Looting & Brandishing in Haiti

I wonder if anyone is annoyed at the rampant use of “looting” by the media in regards to the earthquake aftermath in Haiti. I watched either CNN or MSNBC last week, and they made a interesting point that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, media outlets referred to white people as foraging or finding food and to black people as looting or stealing. I think it is interesting that now in Haiti, which is predominantly black, the term “looting” is the only word we are hearing/seeing.

Do these reporters, editors and the like stop to consider that most likely, this so-called looting is not for the sake of stealing, but rather out of desperation for sustenance and survival? These are people who had shitty conditions before this earthquake; now, they have even less, if anything at all. The international aid has had its issues (still) getting outside of the small airport and port and to the people in the most desperate need. If I were in the position of these people, I probably would be rushing vehicles with people who are giving out food, and perhaps would take what I need from stores, etc. I think we should get past the semantics and focus on the reality of the situation: everyone who was there at the time of the earthquake; be them black, white, followers of Christianity or Voodoo, French speaking or English, are trying to survive.  For those who do not have the money and resources to get out of Haiti, the situation is worse. For those who do not have immediate access to food and water, the situation is critical. And there should not be the negative connotation of looting when what’s being taken is food, water, and survival items.

On another note – the comments about gangs of young men roaming the streets brandishing machetes should be put into context. If this country is a culture whose citizens begin using machetes at a young age, as I know is common in other countries such as Costa Rica (as I have seen firsthand a 5 year old ‘brandish’ a machete for his chores more expertly than I ever could), then this comment is ridiculous. Is there proof that these men are using machetes in a menacing way to harm others or are they using them in case the need for protection in an increasingly tense situation?

I think there are a lot of assumptions being made about this situation that may not be true. And I think, if anything, we owe these people who are just at the beginning of this horrible state of affairs the decency to report the facts, and not assumptions based (however subtly) on race, economics, and a culture we are largely unfamiliar with.


What is the Deal with the Media?

          Every time there is a natural disaster, I notice that the media groups are usually first on scene. And to a point, that is expected. However, it does beg the question – how does NBC, ABC, CNN and the like get to devastated areas such as Haiti, when international aid groups are having difficulty getting there due to damage at the airport? I do know some have flown into the Dominican Republic and have driven over to Haiti, but how do all these news correspondents get there so soon?

          My second inquiry is involving their presence in these places. I know they are “news” people whose job it is to bring us the news. However, my feeling is that if you are going to be the first people down to a place like this, why not chip in and try to help these people who have just lost everything, instead of focusing on getting a better story than the other news channels? Perhaps they do help, but they do not portray that to the viewers, and frankly, it pisses me off. How would they like it if something on the scale of what has occurred in Haiti occurred where they live and then news people came in to give the story but without seemingly to care about the people? And if they are actually helping in their time off between news takes, then express that to the viewers so that we don’t get the impression that all these correspondents are there for one reason – ratings.

To Haiti and Beyond…

As everyone should now know (unless, of course, they live under a rock), Haiti was hit by a devastating 7.0 earthquake yesterday afternoon. I am glad to hear that our government is sending aid and volunteers to the country in this time of need. However, this entire situation brings up two thoughts I had this morning.

1)       Perhaps if the more developed/wealthy nations of the world took some of the money and personnel from things like a War on Terror (a war that we cannot win just by being present in these countries and expecting that they like the idea of democracy as much as we do) and perhaps put it to use as humanitarian aid in countries that are in desperate need, maybe it would be better served for everyone in the long run. While I am in full support of the men and women fighting at home and abroad, I do think that the government has spread the troops and their resources too thin. Yes, we need to keep our citizens safe, but we are shown time and again that despite strict measures, things still occur.

My thought is perhaps to take some of these military trained individuals from a horrific war zone and give them resources to help countries like Haiti (now and in the future) get on their feet. A huge reason for the abject poverty in Haiti is the deforestation of the land, which is directly due to governance issues. We can hand over money to countries in such poverty, sure, but that never seems to solve the problem. The presence and willingness to of outsiders to help teach people what needs to change, and then helping implement the changes will not only help the citizens, but the world in general. Inevitably, a country like Haiti will continue to be hit by natural disaster after natural disaster, and we will continue to come to its aid. The storms that hit earlier this year were exacerbated by the deforestation and habitat loss, and the earthquake was exacerbated by governance issues regarding the soundness of buildings. If we can help by giving resources directly and in a hands-on fashion to help these people, it may help us all in the end. In addition to helping change the mindset of these people, perhaps it will help (however slowly) to turn their economy around. At the same time, we will be helping create positive change  in another country instead of having our military presence perceived in a negative and destructive fashion.

2)      My other thought is – wasn’t there a warning last year sometime that a huge 7.2 magnitude earthquake was imminent in this region? Why was more not done Haiti’s government, as well as more developed nations, to help make sure this wouldn’t reach the devastating proportions it is certain now to reach?

The End of Books?

      According to Amazon.com and this article by Jen Lancaster, this Christmas season was the first time the Kindle e-books outsold regular, old-fashioned books. While I have been aware that this would eventually happen once the Kindle was introduced (along with the B&N Nook, Sony Reader, and others), it makes me sad and somewhat aggravated. 

