Reverberations

15/03/2011 § Leave a comment

I’m a heartless bastard. That’s my preliminary conclusion based on the way I’ve reacted to the earthquake in Japan. Or, perhaps, how I’ve reacted to other people’s reactions without bothering to have a reaction of my own.

In an age of total media coverage, reacting to the news somehow feels unnecessary. After all, you are told what to feel, whereas no one is going to serve you up a meta-reaction on a plate.

The news makes it sound horrifying and simple. But it’s difficult to know how to respond to this story. This is a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. 10,000 people are probably dead. And assessed in an objective context, that’s a good result. That’s the same size of earthquake that killed a quarter of a million back with the Boxing Day Tsunami – a disaster that genuinely did leave you feeling numb. It’s ten times stronger than the 1923 Tokyo earthquake, which killed 100,000 and levelled the whole of Japan’s capital with the thoroughness of an atom bomb. Seen in that context, the Sendai quake looks more like an escape than a tragedy.

Is this me being clever, and seeing past the headlines? Or is this me being revoltingly emotionless? There are an awful lot of ruined lives in Japan, people whose faces I cannot imagine and whose grief I can only estimate. I find it almost indecent that my first instinct is not to empathise.

But then, as improper as cold analysis feels on the far side of the world, for those actually in the disaster zone the cold, analytical thinkers are the people saving lives.

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