On December 26, 2004 the world experienced the most devastating natural disaster to hit the Indian Ocean. It was classified as a tsunami, a tsunami holding immense power equivalent to the destruction of three nuclear bombs. Tsunami waves can become more than 30 feet high as they come into shore and can rush miles inland across low-lying areas. The death tolls were astronomical causing much grief, pain and depression throughout the world. “Estimates of the total toll from the eleven countries hit by the disaster range from about 162 000 to 178 000. Tens of thousands more are missing and many are presumed dead.” (The star, 2005) A similar situation did occur in the past where a similar atrocity erupted on the Pacific Ocean. It created disaster along the Chile coastal areas in 1960 and killed many civilians but not nearly comparable to the death toll caused by the vigorous Asian tsunami.
Reading in regards to the tsunami that had occurred in Chile, I find myself in a predicament wondering why warning devices were not established over the oceans to prevent this disaster from ever massacring a portion of the world’s population. In a macro level sociological perspective, the world has determined the Asian tsunami to be a crisis which has stricken the world emotionally and physically. It has been established that Sri Lanka and Indonesia suffered the most losses. At the moment the globe has unified to attempt to produce a sudden recovery for all the countries affected. The crisis has the entire globe involved with international matters such as foreign aid, re-development of the shattered countries and any other matters regarding the existence and protection of human life. I intend to focus on the world’s adaptation to the Tsunami disaster and also explain the effects of the tsunami through a sociological perspective by focusing on the role of Media, corruption and poverty.
The role of mass media has conquered the transmission of communication and applied to most significant effect on post tsunami. Mass media comes in many different forms such as television, magazines, the inter-net and etc. There has been no natural disaster with the same impact as the Asian tsunami in more than 40 years. The media has globally and domestically telecasted information based on the aftershocks of the Asian tsunami. An example would be supplying the countries hit by the tsunami and of course, the remainder of the world with the total number of deaths, injuries and missing persons. Not only has the media entirely focused on aspects related to the suffering of post tsunami, they have engaged in efforts to supply and increase the amount of social aid. The media played a vital role in the amount of donations individuals, as well as countries invested to the tsunami relief fund. In today’s society, it is fair to say that the media is the most powerful entity that influences decisions at the micro and macro level. In the newspaper article by Margaret Wente, “Goodness and guilt have Canadians giving”, was a perfect example of the media motivating the public to assist the tsunami relief aid.
It was incredible to see members of a local community give whatever change saved up to the local tsunami fund. For example, from the article, it stated, “This money was for our trip in March, about $200.We would like to give this money to help the people who were injured by the tsunami.”(Globe and Mail, Jan 4, 2005) Reading this statement, as a human, I was compelled to give a similar donation to the Asian tsunami relief due to the media’s attractive tactics to engage readers in experiencing the giving feeling. From the same article, you can distinguish that the communication between countries has enhanced during post tsunami.
Countries have sent aid relief workers to all countries injured by the tsunami which has strengthened ties and communication. For instance, Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) spent months with their operation in Sri Lanka to help improve the quality of life in countries such as Sri Lanka. The Media portrays Canada’s peace keeping will and “helpful” culture which has been defined as one of Canada’s ideologies. The United States have also marshaled a fleet of aircraft carriers and helicopters to deliver relief supplies (Globe and Mail, Jan 4, 2005); not to mention the doctors and nurses representing nations from all over the globe taking time to volunteer their services in the shook countries.
I stop to wonder though, would we, the people of this world have compassion and the will to donate any money if the media did not possess the power to influence or motivate? As it was clearly stated by Johnson, “What happens when the camera crews go home?” (Globe and Mail, Jan 4, 2005) The media has become an institutionalized necessity with the western culture. From a sociological perspective, the media plans and organizes what the world should hear and know. “Those deaths are mostly invisible to us, and those people died one at a time. They were not swept away by an ocean wave before our eyes on CNN.” (Globe and Mail, Jan 4, 2005) As you can see it clearly stated in the article that if the media did not display the tsunami massacre on television or any other sources of media, the world would be completely oblivious to the mass destruction.
Although it has been a great world effort to help the countries in need, matters such as AIDS has caused much misery in Africa, but the teamwork, the deliverance of aid can not be weighed against the relief aid given to Sri Lanka or Indonesia. For example, as it stated in the article, “Countless numbers of innocents have died in Dafur, too. At least, 10 times more people died last year of AIDS in sub – Saharan Africa. Don’t they matter, too?” (Globe and Mail, Jan 4, 2005) Basically the media decides, portrays, discusses what is important and worth focusing the world’s intentions towards.
