Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The extreme conditions of the Chilean earthquake serve to reveal the character of the people and to make one wonder about one’s own convictions.

Imagine a service station with cars lined up for blocks in both directions for hours and, after several hours in the line the electricity which operates the pumps is cut.

Apart from the cars lined up in both directions, people are arriving on foot carrying gas cans.  There’s a line of cans in front of one of the pumps.  Each new arrival, looks around, and places their can in the line –– possibly marking it in some way to distinguish it from others which look the same.

Since I had been in the vehicle line and the power was cut just as I stopped in front of the pumps, I was in a perfect position to watch this line grow along with the actions of the people who participated.

No one seemed inclined to try to jump their can to a more favourable position in the line … it was a model of respect, order and patience that would satisfy the most stringent standards.

The Bad

One of the bad characteristics I’ve observed came from the various TV reports which have been broadcast in which reporters interview people from all areas and in all sorts of circumstances about how they’ve been affected by this catastrophe.

Certain people, it seemed to me, mostly in the larger urban areas, showed a common reaction to their situations saying things like “I’ve lost everything, when is somebody going to do something?”, or “Whose going to fix this? Who’s going to be held responsible.” 

In short it was an attitude of “I’m suffering” and “Somebody has to take care of me.” 

In my estimation these reactions seemed most common in young to middle-aged adults and in large urban areas.

In contrast, it seemed that older people and quite generally most people in either small towns or in rural areas seemed to be simply confused, distraught or dismayed by their plight and their losses … but they did not seem to be expecting that someone else was going to – or should – show up to fix everything up again.

The Ugly

The really ugly side of people seems to be almost entirely confined to concentrated urban areas. 

I see this in the areas where electricity and water has been cut off for several days, where stores have been closed for lack of electricity and dangerous structural damages.

Extensive looting started, according to some reports just minutes after the first earthquake and TV cameras recorded people breaking open warehouses, carrying out every imaginable type of merchandise from plasma TVs to grocery carts completely filled with liquor, video games, cell phones, etc.

In these areas the army has been called in and a curfew has been established, yet people in residential areas banded together with poles, garden tools, guns, knives and whatever other implement might be used for defence to set up patrols on their streets and protect their homes from midnight marauders.

I see this state of affairs as a very ugly aspect of humanity, and yet I find myself wondering how I might act if I were to find myself in some of the situations that people are in when they resort commit these acts of looting.

Imagine yourself, possibly with a hungry child, a brother or sister who is badly injured, without water, without electricity, your house devastated, you are sleeping on the street, your vehicle has been crushed under a wall which collapsed, there are no stores open, no banks operating ….

Does it make you think, too?

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