Extroverts like to process out-loud. It’s a big day for extroverts. Pardon me if I ramble, then, because there is so much to talk about it. Remember that song by R.E.M. “It’s the end of the world as we know it” and how fast the song goes? That’s what today’s news feels like — both the title and the speed.
Let’s start with Japan. A 9.0 earthquake happens. But wait, that’s not enough. Thousands (I assume by now) are dead in a tsunami — a 30 foot wall of water that affected houses and people 5 miles inland. All this from NPR this morning.
No wait, there’s more from Japan, the earthquake and tsunami not being enough, there was a nuclear reactor there. Early reports this morning said that yes, there had been an explosion, but no, it wasn’t a nuclear explosion. And besides, the explosion only dented the outside shell — not the internal core. This news is supposed to calm me down. It doesn’t because I’ve heard it all before. When I was in college, my anti-nuke group (with Phil Murray, the Alliance for Alternatives) learned one of the slick tricks the nuclear industry used. They would say that plants don’t explode like nuclear bombs, which is what everybody associated them with and what everyone was afraid of. Here’s where the problem comes: They sort-of told the truth. Everyone was afraid of the plant exploding like a nuclear bomb, and that was what they associated with the plants. And, no, nukes don’t explode like bombs. Seems reasonable, right? So far so good? Well… no. Nuclear power plants — like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now this place in Japan — don’t explode like bombs. They explode like pressure cookers. Seal in water, heat it ’til it boils and what happens? Boom. Nuke plants use water to cool the rods. When they get too hot, for whatever mechanical or human reason, the water boils. It’s sealed in by a giant metal core and outer concrete core. Water, sealed and boiled, equals boom. That’s what happened here. Now that the lid has blown off the cooker, the steam can escape. Oops, make that radioactive steam. And remember all that water around the plant? I suspect it’s ocean. And you know what’s connected to their ocean? Our ocean. Now, granted, the “solution to pollution is dilution”, but still… It’s not good for nature, for the oceans, or for humans who eat out of that ocean. BTW, I hope I’m wrong. I hope it’s not an ocean, but just in case, be prepared for a lot of not-good things to be happening soon.
So, there you have it — thousands dead, an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear (ok, steam) explosion. What can I say about that? There’s nothing to say. In a while, when the shock comes off, I’ll probably have more to say, but nothing I say can bring back thousands of people or nature or life-as-we-used-to-know-it. Nothing anyone can say will change the horrible events of the last 48 hours. I feel bad for the people who died? Yes, but so what. I wish it never happened? Ditto.
Moving onto the African continent, we have Libya and it’s revolution\potential civil war. As the pundits pointed out, NATO is thinking about doing something, the US has, apparently, done something and …oops. It’s really nothing. The US has imposed an arms embargo on both sides in the conflict. As pundits pointed out, since Qaddafi’s got weapons and planes and the rebels really don’t, it means it’s business as usual — a despot with weapons seeks to shut the mouths of his people by killing the rest of their bodies as well. Why can’t we send our troops into this situation? Because they’re already busy fighting in two wars we can’t really seem to explain. Now, I’m a pacifist, so I don’t have any real answers here except to agree with the President (and Martin Luther King, whom he’s quoting) Qaddafi “is on the wrong side of history”. Again, I’ve got nothing to say there except that something’s terribly wrong here. But I bet you probably already knew that.
Moving to the North American continent, Wisconsin, in America’s heartland, is in the middle of an uprising of it’s own. The governor there has taken away the collective bargaining rights of many unions — now without the pretext of saving money, since the bill to do away with bargaining rights is now separate from the budget bill. The Senate will fix that soon by passing the budget part and they’ll both be law. My friend Cathi sent me a clip saying that farmers are driving to the Capital on their tractors because they are worried about the budget cuts on education and health care that the Governor is proposing — the other part of the bill. On the bright side, I think, members of the Senate are complaining now that they can’t get any work done because, well, … too many Wisconsin citizens are laying down in the halls as part of the protest. Oops. Overcrowding is a problem everywhere. Pretty soon there will be squatters in the Capitol building because they’ve got nowhere else to go and the State governing body will have to write a law about that, too.
Further west on the continent; remember that tsunami? Apparently, some remnants of it hit Santa Cruz. Bad news travels fast. If it’s Santa Cruz, California, I have friends who live nearby.
Now, to top it all off, Rush Limbaugh is afraid that we liberals will start using all of this against people like him and start saying things like,”I told you so”. You see, in America, some people care more about what it looks like and their popularity more than say, thousands of deaths by natural disaster. The other thing our press cares deeply about? Our economy. As I drove to work yesterday and again today, the news kept talking about Qaddaffi … and oil prices; Japan’s disaster and it’s effect on … our economy.
Have we gone that far astray as a civilization that we care about our economy, not our people? What’s wrong with this picture?!!! I’d be willing to suffer more at the pump if 1)I didn’t think it was a scam by the oil companies to blame it on Libya and 2) more importantly, if it would save Libyan lives and give Libya’s people democracy and freedom.
