May 12, 2013

Closing Act: The Bangladesh Miracle

You would think the miraculous rescue of a buried garment worker in Savar yesterday would at best be bittersweet. After all, it came eighteen days after the worst garment factory accident in history, the newswires filled every day in between with one agonizing photograph after another of either grief stricken relatives or corpses, paradoxically shrouded in brightly-colored fabric, pulled from the mountain of twisted rebar and concrete boulders and ash like it was Bangladesh’s 9/11.

To be honest, I can’t remember the actual scene of a disaster dominating the visual newswires this long (at least not for the past 11 years). Weighing the ratio of disaster to miracle rescue photos, of course, the rescue is like a blip. With the recovery operation nearing its end, however, I’m wondering if the miracle will actually function, in the West anyway, like a happy ending.

How could I venture so callous a thought?

Because the news media, and news photographs in particular, do not function in America as information as much as infotainment, as an offshoot of cinema even –recognizing that movie genres range from horror and disaster to crime, mystery and fairy tale.

The other reason for such audacity has to do with our society’s ahistorical nature. Whereas we all want to believe that the images of the previous eighteen days really matter, even imagining these appalling images as the catalyst for a paradigmatic shift in the working conditions of the garment workers in South Asia, I’m afraid that the conscience and attention span of the American media consumer is so tied to the warp speed of the news cycle, that those hopes might already be gone with the wind.

By the way, would even Hollywood dare to imagine the young woman, Reshma Begum, would be so beautiful?

w/ inspiration from: Jens Elmelund Kjeldsen.

(photos: AP. caption 1: Reshma Begum lies on a stretcher after being pulled out from the rubble of a building that collapsed in Savar. Soldiers at the site described her as being in remarkably good shape despite her ordeal.)

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Michael Shaw
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