Cave rescue sequel (2)
Last Wednesday, I started to share some updates on the situation of the football team rescued from a cave in Chiang Rai province, Thailand, last July, spurred by conversations with Thai professors Chayaporn Wattanasiri and Romyen Kosaikanont of the Mae Fah Luang University (MFLU) in Chiang Rai, only a few kilometers from the dramatic rescue.
The professors focused on the response of the Thais, the most striking of which was the absence of any blame game. Professor Romyen (like Filipinos, the Thais like using a title like “Prof” or “Coach” with the first name of the person) noted that if this had happened in the United States, the coach would have been “dead meat,” the public descending on him with all kinds of criticism.
I thought that if the mishap had occurred in the Philippines, the coach would have been double dead meat, quick as we are to condemn people, especially through social media. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t; I can imagine people asking why he decided to be the last one to be rescued, or why he allowed the boys to go into the cave in the first place—and then capping thoughtless comments with a lame excuse—“Joke only”—which adds insult to injury.
The Thai response was totally counterintuitive: Even as the rescue efforts unfolded, the parents of the boys sent the coach messages of comfort and support, assuring the coach that they were not faulting him and thanking him for taking care of the boys.
There was more of compassion and self-sacrifice from the Thais. The MFLU professors told me several universities pooled resources to send a computer that could handle the processing of large volumes of data obtained from drones and GPS in the search for the team’s location and, after they found the site, to map out the rescue route inside the huge cave. The equipment has since been donated to the university.
Another example of this immense sense of shared responsibility came when large volumes of water had to be pumped out of the caves. Farmers in adjoining areas quickly agreed to the process, even if the water flooded their lands.
There seemed to be something for everyone to do: little acts that mattered in the big picture. Just one example that struck me: Students went in to help clean up the garbage. I’m always distraught when we have fun runs and marathons supposedly to help the poor or save the environment, and the participants end up leaving behind tons of garbage.
I’m not idealizing the situation. The Thais did have problems with media people early in the rescue, with the rescue mission director having to issue a stern warning to them after unauthorized drones were used and one outfit tried to hack into the police radio frequency.
What was important was the Thais being sensitive to the situation, with the welfare of the football players, and their families, being paramount. Prof Romyen told me a Code of Conduct was eventually posted in front of the cave, intended not just for the media. It was a set of simple ethical guidelines that we ourselves should consider whenever we have crises and disasters. Professor Romyen could not recall the exact wording, but her summary pretty much gives the spirit of the ethical guidelines. I’ve added some of my thoughts to each point:
Respect others. (So, so basic, but it seems that our default mode these days is to be as disrespectful, bastos in Filipino, as we can, complete with cursing to catch attention.)
No opinion is stupid. (Oh, but in the Philippines, including or especially in my own beloved UP, everyone’s opinion seems to be stupid, except our own.)
If you want to suggest anything, make sure it is doable.
Use human language. (That got me thinking; we all presume that language represents the heights reached by human evolution, forgetting that language also allows us to descend into the most despicable depths of inhumanity.)
We associate caves with cavemen and barbarism. On the contrary, this cave in Thailand brought out the best of what it is to be human.
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