For the last twelve days it’s been hard to think of anything except the earthquake in Christchurch. I haven’t lived in Christchurch in almost a decade, but it’s where I went to High School, and my family and most of my High School friends still live here.
I did the feeling numb and shocked, and then I did the feeling scared and helpless and tearful, and now I’ve moved on to the feeling angry and outraged, which is kind of my default setting anyway.
I know that I use anger as a coping mechanism, and I know that it’s just way easier to feel angry at someone, than it is to acknowledge that sometimes things happen that are beyond anyone’s control. I guess that’s why so many people have been so fixated on punishing looters.
But I think plenty of my anger is justified. Because while it’s true that an earthquake is an unpreventable natural disaster, the impact a natural disaster like this has on people’s lives isn’t inevitable. It’s a product of political and economic circumstances. Right now there’s a few things I just have to rant about:
the Capitalist Media
I haven’t actually been reading much of the media coverage. It’s too upsetting. I can’t handle seeing people’s suffering exploited and sensationalized like that. It’s invasive and insensitive.
After the Operation Eight raids in October 2007, after the first bail hearing for the arrestees, when they were denied bail, I walked out of the court in tears, feeling scared and confused and powerless, and immediately had about five photographers pounce on me to take photos. It was so horrible and invasive and disrespectful.
Christchurch after the earthquake is like that times a million. So many people have had their lives shattered, people they love killed, their homes destroyed, their jobs gone. They don’t need their misery being showcased like this. Show some fucking respect.
New Zealand is an affluent society. There is no shortage of resources. There’s no reason that people should be having trouble accessing clean water, or food, or accommodation. It’s just ridiculous that resources that are there aren’t getting to people because the money to pay for them isn’t there. It’s ridiculous that food is rotting inside supermarkets that are locked up and guarded. Capitalism is ludicrous in normal circumstances but right now it’s just inhumane.
Mostly it’s ridiculous there are so many people living hand to mouth in the first place. So many people whose homes or workplaces were damaged in the quake can’t afford to pay for accommodation, or travel out of Christchurch, or even buy food, because they weren’t earning enough money to have any extra left over for emergencies.
People all over the show have donated heaps of money, time and resources to help Christchurch, and that’s great. But just the fact that people in Christchurch are having to rely on charity makes me mad. Isn’t looking after citizens in need the state’s job? Isn’t that why people pay them taxes and obey their stupid laws? So that the state will take care of them in a time of need? If we have to organise aid to Christchurch on our own (which lots of people have been doing really well), then why have a state in the first place?
Everyone I’ve talked to keeps saying that the government is in a really difficult position and they’re doing the best they can, but the money to look after people just isn’t there. Apparently the government is so strapped for cash they might have to get rid of Working for Families and interest free student loans to pay for rebuilding Christchurch. But they still had plenty of money to send the military to Afghanistan, or to buy new limos for MPs. I guess we just have different priorities.
There’s been so much focus on looters, including a facebook page calling for public execution of looters, and Judith Collins implying that looters deserve to be raped in prison. First of all, there’s a huge difference between stealing from someone’s home because the earthquake damage has made them an easy target, which is a fucking scummy thing to do, and stealing from a shop, because you’ve got no food or money since there’s just been a fucking earthquake. But even in the case of people caught stealing from homes, it seems like everyone is quick to condemn without finding out the full story.
I could say a whole more, about crime and class and ‘law and order’, but I’m gonna save that to some time when I’m more articulate.
I know that complaining on the internet is not a particularly useful thing to do right now. Like lots of other people, I’ve been trying to do what I can from outside Christchurch, raising money and sending supplies. Like lots of people I’ve been feeling frustrated that I can’t do more to help. So this rant is mostly me venting some of that frustration.
Anger aside, people are doing some amazing work on the ground, sharing resources, distributing supplies, fixing houses, digging long drops and so on. Seeing the capacity humans have to look after each other in situations like this makes me feel hopeful and inspired.