As I write this on Tuesday morning, the Prime Minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, has just gone on national television to say that radiation has spread from the four stricken reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant along Japan’s northeastern coast. What the end result may be is too horrific for our minds to gasp.
Ever since last Friday, March 10th, our thoughts, our feelings have been preoccupied and overcome by the horrific earthquake and horrendous tsunami which followed. Our minds were boggled by what seemed like doomsday images of buildings, vehicles and debris of all sorts being swept away by a wall of mud and water. In that innundating mess we know there are people; thousands of them. The numbers may never be known.
Yes, we can make a donation and in other ways help. But mostly I feel like a helpless bystander in the face of a tragedy so massive that our minds, our souls, our beings cannot take it in.
The suggestion that this is God venting anger and judgement against the people of Japan is a foolishness beyond comprehension. This is nature doing what nature is capable of doing. Nature, the bountiful reality that makes life possible and sustains us, can also wreck our lives with its awesome power. Nature proceeds with no special thought for us. It is part of an unfolding Universe doing what it must do.
The crowning tragedy, the damage to and eruptions of the atomic facility, does bring in the human factor. We need power, electricity, and most every way of creating it comes at a cost to us and the earth that is our home. Even Japan, a highly developed and sophisticated nation, keenly aware of the damage earthquakes can cause, could not prevent the catastrophic damage to this atomic facility.
Then, as another weight upon our hearts, is Lybia and Gadhafi. The will of the people is making itself felt. There is a whole democratic movement in the Middle East. The Egyptian success raised hopes in many other places and uprisings against dictators are happening. Gadhafi has been a particularly monstrous dictator. The West has cozied up to him in recent times since he sits on oil. However, Gwynne Dyer reminded us in Tuesday’s Daily News column that “when political prisoners in Abu Salim prison staged a protest at prison conditions in 1996, Gadhafi had 1200 of them massacred.” Gadhafi is a ruthless, vicious dictator, willing to slaughter his own people.
He needs to be called to account, and it seems this will require some kind of “policing action.” Even as our country’s police may have to use a degree of force to bring disruptive citizens to accountability before the Law, the same is needed internationally. Nations are like families. Normally families carry on their own lives and tend to their own affairs. However, when there is egregious neglect, abuse or whatever, the state steps in. There is a point at which the larger community must stand up and take responsibility. It is the same with nations. At some point the behaviour of a nation’s leadership becomes the world’s responsibility. And we have the UN to do what they can. May they get on with it.
We are now in the season of Lent. We sometimes trivialize it by focussing on some of our personal minor faults. It wasn’t personal minor faults that put Jesus on the cross. It was a system of brutal injustice that could not deal with the full humanity and authenticity of a person like Jesus.
That leap in consciousness and maturity that I talk about is both personal and communal. We need a world of justice and peace in order to be people of justice and peace. We need people of justice and peace in order to have a world of justice and peace. It is a two-way street.
At this moment, it is compassion that overtakes us. Our feeling for the people of Japan; our concern for those whose yearning for freedom leads them to rise up against their governments, is real and alive. Compassion is the great sign of hope that those involved, and all of us, can stand together and triumph over the violence of nature and the dark side of humanity.