Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Take Arms Against a Tide of Sorrows

Well, I was trying to do something special for my 100th post. Then I noticed that Blogger also counts saved drafts as blog posts, so it looks like I have a few more posts to write before I can celebrate, kick back, and rest on my laurels. So today I'll flesh out one of the ideas I had while being unable to sleep Monday evening. Then I'll be one step closer to my planned self congratulatory celebration!

I was recently reading an article in the State News, MSU's student operated paper, concerning the aftermath of the disasters which occurred last week in Japan. What struck me most was a section talking about the concern for MSU students studying abroad in Japan. I am saddened, but not particularly phased, when I hear that the International Studies program cancels a trip to a South American region due to unrest, or when a friend is evacuated from Niger because of a murder. However, this is Japan!

I felt that this was a thought worth considering, that even in Japan, a fully industrial and, arguably, safer society than our own, tragedy can strike turning the region into a danger zone. This has serious implications for our own sense of safety. We can play the odds, avoid walking alone at night down the streets of Ciudad Juarez, but eventually our number will come up, and something will be the cause of our death. I am not advocating a complete disregard for one's personal safety, but if you are lucky enough to find a cause for which you are passionate, it seems reasonable to weigh realistic decreases to your life expectancy against the fulfillment of pursuing your dream, since no place is truly safe.

That is the extent of my, slightly, nihilistic call that you go forth and seize the day. A few other responses to the events warrant mention, but are not dignified enough to receive well thought out refutations. The idea that this disaster was somehow karmic justice for some historic Japanese offense or another is sickening! That type of filth is no better that the hatred that spews from the Westburo Baptist "church." Trolls who would joke about celebrating this incident, if anything, seem less dignified. At least the hate filled are sincere in their ignorance, to claim to believe that this is a tragedy, then feel it appropriate to publicly joke about to incite a reaction seems a particularly callous response. Do not misunderstand me, I have made some horrible jokes in my time, but I keep their circulation low, and tell them in person so that I may apologize if they seem to offend. Finally, in regards to the lady from UCLA who decided to complain about Asians on their cell phones less than a week after these events, seriously bad timing. I think material of similar tone could be found lingering in obscurity in the darker corners of the web at any time, what makes this one notable is not so much the content, but the timing. Of course the content was objectionable, but I don't think it was any more so than when Rosie O'Donnell made similarly themed comments. Neither event, of course, warranted death threats or such an outpouring of hatred. If you were to devise a strategy to overcome bigotry, would you rather rely on overpowering it with a counter wave of hatred, or winning it over through increased education and opportunities to interact with people of a different background?

One of the, if not the only, reasons I overcame my conservative indoctrination against homosexuals was the simple fact that I met some. It is easy to dismiss or oppress ideas in a way that most of us will not feel comfortable doing to people with whom we have built a relationship. It is for this reason that hate speech and personal attacks have no place on any side of a respectful relationship, we must always be seeking to open up positive relationships with others. If I felt that people making the types of comments I deride in the previous paragraph, a) were going to read my blog, and, b) were likely to respond well to reason, then I would post a rational refutation of these remarks. As it is, I settle for a brief condemnation of these remarks, although not necessarily the people making them, because such remarks must be condemned if we are to move past this type of discourse and embrace our shared humanity.

Amidst all this doom and gloom, let us not lose sight of the grandeur of the shared humanity towards which we aspire. I saw an article earlier remarking on the absence of looting in Japan, as citizens and businesses support each other and chip in to recover. A friend also posted about the extraordinary heroics involved in managing the evolving disaster at the Fukushima Daiishi plant. Humanity may have some ugly warts and serious scarring, but there is beauty too in our tragically flawed visage.

1 comment:

Max said...

I think that, before the earthquake and tsunami, I thought of Japan as a nation so technologically developed as to be invincible against any sort of natural disaster. I knew in a vague sort of way that it was an island perched on the Ring of Fire, but I don't think I once considered likely the full force of what was unleashed.

It is relevant that you point out how fragile the existence of things like industry and culture are, and I agree: humanity is sometimes a little more stable.