Saturday, October 17, 2009

Politics Takes the Plunge

From time to time, I've made posts to this blog in which I've criticized political activists, from environmentalists to tea partiers, for engaging in ridiculous theatrics to draw attention to one cause or another.  Such useless and distracting political gestures typically serve only to obscure real, important questions of value and obligation that lie at the heart of most policy debates.

For all that, political theatrics can sometimes strike a chord.  For some reason, I found this one particularly touching:

The photo is from Agence France-Presse - Getty Images.  It accompanies an AP story filed at 10:27am ET today, which appears on the website of the New York Times.

This is a meeting of some members of the Cabinet of the Maldives, the small island nation in the Indian ocean the very existence of which is threatened by a rise in sea level.  They met at the bottom of a lagoon, about 20 feet below the surface.
With a backdrop of coral, the meeting was a bid to draw attention to fears that rising sea levels caused by the melting of polar ice caps could swamp this Indian Ocean archipelago within a century. Its islands average 7 feet (2.1 meters) above sea level.

''What we are trying to make people realize is that the Maldives is a frontline state. This is not merely an issue for the Maldives but for the world,'' Nasheed said.

As bubbles floated up from their face masks, the president, vice president, Cabinet secretary and 11 ministers signed a document calling on all countries to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.
So, I wonder, what is it about this little bit of drama I find so impressive, while the histrionics of the American left and right only draw my scorn? I'm not sure. I'll have to think about it.

Perhaps it's just the calm deliberateness with which they carried out their stunt, the direct focus on the One Big Thing that is at stake for the Maldives. Maybe it's the sly, almost Python-esque absurdity of the thing.

The story quotes President Mohammed Nasheed.
''We have to get the message across by being more imaginative, more creative and so this is what we are doing,'' he said in an interview on a boat en route to the dive site.
It 's probably not quite that simple.  Maybe it's because the Maldives really do have a lot to worry about, and I'm sympathetic to their plight.  Meanwhile, the antics of American activists, on one side or another, seem all the more ridiculous when so little seems to be at stake for them personally.  It's hard to feel sorry even for 13,000 bloggers, for example, or all the people who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice of turning out their lights for one hour once a year.

No comments: