Check out El Serenito's insightful blog about Phuket, Thailand, one of the areas hardest-hit by the recent tsunami. I've heard about Phuket for years now, too, as a white man's paradise playground. I remember in college, when one particularly rich white boy that I knew (who I actually had a twisted crush on at the time because he reminded me of Nicholas Cage) bragged about going to a different Club Med every year with his father, and maybe they'd try Phuket this year. "Fuck it, Dad, let's go to Phuket!" He said with characteristic college-boy sarcasm, his face glowing as he made his crude and not-very-funny joke.
El Serenito also writes that 2005 will be the year that everything is 'global.' Which makes me wonder: Isn't everything already Global? Maybe in the US we are largely unaware of the pain, suffering, beauty, joy and wonder that swirls around us in all the other places on the globe, but 'global' has been IT for quite a while now for the rest of the people we share this planet with.
The economic necessity of migration to the Global North for many poor people in the Global South, spurred on by US-backed policies such as NAFTA, the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, and the upcoming CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreeement), has made most people's lives on this planet very, very global in the last century.
Filipinos know this phenomenon well. Even I, a U.S.-born, never-been-to-the-Philippines, true-red Fil-Am, send money 'back home' so that my Lola can have some physical comforts and decent medical treatment in the province. Foreign (read: family) remittances are a cornerstone of the Philippine economy. Even when we are Stateside, we never lose the connection to the family back home, and many of us spend much time trying to figure out how to bring them over here, or at least how to support them in their poverty-stricken homeland.
But of course, their poverty is not 'separate' from our privilege. Like all things, they are connected. We would not be able to live the way many of us (although not all of us) do in the US without ensuring that the people in the Third World who manufacture our privilege were not in place. With our fancy cars and electricity all day and all night, with cheap clothes made in sweatshops in Chinatown or Malaysia or the Philippines, with kitchen gagdets made in China by badly-paid laborers struggling to eat, etc. etc. Yes, our privilege has a cost.
And how many of us are willing to give that up? I, for one, am ready and willing. I know I don't need Sopranos DVDs or a million CDs or clothes freshly bought from Macy's that cost me a hundred times more than a worker--probably someone that looks a lot like me--got paid to make it. I'd give all this up in a minute if I knew it meant bankrupting the system of imperialist capital that is driving our planet into death and destruction.
Yes, Leny and Jean and Bino, everything is interconnected, and we as humans with a great deal of privilege and power in this world need to use them responsibly, to build a better world. But what the tsunamis and their aftermath tell us, again, is that, as Gura states so simply, Mother Earth is in charge here, and we are at her mercy. Another poet, Ron Silliman, posts some examples of this other than the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster; events that we don't hear about but that are still affecting people's lives all over the globe each day.
And, yes, as Bino says, we must remember to smile. Especially now.
Poetry Saturday: Frederick Seidel
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