Saturday, January 16, 2010

Earthquakes and Tsunamis...

Stormy Sea with Blazing Wreck
J.M.W. Turner, 1840

Have you ever wondered why some -- or even most -- of the world's most devastating naturals disasters always happen to the poorest of the poor? The Boxing Day tsunami, the earthquake in Pakistan, Hurricane Katrina, and now the earthquake in Haiti -- all have hit people who are already living in dreadful poverty and pitiable conditions. There is no infrastructure to sustain them and most of them lose whatever meagre possessions they have. Last night I watched as rescuers pulled a little ten-year old girl from underneath the rubble. She was frightened and crying, and the rescuers were obviously deeply distressed by her situation. Unfortunately, the little girl didn't make it, and she died shortly afterwards. She would have been roughly the same age as little Marigold, and my heart broke for the little girl. I wondered where God was in all of this. I want to believe, but sometimes I just don't. And then it occurred to me, that perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from this. We need to start taking care of people before these things happen. Perhaps that is the lesson we need to take from this. We turn a blind eye to the poverty-stricken areas even in our own countries, but it really is within our power to help. Maybe we are being bashed over the head to open our eyes and see these things. I was reading the other day that most people in Haiti live on $2.00 a day. That's less than the price of a daily Starbucks coffee, and goodness knows the world would be a lot better place without yet another stomach-churching Starbucks coffee. Maybe there is more we should be doing. Just a thought, anyway...



Jennifer D said...

Jo- I watched the footage of that little girl too, so sad. I have also wondered why the poorest seem to get the worst natural disasters handed to them. I often wonder where God is in all this but still all I can do is pray. It is amazing the amounts of money being raised, it is too bad we can't do more before hand.

kenju said...

We should be our brother's keepers, and it starts way before disaster hits.

Carol E. said...

I think you are exactly right in saying that the lesson to learn is to take care of people before such things occur. The reason poor people get slammed with natural disasters is because that is where the rest of us "let" them live.. in the low-lying, swampy areas, on fault lines, etc.

I would say God is right there in the compassion of the helpers and friends, and the tears of the people around the world and the massive efforts being made to respond. That's the heart and hand of God right there in action.

I just wrote two clumsy paragraphs that kenju said very succinctly in one sentence.

tinkerbell the bipolar faerie said...

God is. Always. We frequently blame Him for our failure to see Him. We have free will ~ meaning we've created the pain and suffering that exist in the world. What do we think God should be doing? Does he just sit there, beside that high powered telescope, waiting and watching for us to mess up, and then swoop down and fix it?


Kenju put it best. I wonder when we'll learn ...

Mary Anne Gruen said...

Absolutely. Even when we can't do much to help with the big things. We can do the small.

TomCat said...

Before the disaster hit, Bush and the GOP overthrew their government in 2004, blocked dozens of loans to develop their infrastructure, and facilitated the dumping of tons of US rice on Haitian markets below cost, destroying their farming economy and occasioning an exodus of farmers into the cities. They did not cause the earthquake, but they helped create the conditions that made it worse than it could have been. I'm proud of the world's generous response to the Haitian people, and support Obama's commitment to long term assistance.

A human kind of human said...

I have just read Duta's post on the Chernobyl disaster. Another poor area. You might just be right in you idea that it could be a wake up call for us to take care of our poorer (and weaker) brothers and sisters on Planet Earth. I often wonder if we really realise how many poor people there are in the world.


I'm sure all of us have felt the terrible 'blow' to our hearts, with this latest known tragedy. I say 'known', because for every one we hear about, too often there are many more that the news doesn't cover.

Since 2000 AD, I've been sending money to a small church in the Philippines each Christmas, so the children can have a celebration and gifts.

I also sent money to them when they endured terrible hurricanes this past year, as I did to a family in the Philippines who lives on $60/month. Since then, I've sent monthly sums of money to help each of them because the average income in the Philippines is about $70/month, so I can send each $40/month and that is creating
a substantial difference in their lives because they now can get needed medical treatment and proper food.

I also support a safe-house in Rapid City, SD, where (again) it's not just money but food items; clothing, etc., that helps them and I often buy good used clothing locally, and ship it to them.

There currently are 6,000,000 Americans who are living on nothing but FOOD STAMPS - they have NO INCOME from any other source, and 1.2 million of them are children.

Sadly, we don't create the same massive efforts to obtain assistance for those right in our own USA, and we could use the SAME MEDIA methods to raise funds for those in our country which I think would be wonderful.

