Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Earthquakes and Nationalism Disasters

The earthquake in Sichuan region was truly tragic. Tens of thousands died, tens of thousands are will probably never be recovered, and what the news doesn't report is that the worst-hit areas were already extremely impoverished. The cities stood up comparatively well, but the cheap, poorly built structures (especially the schools) in the surrounding areas completely flattened. 

But perhaps the more sinister side of this 天灾 is its exploitation in the name of nationalism. Nearly every TV channel has been running 24-hour coverage of the earthquake, but you can't watch for more than a minute without seeing footage of the Prime Minister shouting nationalistic slogans or people holding hands singing Communist-era nationalistic songs. You never hear about the international aid. 

In fact, there are text messages and emails circulating around the Chinese community listing all the foreign companies that purportedly haven't donated any money to help the earthquake. They're the typical targets - Walmart, McDonald's, Louis Vuitton, Carrefour, and others. A quick Google search finds that with the exception of Louis Vuitton (who I couldn't find a donation for), the others joined quickly in the aid efforts. I hate McDonald's as much as the next American concerned about our country's health, but give credit where credit's due. 

You can argue that nationalism in America increased in a similar way after 9/11 (and irrational nationalism at that - Freedom Fries, anyone?), but here it's all so manufactured by the state that it can't help but leave a bad taste in your mouth. China has so much to offer, but accepting others help and then pretending it never happened isn't going to help anything.

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