Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Aftermath

The neighborhood is full of the noises of chainsaws, hammerings, tree-chippers plus a varied miscellany of other unidentifiables. Cleaning up. Rebuilding. Trying to get ready for the next storm which is sure to come, thought everybody is hoping that it won't be like the last big one.

Meanwhile disasters continue to happen. The latest victim was a young girl, which drowned when a weir burst and a few thousand tons of water surged down the river. From one instant to the next a safe place turned into a death trap. Nature has no notion of justice or fairness. What else is new? Those who like to see the hand of an incomprehensible divine plan it this are... Ahh, never mind. I should be more charitable.

But there are positive aspects to this mess. For one, people who just happened to live in the same street, but never talked to each other, did exchange at least a few words of mutual commiseration. Something to talk about to people that one otherwise really has nothing to talk to about.

And then there's the simple fact that such an event reminds people that if the basics aren't there, we're pretty screwed, by and large. One of the most essential basics, apart from shelter, food and water, is electricity. Two days of no power, at least in some suburbs, should have reminded anyone with the capability of observation and reflection, of the utter and complete dependence of our civilization's functioning on electricity. And if there's no electricity, then petrol comes in handy, because you can run generators, which of course produce...electricity. And without that the food in the fridge/freezer becomes useless. You can't run your computer (well, a laptop will run for a while on its batteries, but then it's curtains!) and ADSL internet is toast. Fortunately we don't need heating right now, because that would be very dangerous.

You can cook... on camping gas stoves. But it's all a bit roughing-it. The excitement about that abates very soon indeed.

But here's another positive thing:

I often gripe about how civilized existence, which usually means 'urban' existence, has distracted people from what really matters and made them soft, dependent, slothful, hyper-refined, lazy, decadent, culturally arrogant (with respect to the non-urban populace, that often cops derogatory terms like 'country bumpkin' and 'redneck') and so on. And this is doubtlessly so. But the flipside is technology. And all the noises I hear outside, and all the machinery used in cleaning up the mess and restoring power and removing trees that have fallen into houses and tidying up the streets and erecting power poles and pumping out flooded underpasses and telling people what's going on and... All that is only possible because of civilization as well, and because of the ways in which it just happens to kind of 'work'. Not always very well, but in this instance it's this great organism, whose parts actually function almost in unison; at least sufficiently so to heal he wounds and fix up the mess.

So, it's not all bad. Things seldom are. Just like they're never 'all good' either.

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