I could give a rodent’s rear-end if I never buy another piece of stereo or computer equipment. I care deeply that thousands of people won’t see the next sunrise. If there were a trade-off between them, I give all my stereo equipment back in order to save even a few lives. But it’s not. All my money won’t buy them back. All of Donald Trump’s and Bill Gates’ and Oprah Winfrey’s and the owner of FOX news’ money combined won’t either.
I”m sure, somewhere in Australia Dr. Helen Caldicott is screaming, “I told you not to do it. I told you, but you wouldn’t listen”, and then crying. That’s it. Not making political points. Not saying “I told you so” to Rush Limbaugh or any other conservatives or President Obama and “soft liberals”. It’s not time for that. It’s time to say, and mean, “I hate being right” and then weeping. In case you’re wondering who Caldicott is, Dr Caldicott can be heard discussing urgent planetary survival issues on her weekly radio show If You Love This Planet, and is the Founder and Spokesperson for People for a Nuclear-Free Australia,
How did we get this way? From a religious perspective, we call it Sin. We, as a species, are greedy liars who think we’re bigger and more in control of the world than we are. Rather than tell the truth, we tell … well, not really lies, but “spin” — we use spin to lie or distract or say what we want to hear without hearing the whole truth”. And, frankly, most of us (probably including myself) would like to be lied to. We like our stereo equipment and our polluting cars and our heat turned up to 72 in the winter — and we want to believe it doesn’t effect anyone else, or won’t come back to bite us. And when some little well-dressed salesman poses as a scientist, we want to believe him, so we do. He gets what he wants, we get what we want and nobody is the wiser for the experience… until a day like today. Do you hear me complaining about you, Rush? Because today is all about you (dripping with sarcasm). That’s the lying part, and it’s as simple as that — and as dumb as that.
The “greed” part is at the bottom of nearly everything. Why would a person or a company lie? They do it to make money. Also as simple and dumb as that. Why care about humans when you can care about an inanimate object? Greed, also known as “idolatry” to you old school Bible readers — is the love of and collecting of things beyond what matters and above people who actually do. It is settling for a half-a-loaf and buying lots of them, rather than having one or two of what matters to you and God. Why are we in this economic mess? Greed. A few very greedy people have “more money than God” while the rest listen to TV and some have a life in hell. if you want to get into it, greed is the reason we make things overseas rather than here. It’s the reason that some unions have gotten spoiled in their demands. It’s the reason that people buy elections. It’s the reason for so many things, and it’s a sin — and a shame that so many of us fall into it so easily.
And the “think we’re bigger than we are” part: well, humility’s not our strong suit. Among other things, we think we can build perfect technology and — as today’s events point out — we can’t. That’s how I knew nukes were a problem years ago: people could “guarantee” that they were safe. There were so many safeguards in place, they would say, it could never happen. Nobody could have predicted an earthquake, and a tsunami and whatever else happened today. And nobody could have predicted one stuck valve meter at Three Mile Island could mess things up either. Equipment fails. People make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. It’s part of the human condition. Things happen that we don’t see coming. Why?
When I and my daughters went to see President Obama in Bridgeport last year, I wanted to write about my impression — in an indoor arena, the most powerful man on earth looks really small. There were video screens nearby which made him look closer and bigger, but — in real life, from a distance, he’s a dot on the horizon.
I worry sometimes that our love of the big screen — especially over real-time events — allow us to believe we’re more in charge than we really are. 20 feet tall basketball players and 10 feet eyebrows of rock stars give us the impression that we can be them and they are REALLY THAT BIG. They’re not and we’re not, as today’s events show us. As big and powerful as we might think we are, a tsunami changes our perspective — and it should. All the money in Donald Trump’s bank wouldn’t stop an earthquake or a tsunami from destroying everything he holds dear. All the weapons in our arsenals — or Qaddafi’s — don’t mean a thing to a wall of water. Oops. Maybe we’re NOT the biggest thing on the planet.
We ARE so small. Maybe we’d do better if we worried about other human beings first, then ourselves, then money? Maybe our budgets would BE smaller if we put people first in our mind s and our hearts and tried to run the world that way. I know it’s a radical idea, but it’s it’s just a thought… Maybe we could TRY it once…
The last thing that I can offer as a thought is the thing that I always think on days like this — and days like 9/11 and the Sri Lanka hurricanes of a few years ago — is a song that I learned as a kid: “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it”. It’s a Biblical quote. In other forms, it’s “one day at a time”.
In short, this is it folks. This is what you’ve got. Whether there’s a heaven or not, if you knew this was your last day on earth, how would you approach it? That’s how you should live every day. Whatever and whoever is important to you should be thought of or acknowledged or loved every day because this could be your last day with them or it. You could go to work in a tower that is hit or you could be in Japan in a tsunami or Northern California in an earthquake or… Who knows? So make this day count. It might be the last one you get.
I feel a little better after writing this, but I process out loud. I hope some of it helps. If it doesn’t, that’s not really a surprise. In the face of an earthquake, a tsunami, a revolution or two, and failing economies, there’s so much to say, and it’s of so little importance.