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.

--

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

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Removing the tube

Morning

I am beginning to wonder whether we have woken up in some parallel political universe, where what established parties traditionally stand for has been overturned by vote-grabbing, publicity-seeking or (just perhaps) new beliefs founded on sane reasons. (Actually, I doubt the latter.) (Other political parties at some point - the Republicans have me thinking at the moment.)

So why am I saying this? The case of Terri Schiavo, the Floridian who has been in a "persistent vegetative state" (according to court-appointed doctors) for fifteen years, has prompted Republican leaders to attempt to rush through Congress emergency legislation which will cause Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube to be reinserted. The President has even flown back from Crawford to sign the bill - should it pass.

The actions of the Republicans are government interference in the lives of individuals, the sort of action the Republican party was founded to oppose. The Republicans claim 'big government' will not supplant individual freedom, but here a private matter has been turned into a political pigskin. More than this, the government is trying to overturn the independence of the judiciary, first with the Congressional sub poenas for Mr. and Mrs. Schiavo to appear in Washington (i.e. she would have to be kept alive), now with the putative bill. The Republicans use the hateful phrase "activist judges legislating from the bench" to describe any interpretation of law by judges which they disagree with (to wit, gay marriage in Massachusetts, Ten Commandments scupltures in government buildings, et al); I suppose this activist Congress legislating against judges is acceptable.

So why would the Republican party interfere, when their theoretical guiding philosophy has demanded non-intervention? (And we're not talking international non-intervention, since Central and South American and Caribbean governments have felt the gentle revolutionary touch of Republican governments - and Democratic ones too, in fairness [but Democrats at least do not stake a claim to non-interference].) They interfere for the same reason as their policies have shifted even further to the right: religion. From the supporters of Terri Schiavo's parents (who oppose the tube removal), who are "prayerfully excited", to Republican senators who "had been provided with talking points about how to respond to requests about the Schiavo case, which was described by party aides as a "great political issue" that resonates with Christian conservatives" (NYT, 20.3.05), we find the malign hand of God in action, manifest in Republican policies. (I'm amazed their manifestos aren't written on two stone tablets.)

The influence of God on Republican policies is evident, just as the Democrats too make a show of divine allegiance. This case is no longer about Mrs. Schiavo but about God and betrayal of political beliefs for said Almighty. Forgotten are the circumstances of the case, which are now in a religious nexus, inextricable, intractable. From an atheist's point of view, it all seems rather unhelpful.

A bientôt,

JPS.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Welcome to my space

Welcome.

I'm going to be posting here from now on about anything that moves me to write. I can't promise you'll always agree with me (in fact, I can virtually guarantee the opposite), but that's not the point - I want to provoke and to challenge. You'll learn about me, I'll [hopefully] learn about you, and we'll all come away thinking around whatever we're discussing/I'm rambling about.

So, as Bette Davis said in 'All About Eve', "Strap yourselves in - it's going to be a bumpy night."

Till the next time,

JPS.

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