I think that as members of the human race, we ought to make a difference wherever we can, and to completely ignore what happens outside our own community or nation seems very wrong to me. We in the U.S. are so fortunate … ever the poorest among us are rich compared to some in African & Asian nations … how can we just put on blinders and ignore the plight of others?

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      • Absolutely correct the big question is : can we change the corporate effect of human nature or is it changing? Take a look at Africa where we believe the human race was cradled, it still looks pretty tribal to me, even election results are called constantly into question by losing sides.
        My suspicion is we think we are much better than we are due to technological advances which often hide our tribal nature.

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  5. Between wars and natural disasters the loss of life daily is terrible. As part of both these things the loss of infrastructure is also terrible. We need the world to unite now and pledge to help rebuild more stable homes along with the host countries that need it. To offer the skills of architects and structural engineers and perhaps create hospitals in the worst hit areas. To build wells so that there is water available and if possible arrange for it to be piped to homes that have never had it before.Much of the world is poor, lets enrich it to the standards we accept as normal.
    World co-operation could ensure a little understanding between us leading to less wars and could remind us we owe a duty of care to those worse off than we are.
    xxx Cwtch Mawr xxx

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    • Dear David Prosser and Jill,
      You are so right in that the US media has been negligent in providing coverage of the flooding in South Asia.
      This is heart breaking.

      After the recovery begins, we as part of the world need to confront the reality that these mega storms and the resulting tragedies and heartaches will become the new normal. The best we can do is mitigate future damage by creating the infrastructure to withstand these storms.

      This will take facing the reality of climate change by many republicans in the USA. REPUBLICANS ARE YELLING THAT THE DEMOCRATS ARE TAKING POLITICAL ADVANTAGE OF WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ARGUE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE. That’s only because republicans have turned this into a political issue instead of a human one.

      Hugs, Gronda

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      • Yes, this is why I have steered clear of mentioning that climate change is responsible, in part, for the storms and weather patterns we are seeing this year. I thought I would let the dust settle a bit and then try to tackle that subject. Sigh. We must walk on eggshells around the republicans who will seize on the smallest word. Sigh. But at any rate, you are correct in that meteorologists and climate scientists predict this is only the beginning. Hugs!!!

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    • You are so right, my friend. The human race has become greedy and narcissistic … or perhaps we always were … and we see no further than our own backyards. There are exceptions, as I try to point out on Wednesdays, but overall, it’s “I’ve got mine … to heck with everybody else”. Cynical … sure, but then I am known for that. I’ve looked too closely at the human race for too many years. ‘Tis why I shall come back as a wolf … 🐺

      xxx Cwtch Mawr xxx

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  6. So very true. Oftentimes, we all get so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget there’s people around the world in worse conditions than we face.

    One family at the daycare where my kids go will be leaving to fly home to India. I don’t know what conditions their family there faces because I didn’t get a chance to talk with the mom, but I wished her well on her journey and to let us know if anything was needed.

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    • Indeed so, my friend. Events closest to home often take all our attention and energy, but we need to step back, for there are so many in the world struggling to have those things we take for granted. When people complain about how horrible their life is here, I sometimes suggest they go spend a year in Ghana or Syria and then come back and tell me how horrible their lives are. Perspective … it’s all about perspective.

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