In fact, I'm sure any major country who is well-developed and has the kind of mass-communication technology that the USA has, could do the same for their country.

Since our country allows tax write-offs for charitable contributions, this would behoove the very wealthy to open up their pocketbooks, and lend a financial hand.

Nevertheless, there are many more ways to help the needy when money isn't the answer. I volunteer at the food bank and at the childrens' center - I've always thought if people could at least volunteer BUT ONE DAY A MONTH, what a wonderful difference it could make in the lives of those who have much less than many of us do.

It's pretty easy to work within your own neighborhood to find ways to help - I've been doing this since I was 16 years old (through a boys and girls club I belonged to, and at the encouragement of the person who managed the club), so it's a way of life for me, and it's brought me as much joy, as it has to those who needed assistance.

I worked with the Vietnam Outreach program for 10 years; I have worked at homeless shelters in Washington; California, and Ohio. I've learned to understand the courage these people have; their resourcefulness they develop, and because of that I've been able to share my time, and feel as if I was given a wonderful 'education' about how this segment of society manages - they are truly strong survivors, and appreciative of everything.

Since I believe in evolution and not a 'god', I still call it the 'god-goodness' in us all, when we show compassion and love - when we help and care.......

Nature isn't 'kind' all the time, and nature has no idea that any person is caught in 'her' storms and fury, so I only wish that people could all locate where there is less chance for such things to happen to them, and avoid being in the path of those storms; earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.

Also, the actions of GWB truly did create a different kind of major havoc. Additionally, such cruel remarks that Pat Robertson made about Haiti having 'made a pact with the devil', makes me sick - he's supposed to be a 'man of god', and his outlandish and brutal remarks have stunned all of us who watch American television.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

It's impossible to understand why children are born only to suffer and die young. I think we are being shown that we do indeed reap what we sow and as you suggest, we need to start helping before an event of stupendous proportions occurs. Haiti has been a poor country for as long as any of us can remember, but it's simply too convenient to look the other way until there is so much devastation that we no longer can. It doesn't speak well of us and I know we can do better.

Mia said...

Natural disasters hit rich people too. It's just that their homes aren't usually made of sticks and tin. When I lived in California we heard about the mansions in Malibu sliding down the hills every year. The annual brushfires displace lots of rich and middle class people. Fortunately they don't have to resort to sleeping on the street.

There are a few countries in the world that take care of their poorest people. But that's not the "proper" free market way to do things. Since socialism is bad I guess it's better to let your own people starve as long as they have a one in a billion chance of becoming the next Bill Gates.

Barry said...

Excellent thought, and I couldn't agree more.

I was also listening to a structural engineer talking about the buildings in Port-au-Prince being almost universally built of reinforced concrete, which has no give at all during earthquakes.

When rebuilding starts consideration has to be given to earthquake resistance structures, at a minimum.

Belizegial said...

Jo, it is said that sometimes good things can come from bad events. I saw somewhere that Angelina Jolie is contributing US$1 million to the Haitian relief fund.

Yes, we have all turned away from the poverty in Haiti. Now, we are all forced to sit up and take notice and believe me, we all are. The eyes of the world are on Haiti and much good will come out of this. I have faith in all humanity.

Shriram INC. said...

i have been a victim of an earthquake which struck gujrat,India in 2002. The disaster has given me memories i can't forget for the rest of my life. Since that day whenever i read something about a natural disaster i tend to get deja vu. There were millions of innocent souls,rich and poor, killed during the catastrophe.

But i was also a victim of communal riots which happened in the same place.The riots i believe would have affected more than a million people directly or indirectly. The damage done was equivalent to or perhaps more than what the nature brought along!!!

The point i am trying to make is that there is nothing we can do about natural disasters, scientifically and logically. But the violence which has crept into the human psyche, the damage caused due it, is more disturbing and terrifying.

God has his scales which he uses to measure the whole of humankind. If we were to stop causing destruction to ourself perhaps those scales would tilt in our favor.

God helps those who help themselves...and punishes them who vouch for pain infliction by oneself or by others of the human race. Nature has nothing to do with the disasters being talked about. It is KARMA!!!
I hope you reason with my point of view, madam. Have a good day.

A.M. said...

God is! nicely put by tinkerbell the bipolar faerie. Sometimes God uses the worst situations to bring out the best. I agree that more should be done, 4 days for help, o it seems too cruel. Please everyone give that can.

