Natural disasters can wipe out towns, even cities and thanks to technology we can view this from a distance and perhaps connect with the deeply distressing images of destruction. Our hearts go out to survivors and our responses can vary from detached and disinterested to sincerely moved heart felt sympathy. Immediate action aims to ensure suffering is minimised and the call to our sense of humanity reaches beyond our ideas of boarders and boundaries. It’s a wonderful thing, no question. Recovering, rebuilding and keeping communities like this together are and should be a priority.
But what if a town was wiped off the map by an unnatural disaster posing as a natural one? No I’m not talking about some form of weather technology creating a super storm (and I’m not saying that’s impossible either). I’m referring to a form of economic euthanasia that is a term used in a variety of ways (veterinary industry for example), but here I am using it to describe the concept of communities being considered no longer ‘viable’ to be ‘put out of their misery’ because they are not as productive, falling dangerously close to the debit side of the ledger. The town I grew up in (Thames) was recently paraded and parodied in the media along this line, so its hard not to feel personally offended as though where I am from has no meaning outside of this.
Let me put it another way. Where did you grow up? What is your turangawaewae. I don’t use that term lightly I use it with intent and respect. Value existed before the invention of money and yet the artificiality of the monetary system has been magically rendered invisible. Could you imagine the media responding to a town or community being devastated by a flood, tsunami or eruption with ‘well – no-one goes there anyway’ I’d like to hope even the most empathically inept would be astute enough to keep quiet although there are one or two I might not be so sure about.
I’m bothered by the trend to couch our lives in financial terminology and frameworks. The measuring of worth this way is so pervasive that we don’t even notice how often we account for our lives almost literally with fiscal language infiltrating almost everything. The weather forecast is preceded or followed by an economic forecast on news channels paralleling and surreptitiously inviting us to consider both as natural phenomenon that we are simply at the mercy of. From pre-conception to the grave our value is carefully calculated according to our contribution to GDP.
So it is not a hard stretch to imagine extending this to a whole community. If it is valued purely for its productivity then the cold rational book balancing mentality can legitimately argue for it being – well – ‘put to sleep’. We seem to want people and communities to function and fit a particular model effectively shrinking and limiting our appreciation of the quirky, small, and unique. Credit where credit is due to fiscal laws rather than genuine appreciation of diversity could be the true cost to society.
I’m no Marilyn Waring but I smell the stench of rotten economic values. Life shouldn’t need to make cents because worth is everyones business.