Monday, March 21, 2011
Foolishness and bravery in Japan
I get lots of my ideas for blog posts from messages shared at the Quaker meeting Peterson and I attend. This Sunday, one Friend shared her despair about human foolishness as evidenced by our building nuclear power plants on geological fault lines.
But my own response has been different. Yes, I will agree she had a point, and media coverage has dealt at length with the corruption of the Japanese nuclear industry. But two counter-arguments: one, this earthquake was the fourth largest in recorded history. A natural catastrophe so freakishly rare, in other words, it boggles the mind. Is it reasonable to conclude that these power plants were a mistake based on such a stunning statistical anomaly? As human beings, what we do expect ourselves to be able to foresee? If we were responsible for preventing every possible catastrophe, however unlikely, we wouldn't be able to do anything in the world at all!
Second, I have to say that his week I've been overwhelmed by the sheer, astounding heroism of the nuclear plant workers. As I write this blog, the effort to control the overheating reactors has had its ups and downs. But I remain optimistic a cataclysmic meltdown will be averted, and if this happens, it will be due to the incredible efforts of the people who've been working on restoring power and dousing these reactors with sea water. They've been putting their own health and bodies on the line for their country's safety.
As a writer and human being, I'm always up for criticizing human stupidity: much of The Jack Bank deals with the innate human capacity for evil. But let's not forget the other side of our natures. My book ends with the recollection of a straight black man who risked his life to keep me safe during an Inkatha attack in Soweto (and he got kidnapped as a result). South African political violence was certainly horrible, but it also led to extraordinary love and heroism.