Bad Little Woman said...

Is Japan a poor country?
What about California? Is California a poor state? There is always some earthquake and fire there.

Did Katrina devastate a poor country?

Did you forget the bushfires in Australia?

Europe suffers with heat waves.

Snow storms kill people here in US.

Natural disasters don't choose. They happen everywhere. No one can say "I'm safe".

Kathryn said...

I've heard the argument, Jo, that it isn't God who fails in these situations, people do.

Not to get into a highly controversial debate, but i found the concept very interesting.

the walking man said...

Industrialized nations of the Western Hemisphere have long been engaged in Haiti on every level yet their own corruption diverted the aid of the assisting nations away from the people it was intended to help.

That said, yes this is a monumental human tragedy and we as a common culture upon the planet should do all we can to aid our brothers and sisters in this dire hour.

Yet if after this there is no basic and fundamental change in the Haitian system of governance with its pervasive corruption, we will simply be restoring the same structure as the one the earth has now removed for the moment.

Land of shimp said...

Natural disasters don't discriminate. The impact can be much worse in countries where there aren't ready responses available, because those supporting systems take not only money to establish, but at least a semblance of stability to keep in place. That isn't a judgment, it is just one of the harsher realities.

I'm so glad the world is responding to Haiti and providing aid. There are people all over the globe reaching into their pockets, donating, trying to help.

The question of a higher power is always a difficult one. On the one had, it's natural to see a tragedy like this happen, and have the question be, "Why would a higher power let this happen to people who are already suffering?" but the other part of that is that people see the suffering in a far away land, and responded. It's at a fevered pitch right now, and this does bring aid to the country. It's not a good thing, but in the worst circumstances, people tend to reach out to one another.

So is it the absence of God that allows for the natural disaster? Or is it the presence of God that makes so many reach out, when it isn't having an impact on their own life?

I honestly don't claim to know. I have no answers on that one.

I think that a great many people do something, whether it is donating to a food bank, volunteering, sending money to countries suffering from poverty, giving goods to charities that then pass them on to people in need. I think most people do make some sort of effort to alleviate suffering of some kind.

It's just that when we begin to contemplate how much of it there in the world, we can become almost paralyzed in the face of the enormity of the daily suffering of so many. When there is a tremendous disaster, the world responds.

I honestly don't know what the answer is. I'm sitting here in my nice home office, on a comfortable chair, on one of several computers in my home, all with highspeed internet access. I'm well aware of how privileged and cushy my entire existence is compared to a very sizable percentage of the planet.

I guess the answer is to do what we can, and to be grateful for how spectacular are lives truly are in so many ways.

That's the other thing to remember, as we reach out, and feel for those suffering. The old "count your blessings" always sounds so trite, but truly, we live a fairy tale, everyday of our lives, and give little thought to that.

If you're warm, safe, dry, have access to clean drinking water, and something nutritious to eat -- that's considered wealth in many parts of the world. Start adding up the luxuries in your life -- a hot shower, indoor plumbing, light at the flip of a switch.

That's material luxury though. Just looking at the people in my life, and around me, some are grieving, some are battling horrible illnesses, others struggle to pay their utilities. I'm also thinking of someone I know who has waged a lifelong battle with Bipolar disorder and how she's going through one of the horrible valleys that her medication can't quite touch. Where even her thoughts cause her such pain.

There is suffering that goes beyond the lack of material goods throughout the world. It isn't a contest, of course, and any person with sense will say, "Yes, but those forms of suffering are much easier to deal with when you have access to food and shelter!!"

It's such a complex issue, just as one "for instance" the production of Ethanol as an alternative fuel source turned out to have huge reaching implications on the world stage. I'm only bringing that up because when we start breaking down the reasons that extreme poverty exists in the world, in at least one instance we accidentally worsened a problem elsewhere.

Land of shimp said...

There is such complexity to this issue, resources, governmental structures, the fact that lives elsewhere are sometime the victim of our choices without our realizing it. So it's huge spectrum and the world stage is almost staggering in its complexity.

So we go back to square one, because the complexity of that problem is beyond mammoth. Square one being that when something like this happens, those of us who live such incredibly privileged lives do what we can to help, because we do care...but with so many complexes issues before us...sometimes it is hard to know where to turn, and we do what we can, hopefully with gratitude for all that we do have, and the fact that we have something to share.

Jo said...

Jennifer, yes, it just seems to me that it is the more unfortunate people of the world who get hit the hardest.

