The Ethics Of… Politicising Tragedies

Well they got all of those Thai kids and their teacher out of the cave. Hooray!

Image result for thai cave kids

Would normally provide a backgrounder for anyone who missed it, don’t even pretend you didn’t hear about this one.

And now that the formality of the actual physical rescue is all wrapped up, it’s time to get down to the really important stuff: hijacking the situation to make a political point of 3.

Or three dozen.


This, ladies, gents, and those of a less conventional identity, is Rowan Dean, and he said the following as part of his spot on Sky News:

“Those kids would not be alive if those pumps had been powered by windmills and solar panels. If they hadn’t had western technology in there. If they hadn’t had western expertise. It wasn’t a bunch of gender fluid divers that went down there. It wasn’t a bunch of touchy feeling identity politics, diverse and inclusive, unconscious bias mob that saved those boys lives. It was solid western know how and technology.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if you’re reading this blog then odds are good you find this sort of narrative pretty damn offensive. But the rights and wrongs of gender fluidity, coal power, western superiority, identity politics, and “unconscious bias mob” (whatever the hell that means) aren’t what I’m here to talk about today. No, today is about whether Ro-Ro up there had the right to use this disastrous situation as fuel for political causes he believes in.

To be clear on this, Rowan is obviously not the first person to do this, nor is his  side of politics the only ones doing it – in fact its fair to say that every single time a tragedy big enough for the news to cover occurs, at least one, and usually both sides of politics get up and make an attempt to use it for their own ends. The most obvious example of that is the now regular mass shooting that happen over in the USA. Granted most of those don’t get all that much press any more, but whenever we get a big one like Sandy Hook, the gap between the event occur and both sides using it to fuel their pro/anti-gun agendas can be measured in seconds, along with both sides also telling each other off for ‘politicising the tragedy’.

And the rest of that now, all-too-familiar script

But as I said before, this article isn’t about deciding if either side of these debates are correct or not, but rather whether using the tragedy to fuel their political cause can ever be justified.

On the face of it, taking advantage of a horrible incident where human being suffered and/or died would appear to be revoltingly unethical – essentially capitalising on the suffering of others to fuel ones’ own interests.

At best that makes you on-par with those asshats on social media who manage to make every bad thing in the world about them personally as a way of getting attention. At worst it makes you the equivalent of Dick Cheney and his ties to Halliburton – directly profiting off the suffering of others, giving him a clear, direct and very, VERY profitable reason to keep the suffering going for as long as humanly possible.

Trump’s a dangerous loon/puppet, but don’t forget we used to have the avatar of Satan himself as US Vice President. Dude wasn’t even trying to hide it.

 And while that is all true to some degree, it kind of begs the question why, if everyone is so clear that we shouldn’t be politicising these events, everyone keeps on doing it. Over and over and over and over again. Like clockwork, with absolutely no sense of irony.

Ultimately, I think the answer to this is really pretty simple; we politicise tragedies because tragedies are political.

Think about it like this: if a tragedy has occurred then someone screwed up. Now sure, there’s the obvious immediate screw up you can point at; a school shooting happened because the shooter decided to be a shooter. A bridge collapsed because of an unexpected flood. And the Thai caving disaster happened because of weather and some bad judgement by the adult in charge.

But these are just the tip of the causal iceberg – the bigger and far more important question was how those immediate mistakes were possible in the first place. What happened in society that lead to a young man choosing to deal with his problems by killing other people, and nothing preventing him from doing so? Why did the bridge design not take the possibility of flooding into account? Why did the flood occur in the first place? And with the Thai cave rescue drama, why was it even plausible that the team coach could take 12 kids down a cave without the proper gear, through a tiny gap, right before monsoon season?

Image result for thai cave map

Seriously dude, what were you thinking

Start following the causal chain and very quickly we go from ‘someone screwed up’, to ‘just about everyone screwed up in order to make this all possible’. And when we start talking about large scale sociological issues like that, we inevitably end up with politics – after all, employing rules, regulations and incentives to ensure the proper function of society is exactly what a government is for.

Involve the government, and you involve politics. And thus you get the reality where any meaningful response to a tragedy, intended either to understand what went wrong in the first place, or to prevent it from happening again, inevitably means bringing up politics and the vast, powerful, and often surprisingly idiotically simple ideologies behind the scenes.

So, is it ethical to politicise a tragedy, capitalising on human suffering to drive your pet agenda? On paper at least, the answer is clearly no. But when politics are so inherently tied up with any given tragedy, it’s also pretty much inevitable, because politics are inevitably going to be involved in trying to solve the situation. As such the politicising of tragedies fall under the category of ‘necessary evil’ – something we’d all quite like to avoid, but which we can’t really do without.

Unless, of course, we can. See the key component of ‘necessary evil’ is the ‘necessary’ bit – just because all tragedies are political doesn’t mean using them to drive your agenda is either necessary nor justified. So what’s the difference between considering the political causes and ramification of a disaster with the intent of preventing it from happening again, and just straight-up using the suffering of others for your own self-interest?

