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Open vs. closed disasters

I’ve taken the title of Sharon Richardson’s post at JoiningDots because it’s so apt. She writes:

What’s weird from an information and context perspective is how remote this disaster feels, compared to other events such as the Tsunami, Hurrican Katrina and Sept 11th. (A similar effect happend with the earthquake in Pakistan.) Is that because Burma is such a closed society, meaning there are very few first-hand on-the-spot-as-it-happens pictures and videos? Research has proven that people connect more when shown a specific story rather than massive (no matter how scary) statistics. The tsunami also occured in a region with strict controls. Perhaps having a tourist spot complete with Westerners and their camcorders helped.

Maybe a more evolved consciousness would be unaffected by the particular stories and the particular videos, for rationally we know that the disaster is a disaster whether or not there happens to be film at 11. Or maybe our atavistic reaction to personal stories is a necessary part of our being moral creatures … so long as we still make the donation even when, in the absence of stories, only pure reason moves us .

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4 Responses to “Open vs. closed disasters”

  1. Global Voices is an excellent counterweight to the raw statistics. The Myanmar feed is at
    Also, having visited some of my spouse’s distant cousins in Yangon over the winter, and been in touch since, I can say that, in addition to means like Avaaz’s, there are cross-border efforts underway, but they are happening via sub rosa family networks.

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