      I understand the reasons why people love these e-readers; namely the portability and instant reading. However, I wonder if the users of these various e-readers have considered that they may be contributing to the possible extinction of physically bound books? Our society is one fueled by instant gratification (among other things), so it makes sense that someone would come up with this device. But whatever happened to the joy of reading an actual book? Then there is the thought that staring at the screen of an e-reader at length probably is just as bad as staring at a computer screen. But in our computerized society, that probably is not a big concern to most people. 

       I personally don’t even want a Kindle. Yes, instant reading is great, and the Kindle and other similar devices are light and easy to carry – but then again, so are books. And, like Lancaster notes, it’s apparently the one item that TSA isn’t worried about triggering an explosion onboard a flight. E-readers can get wet, may break if dropped, and are most likely prone to computing issues like regular computers. 

      My major concern is that these readers will make regular books obsolete. We have already seen that anything can be purchased online (and many things on Amazon.com alone!). We have witnessed video stores like Blockbuster take a huge hit from the availability of movies both online and through mail such as Netflix. I fear that Barnes and Noble & Borders Bookstore, along with numerous other smaller book stores will be a thing of the past. And that just shouldn’t be allowed to happen.

Fear and Flying

            In light of the newly alighted issue of terrorism (which really is an issue that actually was lit once and hasn’t gone out since), I have a question. Does anyone else get tired of hearing about it? I don’t mean that in a horrible, callous, or indifferent way, it is just that it has taken over the media. Yes, it is a current topic and world issue, but I feel like it is all that is talked about these days. Well, when the recession and Afghanistan and Iraq aren’t being discussed. I am not trying to argue that all are not valid topics or that they are not affecting our country. My point is that sometimes it’s discussed ad nauseam and many times with the tone of fear and panic. The media, in whichever of its outlets, is the bearer of news, good or bad, to the general public. When they create all this hype around a story that they do not have all the facts on (i.e. breaking news/developing story), it creates a sense of fear.

     Surely, people will not admit that they get scared every time a news story breaks regarding terror, such as the “Christmas Day Terror” or “Flight 253 Terror,” and the more recent lockdown of Terminal C at Newark International Airport yesterday. However, each of these stories is sure to at least subtly keep the culture of fear present and active in this country. Sure, it is much less safe to fly these days than it was 15 years ago. That probably goes for driving as well, even if not for the same reasons. While I do not think we should sit and let people attack us, I do think that we civilians should have some confidence in the people charged with protecting us (i.e. TSA) to do their jobs. Frankly, I still think flying is safer than driving, even with the rise in terrorist activities. I think that there are procedures in place to help protect our public, but they can only be taken to a certain degree. If the US said “Hey, if you want to fly, you need to understand that you will be screened to the fullest degree (virtual body search),” there will be a huge backlash, because our country is so stupidly politically correct and scared to piss anyone off. This is not about trying to embarrass people by doing full-body pat downs at all. It is about protecting people on US soil. The fact that the airports have given people the option to opt-out of the virtual full-body screen for the full body pat down is ridiculous. There should be no opting out. If you want to fly, you should be willing to do what is necessary to make sure that you, your family and others are as safe as possible. What do you think?



It’s Been a Long December…

…And there’s reason to believe, that maybe this year will be better than the last….” – Counting Crows

         I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year to all my readers (all 2 of you) – I am sure it will have brighter outlooks than this last year. And hopefully this decade will be better as well. I must say, though, that it does not feel like we’ve changed years or decades. I am already forgetting to write 10 instead of 09 at the end of dating something. I really hate to recap all of the going-ons of the last year and decade, as you can tune in to most news channels to get that fulfillment. In addition, tune into most radio stations, and they will give you the year and decade in review of music. So at least that is covered. All I can say is that I hope this coming year is better than the last. Although it may be worthwhile to be somewhat realistic (some may call it pessimistic). While the economy and unemployment really can’t get much worse, there are some things, such as the environment and drug-resistant illnesses that can. Oh, go ahead and bitch that I am raining on the parade that is the beginning on 2010, but it is reality, and nobody seems willing to really deal with it.

             The fact is, the environment is doing down the shitter, and quickly. Some argue the global warming due to human impact, and others argue that global warming is a made up thing. Then there are some who think it exists but we have no real impact on it. And still others just don’t care. I tend to think that global temperature change will happen as it has for millennia, but yes, our ridiculous amount of emissions (worldwide, not just the US) and the general lack of caring by most of the world has also had an impact on where we are headed. And maybe, even if we stopped emitting all together, or at least cut back, it wouldn’t really make a difference, but what’s the harm in trying?

             In regards to my other mention – have you heard that drug-resistance illnesses such as HIV , tuberculosis, and MRSA are on the rise? Oh yes. Our antibiotic-happy country (and others) has helped over-medicate so many people that the result is that these diseases are now becoming resistant to the very medications meant to cure/treat them. Maybe, just maybe, and our country should be the first to do this, if we stopped being excessive in everything we do…maybe we wouldn’t end up with most of the problems we seem to currently have. Although we do have a history of doing something (overly medicating, selling weapons to certain countries such as Afghanistan during Charlie Wilson’s war) to try to aid/prevent/wipe out a problem (medical or otherwise) just to have it come back and bite us in the ass (uh…current day Afghanistan situation, newly drug-resistant disease for a couple examples). Oh well…it’s just the American way, right?