Pretty simple, really: accuracy.

The Thai cave disaster raises some very serious political questions for the nation around the health and safety standards of recreational areas, the training of those supervising youth that didn’t immediately rule out fucking caving as a post-match activity, the lack of infrastructure in the region that hampered rescue efforts and affects resident quality of life in general, and the importance of the international relationships that saw the influx of support from other countries to help out. All these questions are very political and relate directly to the causes and solutions to this specific tragedy.

You know what’s not relevant to this situation?

Pretty much everything that came out of this dipshit’s face hole.

What in the flying fuck does the gender identity of the rescuers have to do with this situation? Come to think of it, how the crap does Rowan know with any certainty what their gender identities are? What, did he establish a safe and loving relationship with each and every one of them, allowing them to trust him enough to discuss such an intensely personal and, potentially dangerous piece of information? I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s unlikely.

What does the debate between alternative energy sources and fossil fuels have to do with this rescue? Does Rowan seriously think that environmental activists would, if they could, refuse to allow diesel generators for pumping water out the cave because they use fossil fuels? And given the very real possibility he does believe that, does he have a shred of proof that it is in fact the case? And given this is all a purely hypothetical scenario, considering environmental groups had sweet fuck all to do with this rescue in the first place (because why the hell would they?), what does any of this have to do with the cave rescue?

And “western know how and technology”? Is Rowan aware that this occurred in an Asian country? Largely using Thai equipment and personnel? Obviously international contributions played a part in the process and are very excellent for doing so, but Rowan even finds a way to shit all over that – rather than praising the international ties that made such cooperation possible, or analysing the technological gap between nations with a view to improve Thailand’s capacity to effect such rescues alone, he’d rather jerk himself off over ‘western superiority’, tacitly taking credit for “know-how and technology” he personally has contributed precisely fuck all to.


Ever notice how the people who are most proud of their ‘culture’, contribute the least to it?

And best of all? Rowan’s assertion that “It wasn’t a bunch of touchy feeling identity politics, diverse and inclusive, unconscious bias mob that saved those boys lives”. Here’s a fun fact – the coach of the team helped his 12 children stave of the psychological harm of being trapped in absolute darkness for two weeks by teaching them Buddhist meditation techniques. Y’know, the exact sort of thing Rowan would doubtless consider ‘touchy feeling’ and not even Western know-how to boot!

Politicising a tragedy is an ugly, often harmful business, but it’s something we simply cannot avoid if we want to understand why those tragedies happen and how they can be prevented. But there is a vast difference between this ugly but necessary reality, and hijacking a crisis to make a totally unrelated point, which contributes nothing towards the discussion and worse, isn’t factually valid in the first place.

At the end of the day this comes down to one simple word: accountability. Attention seekers like Rowan Dean will always exist, and always have the moral flexibility necessary to see ever crisis as an excuse to push their barrow. Fine, it’s a reality and an unavoidable one if we’re going to explore the issues the way they need to be explored. But if these dipshits dare to open their mouths then that comes with the duty to be accurate, and the right for everyone else in society to hold them to account for that accuracy.

Rowan Dean owes pretty much the entire global community an apology and should probably have been sacked on the spot. But since Sky News lacks the figurative balls to hold their ‘talent’ to account, it comes down to us to demand better from those who would be our leaders, and tear them down in a screaming heap when they fail to live up to those not-so-lofty expectations.

5 thoughts on “The Ethics Of… Politicising Tragedies

  1. Well argued. I certainly don’t think we want to live in a world where tragedy and disaster aren’t inspiring people to want to make changes to mitigate and prevent such things from happening again. Many of the solutions to problems require legislation and large scale popular support both at the national and global level. Politics has to be involved. The two key parts here are 1) making sure we truly understand what happened and why it happened and 2) sincerity. This is where many of our politicians fall short. A politician can be right about the situation, but completely insincere about doing anything once elected and is simply trying to get votes. More often it seems 1) is the problem, and sometimes both 1) and 2) which makes things all the more infuriating.

    • Absolutely, Swarn, sincerity is a great point, though I do suspect some of the ideologues we see wading into these issue ARE sincere with their ridiculousness, which is all the more worrying.

      • True. I guess there are those politicians who sincerely believe in the garbage they are spewing. I think, to me, it almost seems unreal that somebody could go through a university education (at great institutions) like most politicians and come out the other side with some of the whacky notions they have. Which is why I guess I assume they are just doing it to exploit the votes of uneducated people, but it is clearly not the case 100% of the time. And yes that is the most worrying part. I wonder sometimes if Trump is actually a con man or not. I think at one time he was, but I think he has become the person for so long that he truly believes the shit he’s peddling.

  2. Pingback: The Ethics Of… The Pure Idiocy of Coles’ Little Shop | The Ethics Of

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