The other side

What has been missing from the coverage of MH17 has been the impact on the Ukranians. THe way it has been depicted until I saw this article in the New Daily was that it was a solely western tragedy perpetrated by an evil “other”. The Ukranians to date have been depicted drunken callous marauding looters with little regard.

And while it was an evil act perpetrated on innocent people, there is a  silent story,  the villagers, who as it was described, had bodies falling out of the sky onto their homes, and body parts scattered around their homes. These unfortunate people are also in the traumatic grip of a civil war, and constantly under threat. For them, with the exposure to death and mutilation, will increase their risk of post traumatic stress disorder.

It is possible that these stories are now emerging because this is a new angle for journalists to report on. This seems to happen a lot. THe very good Denis Mueller report into the reportage after Black Saturday talks about journalists not wanting to file stories because they already had enough stories of a particular type.

Similarly, most of the reporting post Bali was focussed upon Australians and westerners, and it was forgotten that the bombing happened in Bali, Balinese were killed, and livelhoods destroyed. It does stem, i think, from a simplistic rendering of disaster experiences, heroes,victims, saints, and sinners. Whether we need disasters to be presented in simplistic terms to enable us to get our head around them, I am not sure. Presentation of numbers (cricket scores as my colleague Tom Bamforth calls it), and good vs. bad. This simplistic rendering of the situation, as I have written before, leads us to think that there are simplisiic solutions to the situation.

We are certainty appearing to lose the capacity to articulate and process complex concepts (the recent election campaign attests to that, three word slogans, and talking points). Disasters and disaster recovery are one of those complex concepts where there are no straight answers. Of course there are the good reports, that get the complexity and nuance of the situation.

At least reports like this one go a long way to nuancing the whole story and humanising the people on the ground.

One thought on “The other side

  1. Fantastic post John. I am going to quote you in our psychosocial recovery training resources! Your thesis supports a discussion we have in our training of the complexity of emergencies and recovery. In this we examine how the mixed emotions and responses people have to the emergency event and during recovery can be difficult to understand. The fact that there is a level of expectation around the existence of ‘heroic’ and ‘villainous’ characters and of a logical straight forward recovery process, the interpretation of disaster often portrayed in mainstream media and pop culture, can add to people feeling at odds with the reality of recovery, misunderstood by those outside the affected area and self-blame that their experience does not fit this narrative. With recognition that the recovery process is not simplistic, and therefore there are no simple solutions, the complexities and difficulties that people are experiencing can seem more acceptable or at least understandable.


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