It is hardly plausible to endeavor in describing the sorrow of the victims of the Asian tsunami catastrophe. Tragic depictions are being broadcasted over and over again throughout the globe. They moved the rest of humanity to give aid with deep sympathy and only a limited few that can empathize.
Nonetheless, this grand display that requires no Hollywood-style special effects started a touching and astonishing phenomenon. Subsequent to the world media coverage of the disaster, aid and assistance instantly flow as if being called by the cavalry trumpet. People from Jakarta to Amsterdam and New York bestow a bit of their reserves. Some are immediately busy organizing gigantic relief efforts. Journalists, reporters, and cameramen race without more ado to these areas that once were only known for their conflicts, but now made silent by nature.
The scale of the aid seems to correlate to the explicitness of the media reportage. Men and women from various lands voluntarily join hands to provide much needed help. Medical doctors, engineers, even decorated generals and state ministers altogether come down to the muddy used-to-be villages. It is the scenery that those noble people barely dreamed upon to work in during their early quests, but their hearts had spoken and duty calls.
Individuals from various races and nations blend themselves to help others. Their sweat and tears cleanse through the blood and corpses. The soil may stench, but the compassion and affection give a prevailing fragrance.
It is indeed comforting if we ponder that this unbearable horror gave birth to a splendid ambiance of humanity – perhaps even a celebration of it. A state where Hercules C-130 is not dropping ammo supply, but feeding the famished. Isn’t soothing to know that warships are not launching missiles, but nurturing the sick? A world where corporations don’t exploit the poor, but raise their expenditures for them instead. Even more, where the bullets of Tamil Elam, Free Aceh Movement, and the armies are no longer bustling but altogether holler to search and rescue the survivors. Finally, every nation concurs with no dispute: Arabs, Americans, Australians, Chinese and Japanese all raise the same voice: rally help!
Harmony. Human race tends to find harmony amongst themselves during times of grief and deep sorrow. Only then we appreciate others. Only then we comprehend that conflicts obliterate. And only then we become conscious of the true value of a human life.
Truly pathetic if such harmony and compassionate bonds only surface when massive misfortune outbreaks. Then perhaps it is not a decree, although it is a mere warning. Alas, we are a stubborn race that mostly hear but seldom listen, look but not see, and know but not think. Immense warning in the form of the tsunami may not last long either. It is a matter of time for the conflicts to arise again, from the issue of tied-aid, national sovereignty, or other international fiascos. Sadly yet possibly, rehabilitation projects of the tsunami area may be corroded by both bureaucratic and corporate rats. Budget for humanitarian aid may later be used to finance another raid. All these blunders await another disastrous episode, whether man-made or not. When that episode is anguishing enough then the whole cycle of mass harmony and compassions will be re-run again… and so forth.
Are we really that dumb? After millenniums of human civilizations on the face of the earth, through the bittersweet of time, and in the course of billions of conflicts? Conflicts that have been force-feeding us to taste abundant sourness from sword-tip to nuclear arsenal and even the stroke of pen. Why can’t we maintain this strong and sweet harmonious solidarity forever and for all? Once Aceh, Sri Lanka, and India are resolved, there are still millions of malnourished children in Africa, plenty more deprived people spread across the globe, and not to mention the ever deteriorating mother earth. Do we have to wait for another hundreds of thousands of casualties to grasp the righteous concept of peace, tranquility and congruous collaboration? The past century witnessed two world wars that left marked wounds and now nature is waging wars where we are unlikely to be the victor – have we not learn?
Will it be then for our own good if disasters of such scale continue so that we can always live in harmony? At the very least we will be annihilated by the unmatched force of nature and not by our own species – which one is more ignorant? …Rhetoric, isn’t?
-Rotterdam, during the last twilight of 2004
The edited version of this article was published at Pilars Magazine (Jan-March 2005) ISSN: 1410-6043 p.31