stemming the flood of apathy

A couple of weekends ago I went to New York City for BlogHer, a big conference for bloggers.

That same weekend, in Pakistan, the disastrous flooding that had started a week before was getting steadily worse.

I’m embarrassed to say that over that weekend when I was in New York, the flooding in Pakistan was not even on my radar. While I can’t say for certain that it wasn’t mentioned, I just don’t remember anyone talking about it. Even at the very activism-oriented sessions that I attended. It could be that I was caught up in other things, or it could be that everyone else was, too.

During the 2 days that I was staying in comfortable hotels, and feasting on the elaborate buffets courtesy of corporate sponsors, hundreds of thousands of people in Pakistan were already left homeless, and millions more were affected. Over a thousand had already died.

In the following week, I know that I had seen an email come in from UNICEF about the floods, but I didn’t spend much time looking at it. I confess that it wasn’t until I was glancing at a newspaper left on a table at my in-laws’ house last weekend and read an article about US aid to Pakistan that I really became conscious of the magnitude of the flooding, and reflected on how little I had heard about it. I know that some of this is because I was travelling, and preoccupied with personal business. I was too busy with kids and family to spend more than a few minutes a day online, and I don’t generally watch TV. But somehow in those few minutes a day online I read about other things. I read far more, for example, about the controversy about the proposed Islamic community center in New York City. (You know, the one that’s not actually a mosque, nor actually at Ground Zero.) And I can’t help but feel that the lack of widespread concern over the one story and the furor over the other are related.

Now, more than two weeks after the flooding began, the crisis in Pakistan is still growing, with 8 million people urgently needing humanitarian aid.

I know that I am not alone in my concern, nor am I alone in being disturbed by the unimpressive trickle of response to these catastrophic floods. I think it’s important for those of us who do care to do what we can to express our concern, and show the people of Pakistan, and the world at large, than many of us care at least as much about the survival of their children as the fate of a building that once housed a Burlington Coat Factory.

So, you may be wondering why I’m bringing up a conference I attended. Well, for one thing, things that happened there have been on my mind a disproportionate amount of time compared to world events, and that does not make me proud of myself. For another thing, thanks to the kindness of a couple of generous friends, I didn’t need to get a hotel room of my own for the two nights I was in the city, as they let me use the extra beds in their rooms. Both turned down my offers of contributing to the hotel bills. So, I feel like I had a bit of a windfall. And I have decided to donate the equivalent of what I might have paid for 2 nights of hotel in New York City to organizations who are actively providing humanitarian aid to the survivors of the floods in Pakistan.

I donated to IRC and UNICEF, two organizations I have previously supported, and who are already on the ground in Pakistan. I know that there are other worthy organzations at work in Pakistan, such as Doctors Without Borders. If you would like to recommend any others, or any other ways of either helping the situation in Pakistan or voicing your concern, please share them in the comments.

11 thoughts on “stemming the flood of apathy

  1. I will simply say this: I am honored to be called your friend.

    We support Doctors without Borders. I searched for intransitives for aides specifically for Pakistan flooding on and could not find any. Perhaps I used the wrong keywords. But the lack of attention given to this “worst disaster ever” according to UN is indeed disturbing. Not surprising considering how there are more and more noises in our beloved nation talking about how having UN here is unconstitutional and how we should get rid of it. I need to stop talking now. Sorry about this since I began by saying I would only say a little…

  2. but I am SO OFFENDED by the idea of a mosque at ground zero, I can’t think of anything else. even though I don’t live in NYC, at least it’s in my country, and it offends me and I have to put all of my energy into not actually learning about the center, but still voicing my deep seated hatred and fear of the other… i can’t possibly be bothered to think about anyone dying TODAY. I mean, think of those people who died on 9/11. 9 years ago. we can’t forget about them. I won’t. I have principals.

    you are just a left wing nut.

    (thankfully, i know you’ll read the sarcasm dripping from this comment)

  3. Alejna, thanks for posting about this. I had a sort of similar thing happen to me yesterday where I read about the staggering magnitude of the disaster and wondered why it hadn’t been on my radar screen yet. I read somewhere that an area the size of Italy is under water, that it’s something like 25% of Pakistan’s area. (However, I don’t remember where I read that, so I don’t know how reliable the source was.)
    I donated through Global Giving, which “connects donors with community-based projects that need support”. I’ve donated to Doctors Without Borders in the past, and I think they do great work, but they are also a very high-profile organization that gets a lot of donations. The ones Global Giving supports, which are pre-screened, are generally small local organizations and projects, ones that have a harder time getting funded but can do essential work in communities that international organizations don’t always serve. I’ve donated through Global Giving before, to various projects, but yesterday I picked one of the several Pakistan flood relief charities.
    They are up-front about the fact that up to 15% of your donation may go to the administrative overhead of providing the website for donations to go through, but you can pay that part yourself if you want so that the rest of the donation goes directly to the organization you’ve chosen. I think a certain amount of administrative overhead is legitimate and I like that they are open about it.

  4. Painted Maypole made me laugh. When I was in NYC for that same big conference, I found the amount of money that’s being made off 9/11 uncomfortably squicky. So goes capitalism?

    Why isn’t there more info about Pakistan? I always wonder these things. Like when Haiti had that earthquake and suddenly everyone was all, ohmigawd! they’re pooooor in Haiti! As if Haiti hasn’t been the most destitute country in the world for decades. I guess we only have a certain amount of emotional attention. And it all needs to be spent on Ground Zero.

  5. Our own lives often absorb us. Also, there is no shortage of misery in the world. You’ve done well to remember this event and contribute what you can. I believe if each person were to look after just one other person who is less fortunate the world would be a better place. I do this through World Vision –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s