4 packets of biscuits and a pair of flip flops

Flood.  Famine.  Earthquake.  Disaster.  It seems that in recent news, the world is tearing itself apart.  In some cases, such as the earthquake and related destruction in China, relief has been quick and a source of a revival of nationalism.  In others, such as Burma, the crisis is complicated by other political motivations.

What does it mean when a family of 14, is apportioned “4 packets of biscuits and a pair of flip flops’ as one of the lucky families winning aid from the government from the drawing instituted by the local headman?  What does it mean when villagers outside Rangoon survive on the charity of those within the city, rather than the direct aid being sent in by humanitarian organizations? We can talk about relative power, we can talk about foreign aid not getting where it’s supposed to be going, we can talk about various international perspectives on Burma’s military junta and what to do about it.  We could even write a book.  None of these discussions would come close to explaining who we are, or why we are mean to each other, occasionally even despite our best intentions.