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Re: [xmca] Bush fires

I followed Mark's excellent link and found this article, a riveting report of a family that barely escaped. It gives a sense of the speed and horror of these bushfires, and a reminder of the meaning of life.


Thanks for your superb report, Andy.

- Steve

On Feb 9, 2009, at 7:11 PM, Mark Chen wrote:

I never know what to say, but I thought that others might be interested in
photos of the tragic devastation:



On Mon, Feb 9, 2009 at 6:37 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

Just a short report on the bush fires in Victoria for people on xmca. Here in inner Melbourne we are 100% safe, and because of the strong winds which triggered the real devastation, we don't even see smoke here. But things are very emotional because the news is all around us. So far the death toll is 173 but may go much much higher. The whole state is a smouldering cinder box
outside of the city.

Most of the dead died in their cars vainly trying to outrun the flames which have been driven by strong winds, and leaping forward by cinders igniting tinder dry foliage and spontaneous combustion after 12 years of drought. Many people have left their homes, their animals and sometimes their spouses, with hardly a shirt on their back, later having nothing to
return to.

Despite all the grief, it is remarkable the spirit that is awakened in
people by a struggle against a natural enemy like this. Capitalism is
temporarily suspended as people whose neighbours have lost everything give everything away - supermarkets give away their stock, hotels accommodate people for free, people give away their cars if they can spare it and of
course most of the firefighters are volunteers.

Once people start to get back on their feet and start to see if the
insurance companies actually have the money to pay for these losses, I am
sure capitalism will return with a vengeance.

The commercial media try as hard as they can to turn it all into a witchunt
against fire bugs. Really, about 50% of fires have been ignited
deliberately. But people are just not interested at the moment. Blame is not
something people are willing to contemplate ... yet.

The fire culture in Victoria is "Fight or Flight." I.e., every person has to notify well in advance whether they are to be evacuated as soon as there is a fire threatening their home, or, they will stay and defend their house, in which case they get advice but when the fire comes, the firefighters flee
the flames and wish the resident good luck.

But this fire has been different. It is just so big, so unpredictable and so fast, that people have been caught unawares and unable to flee, or have stayed to fight and found that it is impossible to save their house, but too
late to flee.

Unlike the midwest USA where people live with tornadoes and have built underground bunkers, we have not had this culture. Some people did dig
bunkers and some of these survived, but some didn't too.

These practices will have to change.

Strange tensions too around the fact that police are sealing off areas where people have died to count bodies and secure things etc., but people
are left homeless and stranded in the meantime and this is generating

Also, as in previous fires, you see whole streets of houses (indeed entire townships) leveled, and then one lone house, with perfect white- painted weatherboard, an English garden, etc., etc., as if nothing had happened.
Very trying on the emotions such things.


Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/ >+61 3 9380 9435 Skype andy.blunden
Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:

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Mark Chen | PhD Candidate | Games ethnographer/researcher
Ed Tech/Learning Sciences | University of Washington - Seattle
My games research and life in academia blog: markdangerchen.net
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