Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Spectacle of MH17
The spectacle of the crashed passenger plane MH17 spread across a ten kilometer radius in Ukraine, the charred ground and burnt bodily remains, the destroyed, scattered debris of the remains of the bent and broken plane, the passenger’s passports, carry bags, toys and clothing, together with fallen bodies eventually found in a sea of bright yellow sunflowers, has flashed across our screens. With each image, blackened earth, flames and smoldering objects that conceals the identity of human or machine parts. The indelible images of those poor souls enveloped in black body bags, black, black, the sky filled with dark acrid smoke from the impact and crash, the bags with corpses stacked unceremoniously on the side of the road. Such a contrast to that of the disappearance of MH370 in which there were no bodies and no plane found.
In those first moments when the news flashed on our screens, explained as destroyed by a surface to air missile, we imagined that the people along with the plane had been incinerated either on impact or cremated in the fiery blaze. The horror of the reality extended and explained by eyewitness reports from people who had seen passengers falling from the sky and their sudden catastrophic impact on the ground. Some would be found in the wreckage, some in the field, others amidst flowers.
How can we forget images of those who picked through the graveyard of blackened earth, a pit of unidentified objects, trampled upon and sometimes plundered for anything of value, as though those involved were concerned only with their own benefit, disregarding the fact that all the objects of the passengers would be of ultimate value to their friends and relations since those things were owned by them or worn by them and were the last things closest to them at their death, and not just ill gotten gains to be salvaged by a callous mob.
As tragic as this was, and still is, on the same day the Israel attack on the Palestinians and the countless deaths of innocent women and children ~ collateral damage like the innocent passengers travelling on board MH17. There are those who will say that the MH17 disaster is different for the passengers did not live in a war zone, but were accidentally drawn into a war not of their making. But is it different? Would not those that died, also have looked into each other’s eyes, or held the hand of their loved ones seconds before death (a statement made by the Netherlands about his dead compatriots this morning)?
The International AIDS conference held in Melbourne virtually coincided with the downing of flight MH17 and although it was brought into focus by the fact that six delegates who were to attend the conference were killed in the tragedy, news regarding the continuing battle against HIV/AIDS, the success of curing TB (a disease that kills many of those suffering with AIDS) and the challenges of educating and treating the millions of people who die in Africa (and elsewhere in the world), took a back seat to the repetitive footage of the circumstances of MH17 and the now blow by blow progression of attempts by various governments to bring those responsible to account. The spectacle continues on the world stage.
It’s understandable of course, for the media to flood our screens with information about the Australians who were killed in the crash (some calling it a murderous act, others say the passengers died through terrorism), for the reportage is personalized, the bodies then, not just anonymous pieces of flesh and bone or lumpy forms contained within plastic, they are someone like you or me, unlike those anonymous 36 million people who have died from AIDS or AIDS related conditions worldwide in the past thirty years and the 35 million (over 24,000 people in Australia) who continue to be inflicted and infected with the disease and who still feel stigmatized by their condition.
We continue to watch the spectacle of MH17, a morbid fascination or, a way to allow the horror to seep into our perhaps desensitized psyche? It is after all just another disaster and we’ve seen so many through our lifetimes.