Natural Disasters Bring Out the Best and Worst in People Paper
The media keep disaster in the forefront of our minds. TV, radio and the front pages of the press seem to revel in disaster because the public have a morbid curiosity in it, provided that it happens to other people. Disaster boosts TV ratings and sells newspapers. As we absorb the news of a famine, an earthquake, a hurricane, a tsunami, sometimes we tend to put ourselves in the position of the victims and wonder how we would react. In such situations, most people act instinctively, and what they do is more spontaneous than calculated.
That spontaneity is usually the subconscious reflection of character, and because fife for most of us is lived on an even keel, how we behave in emergency is largely unpredictable, unless we have been previously conditioned to react in certain ways. The recent earthquake in Manner gave me a vivid example of two contrasting reactions to the same event. The house of a man received a direct hit from the earthquake which killed one of the daughters of the family. The father was a sincere Christian. He fell on his knees and prayed for the souls of the victims.
The following day, what remained of his possessions lying round the shattered house were looted. This showed two very different reactions to disaster. Looting often follows the breakdown of law and order. It is never justifiable, but it may be less reprehensible in some circumstances than others. Some would disagree, but they are those who have never seen a disaster such as a famine. If my children were crying for food and I had the chance to steal a bag of flour to make bread for them, I think I would steal the flour.
Would this action reflect the best or the worst in me? So what is it that governs our reaction during and after an emergency? The answer to that question is character. Character is governed by genetic structure, by upbringing and training, and by self-discipline, or its absence. If we react badly, we show cowardice, selfishness and indifference to the plight of others. If we react well, our conduct reflects the opposite of these failings. In the latter case, genetic history alone may govern our actions, but in most cases, people are poised between good and bad.
It is then that external conditioning will tip the balance in one direction or the other. However, even more important than training is love, the kind which puts others first and helps us to forget self. This is relatively easy where our nearest and dearest are concerned, more difficult and perhaps more admirable where the others concerned have no emotional claim on us. The old Latin tag “amour Vinci Omni”, love conquers all things, is most germane to our reaction during disaster. There is also truth in the old Biblical saying – “Perfect love caste out fear.
Natural disasters are the most devastating things that could occur in this era of globalization and it is true that it will bring the worst in some of us. Yet there were countless examples of bravery and unselfishness when en would help the wounded or engage hopeless odds with total disregard for their own survival. Some of these actions were recognized by the award of medals and decorations. Most were not. This was in some ways the most admirable product of this century. And whether the disaster is an earthquake or a hurricane, adversity tends to bring people together in a way that nothing else can.
It goes without saying that the effectiveness of a service unit depends on the fact that every man knows he can depend on his colleague, whether he likes him or not. Whatever the disaster, the same spirit is seen in cost of the civilian population. People open their homes and hearts to each other, offer help, comfort and encouragement in a way which is never seen when life is easy and normal. The earthquake and tsunami that battered north-eastern Japan three weeks ago have put on display Some Of the nation’s finest features.
Anyone who has spent time among survivors would surely agree this disaster has shown this nation at its best. Though the government response has inevitably been inadequate in some areas, relief efforts have been orderly and generally effective. And those much-maligned politicians eave at least managed to pause the feuding behind ruling parties and opposition groups that had threatened to derail next years government budget. Meanwhile, all along the north-eastern coast, people who have lost loved ones and homes have responded with uncomplaining restraint and self-discipline.
It IS a measure of the high standards of social order Japanese set themselves that residents of the battered port of Fount recoil with dismay at rumors that four people have been arrested for stealing from ruined homes. “I thought this was a good town,” says one resident. Even mongo the rubble it is possible to hear neighbors greet each other and visitors with polite humor. Asked how victims can still laugh at a time like this, Mammas Mira, a fisheries co-operative chief from a village in coastal Sashimi, draws chuckles from his friends by answering: ‘Every Japanese samurai! Historic accounts of the San Francisco earthquake demonstrate how the best in people are productively deployed from the moment the fires began to blaze.
