A Different Class of Corpse
Aid requests from the different countries affected by the recent Tsunami have poured in. In most the need is for clean water, food, medicine, and shelter for the survivors. Bodies are being put unidentified into mass graves. There is not much call for aid for the dead.
Thailand has always been different. The Thai authorities have requested forensic experts to help identify the dead, body bags and temporary chillers/morgues for storage. The death toll in Thailand is somewhat lower, and probably more acurate than most, at 1,500 dead and the same number missing. Of these some eighty per cent are western tourists.
It strikes me that in the undifferentiated nature of this event, to be dealing with such different classes of corpse says an unfortunate lot about our world. Some of the dead have lived in a part of the world where they will use more resources in a year than their holiday hosts will in a lifetime. These corpses will be frozen and shipped home to have expensive funerals. Their deaths will consume huge amounts of resources too. The less worthy will be dropped from the back of trucks into big collective holes dug and covered by industrial machines or by even hand.
From before the waves hit, for the Thai authorities, coping with this disaster has been a case of managing the western sensibility. Mistakenly, the Thai authorities decided one hour before the wave hit not to publicise the oncoming deluge. Largely this decision was taken for fear of what the news would do to tourism. These facts will clearly make things far worse for the tourist industry than had they got the warning out and saved several hundred or thousands of the victims.
For the poor survivors coping with these events will be a long and difficult road but the human spirit is brave and the road can be followed. It does not matter if the skin of the body is pink or a shade of brown the brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and children of the dead feel the same pain. Those among us who have suffered losses now share something with specific members of the third world poor nobody could have imagined.