During post tsunami, looking at the relief aid through a macro level, official pledges to fundraising groups have risen about 2.5 billion and Japan gave 500 million alone but the emotional issue of corruption arose. Sri Lanka, a country that is dominated with Tamils and Singhalese has been suffering from a bloody civil war for years. Although the Singhalese represent the minority, they occupy all government occupations and the Tamil population feels they are under the state of oppression. Even after the relief aid given to tsunami hit countries such as Sri Lanka, civilians of their country continue to be oppressed after this horrific incident. The reason why so many deaths occurred in Sri Lanka was due to corruption in the first place. Coastal cities such as Galle in Sri Lanka and Sumatra’s Banda Aceh were particularly vulnerable according to their geography. Corruption tends to exist in Third World countries or developing countries due to their government’s lack of control on the population.
As it was stated in How beaches became Death Traps by Craig Johnson, “Those decisions were made by high – level government officials who allowed the often illegal development of hotels and restaurants in ecologically sensitive coastal areas.” (Globe and Mail, Jan 5, 2005) Ecologically, it was a terrible area to create towns, villages and tourist attractions but due to poverty, many Thai people had no choice but to reside on the coastal areas to survive. Communication, transportation and emergency – response services were a major issue to coastal region societies which can lead to danger in a matter of seconds. The main issue that stands at the moment is people will risk their safety and lives to earn money which must be a popular mentality within developing nations but hazards such as these should never be committed. Although bribery was involved such as people receiving false documents stating legality in constructing tourist attractions was evident, no one could have foreseen that the price for these dreadful decisions would be so many human lives.
In the article Sri Lankans accused of abusing tsunami aid, by Shimali Senanayake it clearly stated only 30 percent of the needy have received supplies. (The Star, 2005) How can a country behave like this, even after an incident such as this? Personally I believe it is human nature, our greed and selfish behavior which cause us to become heartless beings if it means to better our lives. As it stated in the article, “Many still await the rice, sugar, noodles, milk powder and biscuits stacked in warehouses.” (The Star, 2005) After the tsunami, social norms and procedures must have gone extinct at least for some time before order was restored. It was easily identifiable that individuals with power and higher status had the ability to possess more without consequences being implemented. People who were unaffected by the tsunami were collecting food supplies based on their connections with local authority.
Women were refused from receiving milk packets for their babies although the stock was more than enough. If you give (the village officer) a bottle of arrack you will get state relief.”(The Star, 2005) Many took individual roles to aid and alleviate the suffering while others decided to take advantage of the tsunami, for example, earning cash by demanding bribes from survivors for death certificates of their loved ones. (The Star, 2005) Mr. Thakshana is one of the Samaritans which has taken a role to help the unfortunate and states, “I have tried my best to put things right, it’s a thankless job.” This is an expected social behavior during a crisis but there is no doubt they have accepted a large burden. Being ranked a low status should not prevent anyone from receiving help but unfortunately, it continues to occur in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and Southwest Thailand.
Poverty is the last issue that must be discussed. Although poverty can be correlated with the media and corruption, we must analyze the shock all countries will suffer in the future. Many of these nations encompass limited technology, which has increased their vulnerability to attacks or natural disasters. Limited technology was an issue prior to the tsunami attack, but the result after the tsunami has left them at a stage in which the country will suffer for years to come. A perfect example is Thailand, most of this country’s income is accumulated through its tourist attractions located within the coastal vicinity but at the moment, all tourist resorts have been destroyed and the country remains to discover how they will produce an equivalent GNP without the sites.
Due to limited technology, norms and behavior are less institutionalized meaning these countries have lengthened the process of being recognized as developed countries. It is evident the tsunami has made matters worse for these countries but on the other hand, the world wide donations given to these countries might give them reason to work on quickening up the process to industrialize. It can go both ways and we can only hope for the positive side but we will have to wait and observe. As illustrated in Johnson’s article, “Poverty tends to co-vary with poor nutrition, poor health and a lack of leisure skills such as the ability to swim.” (Globe and Mail, Jan 3, 2005) This explains the high death tolls and after reading that statement, I would definitely iterate it is important to rid poverty for the betterment of human life.
Overall this essay shows the effects the tsunami caused through the Media, corruption and poverty. It is interesting to analyze the way the world adopts to situations like the tsunami and change. The media has played one of the most vital roles of providing information and motivating the world in a macro and micro level to donate goods and services. The globe has adapted to the tsunami through different methods and the most important success has been the satellite sent over the Indian ocean to indicate any future Tsunami danger.
Corruption has played a hurtful role in the re development of the shook eastern countries but at the moment, investigations have been authorized and under way. Poverty is another issue that has caused much pain and grief but the future of these countries can not be predicted. It can either be a fast re- growth or the country economically suffers for years to come. Hopefully with god’s grace, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, and southwest Thailand can move through this atrocity in a positive manner and the world population continues to support one another during times of threat.
Courtney from Study Moose
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