While the post-earthquake tremors continued to shake the ground beneath them, public servants working for institutions like the Post Office moored instructions to flee, and saved their own places of employment by skilful concentrated collective action. Some citizens, whose homes had been destroyed had begged, borrowed and stole food, coffee, tea and milk to set up impromptu cafes in the wreckage, which provided centers of contact and comfort for other survivors.
They did this despite the officious pointless interference of military men who felt threatened by spontaneous action on the part of the citizen. Another good example how disasters bring out the best in people is the natural emergence of a volunteer corps. The natural emergence of volunteer forces in an emergency fits with the theory that those emergencies provide what prosperous routine times do not: a way to fulfill the basic human need for community identity. Some saw this side-effect of disaster as so important; they even described natural calamities as “social utopias”.
Yes, people lose their homes, their businesses, their property and so much more. But at the same time they experience the kindness of strangers and the freedom that comes from the abandonment of possessions that they will never get to experience otherwise. These volunteer rescuers (who, statistically, tend to save more lives than do the emergency services) are disregarded by the media because media tends to arrive along with the “official” disaster responders; the police, military and corps Of engineers.
Media have the habit Of relying On official sources for clear responses which carry more clout with the viewing public than the story of an unofficial volunteer rescuer. Media prefer the ordinary punter to be in victim mode, ideally weeping noisily over their loss. Chirrups volunteers don’t fit easily in the traditional TV assister narrative. So we will see more pictures of residents in the flood- stricken areas looking at their destroyed possessions or queuing for water than we will see of them doing the rescue work they excelled in over the past few days.
The image will be one of pathos and passivity, rather than euphoric coping. Mass media can cope with one individual showing boundless courage and resource because that individual can become an identifiable hero. It’s not as good at capturing collective heroism, particularly when it takes unromantic forms like the making of hundreds of sandwiches. However, disasters like the Christopher earthquake can also bring out those seeking to exploit a tragedy. Two Japanese journalists were arrested overnight when they tried to break into hospital to interview victims.
A man has been arrested for impersonating a building inspector and asking to see people’s valuables in a bid to steal from them. Sups Russell Gibson says police have received reports of individuals posing as CEQ staff asking about electronic items in homes. Cowardice accounts for most of people’s worst reactions to disaster. In fact few people, if any, are fearless. The earthquake that battered north-eastern Japan three weeks ago has also put on display some of the nation’s worst features.
On the negative side, the natural disaster has brutally exposed the failings Of a nuclear power industry that many Japanese have for decades viewed with distrust. In doing so, it points at the high cost of the technological hubris and faith in construction as a solution to any social or economic problem that was a powerful strand in policymaking even before late prime minister Kaki Tanana in the sass set government the goal of “remodeling he Japanese archipelago. ” That powerful earthquake and the huge tsunami it unleashed were undoubtedly a formidable double-whammy.
But even a magnitude 9 quake hardly lies beyond the boundary of the “Largest Conceivable Earthquake” that Tepee claims its plants are designed to withstand. And while it will take time to establish all the links that make up the chain of disaster engulfing the Fuchsia plant, it is hard not to think that Tepee’s chronic problems with safety and disclosure could be factors in the current crisis. The crisis may end up taking a further toll on the tattered petition of Japanese politicians.
It is they, after all, who have failed to protect the publics interest in a safe nuclear industry. And while the Democratic party-led government’s short time in office means it can hardly be blamed for creating the crisis, Mr. Kane has hardly emerged as the kind of leader able to comfort and calm the nation at such a time. While, when disaster strikes, it is true that some people see opportunity to lend a helping hand for their fellow man or fellow Woman, Some folk see dollar signs written all over other people’s pain. Misery money remains a strong draw in our oral.
People capitalize on human misery every day wars, unrests, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, storms, el onions, la minas, volcanoes, poverty, etc. Not all of us would react to disaster as we think. Self- preservation is the strongest natural impulse of all. Indifference to self has to be a very powerful counter-impulse if we are to be confident of behaving in the way we would hope. Or, to put it more crudely, we can pull together to do something about an earthquake, and feel good in the process, whereas negative equity and salary cuts leave us bailing for dear life – on our own.