If troops in Christchurch were being asked to drive water tankers, or were involved in searching tumbled down buildings, or in distributing some form of aid, or running temporary repairs on roads, or temporarily shoring up shaky structures, or any other form of humanitarian assistance then their presence would be understandable.
But they were deployed to enforce a curfew. A curfew!? Where exactly was the breakdown in civil order that justified such a move? And at what point was it decided that earthquake survivors constituted a threat to civil order and were to be treated as an enemy?
And why is nobody questioning this casual usurping of civil authority?
Further, if it was so crucial that the CBD be shut down for safety reasons, then why did the exclusion not extend to absolutely everyone at all times? Why were property and business owners allowed in? That indicates that the danger was considered to be somewhat less than unquestionably life threatening, no?
Which all leads me to suspect that some petty minded and somewhat inadequate civic leaders (egged on by media types?) have got all carried away with themselves.
Real disasters have looters. Real disasters have troops. They know this because they have been told that these things are present in real disasters… like Haiti or New Orleans.
And so led by preconceived notions we get the missing bits manufactured for us. First we get the looters. And then the troops. And… viola! We have a real disaster. And political leaders get to be humbly prideful ‘big men’ stepping up to ‘take charge’ of a real disaster rather than a mere catastrophe.
And the media dutifully runs to these self appointed figureheads and reinforces a culture of abeyance to them. Which I have a real problem with. Because on the building front, I want to be informed by a structural engineer, not a politician. On infrastructure, I want to be informed by a civil engineer, not a politician. On the health front, I want to be informed by a medical professional, not a politician.
Nobody needs information delivered in a ‘Chinese whispers’ environment. The politicians are not experts and are in no position to answer searching or intelligent questions that specialists could. They are not in charge. Not in any meaningful sense of the word. And their developing role as sole mouthpiece and figurehead only contributes to reducing a real catastrophe to a tawdry and disastrous soap opera of hype and sensationalism slowly unfolding beneath the real (though not banner) headline news of the day; the politicians’ media acumen and how that might serve them going forward.