One Rant at a Time

Whatever heaves into view........better keep its head down.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I Didn't Ask to be Born in the First World

Watching the images of destruction and despair from Pakistan and India this last week, I was struck by the blindingly obvious realisation that these natural disasters tend to happen only in less developed countries. India and Pakistan have suffered over 20 major earthquakes since 1850, parts of eastern Europe have been laid low by Mother Nature's anger, numerous islands have been covered in lava, and only recently a tsunami struck Indonesia, Sri Lanka and surrounding areas. There's a pattern here.... none of these nations are OECD members.

Maybe it's because these countries have the misfortune to be located near major fault lines in the earth's crust, that they are less developed economically and socially. Could that be? If you think about it, an economy would need stability and security in which to grow powerful. It would need a steady climate to make the transition into an agrarian economy and then the leap into industrialisation.

I realise there are exceptions to the rule: the Gulf Coast of the US is shaking off the effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, California has been lucky enough to avoid a major quake for a number of years now, and Japan lives through typhoons and minor quakes on a regular basis. But Mother Nature has largely dictated that the countries of the northern hemisphere have the great good luck not to be at the mercy of the elements and so they have prospered, free from the periodic setbacks that a natural calamity provides.

All of which makes the phrase "accident of birth" seem bigger and more ... global. I've not experienced any of nature's wrath (the odd storm at sea excepted) in the life-altering, huge sense that our friends in India and Pakistan are at the moment. I've not lost family members, relatives, possessions and memories in a few short minutes of unimaginable power and destruction. My fortune in this respect is no more than an accident of time, place and consciousness.

So when the appeals go out for help and assistance for the victims of a tragedy such as last week's earthquake, it really is a case of "there but for the grace of God go I." And when I think of my comfortable bed in a warm and dry house that wasn't built to withstand earthquakes because it doesn't need to (touch wood), I will also think of it as my duty as a human and as an inhabitant of one of the luckier spots on the planet to say a prayer for the victims, and to tug out my wallet.


At 9:49 AM, Blogger Cocaine Jesus said...

I can see now why humanity, as it poured like wine from a broken bottle over the parchment dry plains of Africa, hustled its way to Northern Europe.
Cold, wet and windy maybe but comparitvely safe.
I feel for those poor souls out in Pakistan and Sri Lanka and New Orleans and then I thank my lucky stars that by fluke of birth I was born here.


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