The hurricane that hit yesterday was a mess. It left a huge amount of devastation and property damage that people are already estimating will be in the billions of dollars range. Businesses will be closed for weeks or months or may not reopen at all. Families homes have been destroyed, their lives turned upside down. Some people have even died. It's a terrible thing that happened that no one could stop and I hope that everyone touched by it is able to overcome the circumstances and come out on top of the whole thing.
Having said that, can we please have a moratorium on comparing this hurricane to the tsunami that hit Asia? I realize that leveled houses and streets running with water in New Orleans may bare a passing similarity to the situation over there, but the scale of the devastation from the tsunami makes this look positively minor. The death toll here is somewhere around 70 people, and will certainly rise and the waters recede and authorities get a better idea of the damage. The tsunami that hit last year killed over 200,000 people. Let that sink in for a minute. The hurricane was awful and its going to be a tremendous thing to clean up and fix and lives will be damaged and broken and lost as a result, but on the other side of the globe, 200,000 people died from a similar kind of natural disaster. Here is a visual:
I've doubled the current estimate of deaths from the hurricane and you can see what it looks like. I don't point this out to in any way diminish the loss of those in the areas hit by the hurricane who couldn't or wouldn't get out of the way. I actually think it's a disservice to them to treat this in the press like 'our tsunami,' because when held under any scrutiny, that claim just sounds like a gross over-reaction. Instead, we should remember that each and every life lost or touched by this event is important on its own. It should not be a numbers game and we shouldn't always try to describe our own disasters and tragedies by comparing them to others because this sort of thing is incomparable. If you look at straight numbers, the hurricane is obviously not much more than a blip on the radar compared to the devastation wrought by that tidal wave. That's little consolation to the people struggling to get back on their feet, so why don't we stop bringing the whole thing up every five minutes on CNN?
Americans have this problem of Americentrism where nothing in the world ever seems to matter unless it affects us. As a society, we don't even know what's going on in the rest of the world, much less do we care or do much about it. Sure, priviliged people in all parts of the world take this view often, and it's not only an American attribute, but it does seem to be more widespread here than in many other places. We have so much wealth and so many resources here, I think it just makes it seem that much more selfish that we can't talk about terror attacks or hurricanes or wars without mentioning and sensationalizing our own losses. You only need to look at graphs like this one to realize that we are still the most priviliged and safe people on this planet: