Thursday, 17 March 2011

Beyond Good and Evil ...?

I read recently - and forgive me for my lack of accuracy - that a top ranking Japanese official said that the damage done by the tsunami was a punishment for the Japanese demand for more and more consumer goods. I have a horrible feeling that it was the Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, but it doesn't really matter. It is not unusual that someone blames such-and-such disaster on the people most affected by it: the wrath of (whatever) god, or gods.

I don't subscribe to this kind of god. On the other hand, if we try to look for a reason "why" such tragedies have fallen on the Japanese (and of course, you can fill in the blanks with whichever nationality of group you wish: there are many we never hear of) we are bound to come up short. Does "God" punish children, babies ...dogs, innocent men and women for their so-called superficial lifestyle? If so, we'd better all watch out. Would you, personally, want anything to do with a God that launched such a biblical outpouring of fury? I thought that Zeus had gone into retirement, and I hoped that Jehovah was keeping him company.

Whether we can attribute cause to God or apportion blame to those unfortunate people who experience "His" vengeance, the degree of horror associated with the tsunami and even now as I write, the doubt expressed in the extent of truth that is being allowed speech as far as the condition of the reactors is concerned, has caused all of us to stop and examine our own understanding of morality and mortality.

I think that what has remained with me all week is the first helicopter footage showing the speed with which the tsunami made its way inland. For me, it was seeing those people in their cars out on the highway going about their business not knowing that everything familiar in their world was about to go into a tailspin. It was looking at that white car, metres from the wall of water bearing down upon them, halt, turn to go in the other direction and seemingly stop on the verge of the road. What was going on in the minds of the people inside? Did they make it? Did their loved ones? Did they have a home to return to?

Friedrich Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil seems to be claiming in the following quote that we over-reach ourselves in our desires and that what formerly was a blessing now has become a burden.

"That which an age feels to be evil is usually an untimely after-echo of that which was formerly felt to be good - the atavism of an older ideal."

Perhaps the Japanese have allowed themselves to slip away from the simple things. Perhaps we all have. Look around you: do you really need that, or this, or the other? Does it really add anything to you, as a person? Are we over-reaching ourselves as we widen the gap between the rich and the poor? Do we somehow believe that we have that right, just because we happen to born "here" and not "there"? Perhaps it is this which makes a disaster such as this one in modern, industrialised Japan seem so much more horrific than if it happens in Mongolia or some island chain: after all, we are the "developed" nations: don't we buy security from the ire of Nature?

No, I don't think that God has anything to do with this. Perhaps it is simply "bad luck". More likely the more recent seismic activity has something to do with the extraordinary number of sun spots and the gigantic solar flares that have been observed lately. Certainly these will have been affecting the earth's magnetic field. That's enough to give our planet the belly ache. The heavenly bodies do affect our planet, and that has nothing to do with whether or not you believe in astrology!

The biggest problem is that we somehow believe that the planet is here to serve us and we forget - to our sorrow - that we are tenants only, living on a crust so thin and so vulnerable that at any abrupt moment the seething mass underneath which is the true substance of our planet may remind us that really, life - any life - counts for very, very little to it.

If that is God speaking, I'll buy it. But I always hoped - vain hope I know - that God was somehow more than just the laws of physics.

Sorry if this is rambling, but I cannot apply much logic to those pictures I have been seeing these past 7 days.

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