Latin America

On (Invisible) Emergencies

Most emergencies in the U.S. nightly news are conceptual in nature. Ed Snowden dumped (invisible) data from government servers. has (invisible) back-end problems.  Food stamp recipients risk their names being unrecognized or credit frozen within an (invisible) government database, depending on budget outcomes. Obama's administration placed (invisible) bugs on Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff's phones. In other regions, such as Latin America or other parts of the Global South, emergencies are often much more visible. Buildings fall. Parts of ceilings collapse.

Cars crash, and one catches fire. Bad rainstorms flood towns up to knee level, and dynamite downs whole shopping centers.

These are not 21st century problems. This is physical infrastructure, collapsing on purpose or by accident.

When I was in the Sao Paulo area a couple days ago, the nighty news ran a story about a neighbor who, in a heated fight with another neighbor, arsoned that person’s house and in the process lit their entire 90-house complex on fire. Let me repeat:an entire block, engulfed in wild orange flames. Watching the story, I found myself (in a sardonic SNL voice), asking, Did that just happen?

It serves as a reminder – beyond our #firstworldproblems like raising the debt ceiling and administering the knowledge economy – human beings live physical existences, and an emergency is an emergency. Whether you can see it or not.