Thursday, March 31, 2005

Don't hit me...

...but you're not going to like what I have to say.

But first, hi, how are you doing, good to hear, yes - that is unfortunate, me?, oh I'm fine.

I do not think I express a view outside of the mainstream when I say that - in an ideal world - there would be no natural disasters, such as (of recent note) the tsunami and earthquakes in Asia. However, they have happened: sic transeunt motus mundi.

People are saying that this is the worst possible timing for the latest earthquake (8.7 Richter-wise), the earthquake which fortunately lacked a tsunami. The peoples and countries of South-East Asia are suffering (and will suffer, for the foreseeable future) from the last natural disaster: hundreds of thousands died, and all we can see is the physical damage. There could be no worse time for a natural disaster than fresh on the heels of another one.

But (and here comes the don't hit me bit) isn't this actually the best time for another natural disaster? [Remember: I said above no natural disasters would be best, but that's not reality. I'm not cheerleading for tectonic disturbances here.] If another natural disaster, of whatever form, magnitude, provenance, is coming to South-East Asia, I think it is far better that it comes now for two reasons.

The first is that in the current general state of terror which was created by the first tsunami, people are much more responsive to and much more aware of the dangers of the condition, meaning they know better any security procedures or when and how they should evacuate. If you compare a similar state of terror - London when the IRA was operational and murderous - people were more likely then to be aware of what to do should a bomb go off than they would be after twenty years of peace. Such awareness should only lead to more informed and better responses. Or examine the world today: we have a far greater knowledge of what to do in case of a terrorist attack than we did on 10th September 2001.

I'm not equating the deliberate murder of terrorism to the vagaries of natural disasters - but they do both create greater awareness of catastrophes and the appopriate responses to them. In a climate of heightened sensitivity to danger, we react better and more knowledgeably. Put it this way: a crisis climate means we are aware - after long periods of peace, we are complacent. No-one would say those in South-East Asia are complacent about their own safety now if another earthquake strikes, so it is better that it does when they know what to do - i.e., soon after the first one.

The second reason is that because the earthquakes and tsunami both affected the same area in quick succession, there has not been a chance to progress significantly with reconstruction. This is both good and important. Consider how much more dispiriting it would be to have rebuilt the entire of the affected areas only for them to be knocked over again. If Oxfam and all the other agencies with their volunteers had completed their regenerative works, surely there would be greater grief when they were all knocked down again? Ignore the cliché: hit a man when he is down - he's got nowhere worse to be.

This is not an ideal situation, but this is not an ideal world. Better we are attacked in our awareness than in our complacency. Better we lose nothing than our rebuilt fortunes.

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Please let me know your feelings - I'm interested to know.

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