The tsunami disaster from a few weeks ago is of course very very bad. But in its wake, a weird sickly competition has emerged, one that is making me turn my back on the whole thing.

I’m of course talking about the stomach-pumping competition to display the most sympathy to those affected. Every news channel’s bobbing heads perform grand arias of ache; every organization of every kind feels the need to make a token statement of sorrow and support. And for what? Because (say) the City of Toronto (municipal government) has some intimate connection to Thailand? Or Dell Computers (whose web homepage features a reference) was all washed out in Sri Lanka? Of course not – but they all make noises about fundraising, ribbons, generosity, and all that, exclaiming “give!” (and by the way let each organization collect some karma for its intermediation).

Stop it already!

It’s nice and all to encourage us rich first-world folks to send some money or whatever over there. But every bloody organization hitting us up at the same time is, if you excuse a pun, an overkill. It’s like that scene from Airplane!, where wave after wave of charity beggars leech themselves onto passengers. The response of Robert Stack’s character, punching and kicking his way through the do-gooder gauntlet is becoming metaphorically apropos.

There are a few positive signs of course. The military effort has been massive (despite the UN’s interference). Doctors Without Borders announced a few days ago that they don’t need any more funding for this crisis. They are honourable and don’t wish to quietly accumulate cash for other future projects — something very likely on the slightly opportunistic minds of those other charities who crassly bemoaned D.W.B.‘s “thanks, but no more” statement.