Kenju, yes, I do believe we can do more to help people beforehand.

Carol, yes, it is a wakeup call for the rest of us. And unfortunately, the aid we are able to give often isn't there fast enough, sadly.

Tinkerbell, "Does he just sit there, beside that high powered telescope, waiting and watching for us to mess up, and then swoop down and fix it?" Oh, goodness, I totally agree. But if an earthquake is called an "Act of God" why does He consider it necessary to wipe out so many innocent people? That's the part I don't understand.

Mary Anne, yes, even the smallest amount of help is good. I think it is a lesson to us to help each other out. The world is coming to Haiti's aid now, but Haiti needed the world's aid before the earthquake too.

Tom, did you see the three presidents on TV yesterday? Of the three of them, Bush looked extremely uncomfortable, like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. Now I know why! Thank you for explaining that. It's very interesting and very sad.

Anna, perhaps Haiti was a wakeup call. The wealthy nations of the world can be doing more to help the impoverished nations. They just aren't doing enough at the moment.

Diane, you always amaze me. You have more energy, and a bigger heart that ten other people...! "There currently are 6,000,000 Americans who are living on nothing but FOOD STAMPS - they have NO INCOME from any other source, and 1.2 million of them are children." How can that be possible in one of the wealthiest nations on earth?? I know about a year ago here in Vancouver a homeless couple gave birth to a baby, and when they left the hospital, they were homeless again. A newborn -- homeless! How on earth do these things happen?

Jo said...

Susan, "Haiti has been a poor country for as long as any of us can remember, but it's simply too convenient to look the other way until there is so much devastation that we no longer can." I wonder how many other areas we are ignoring, where the next disaster will happen, and where aid will reach them too late?

Mia, oh, yes. Capitalism is almost a religion, isn't it? Communism and socialism became such "bad words" during the cold war, that any suggestion of sharing the wealth almost becomes evil. It's so sad.

Barry, I do hope Haiti gets rebuilt properly, and not just in a slapstick fashion. I think the devastation would have been much less severe if they had been aware of earthquake construction. But, they're so poor, they couldn't afford it. That's what needs to change.

Enid, yes, I have faith in humanity too. People are inherently good, and want to help. But I think we need to be more proactive than reactive, and it's a hard lesson to learn.

Shriram, oh, goodness, I'm so sorry to hear you have been through so much trauma. You must get flashbacks every time you hear about these awful disasters. What on earth caused the riots? And yes, I do believe in Karma -- definitely...! But I believe in Karma on an individual basis. I can't believe the little children in Haiti had done anything to receive such Karma. That's the part that bothers me.

A.M., "Sometimes God uses the worst situations to bring out the best." Yes! That was the point of my post. We can all help each other, and sometimes we need to do it before disaster strikes.

Bad Little Woman, Katrina devastated the poorest section of New Orleans -- the 9th ward -- where people there lived in poverty. The really devastating natural disasters that claims hundreds of thousands of lives always seem to happen where the most unfortunate people live. The town I lived in was wiped out by a tidal wave, but because it is in Canada, we had aid instantly, and the people who lost everything ended up better than before. But places like Haiti are already on the brink of devastation even before these things happen, and thousands of people are lost forever.

Kathryn, yes, I agree. God is not to blame for the earthquake. But perhaps He is giving us a gentle reminder that we need to do more for people before these things happen.

Mark, yes, and the same applies to many of the very poor countries in Africa too, sadly. Maybe it was a stroke of providence that Haiti's "presidential palace" was reduced to rubble too. One of the poorest countries in the world has a presidential palace?

Alane, "So is it the absence of God that allows for the natural disaster? Or is it the presence of God that makes so many reach out, when it isn't having an impact on their own life?" Yes! You have distilled down the essence of my post, but you have said it much better than I could say it. Does God live within us? If so, I think we need to look around at the people who are less fortunate than we are, and try to help them before these things happen. As you say, there are many different types of misfortune. And yes, it is a lesson to "count our blessings". So many people I know are so fortunate, and don't realize it!

Tom Bailey said...

Small things can make such a big difference and you are dead right about that.

Thank you for sharing your insights and viewpoint.

Tom Bailey

Grayquill said...

I have many of the same thoughts.
So hard to understand

Paula Slade said...

It's times like these when the world takes a collective pause to remember all that is important if life - I hope the care and concern for helping those less fortunate has staying power in the weeks to come.

日月神教-向左使 said...