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Dance of destruction

Published: 
Sunday, March 13, 2011

Confusion in her eyes that says it all.
She’s lost control.
And she’s clinging to the nearest passer-by,
She’s lost control.
And she gave away the secrets of her past,
And said I’ve lost control again,
And of a voice that told her when and where to act,
She said I’ve lost control again.
 
But she expressed herself in many different ways,
Until she lost control again.
And walked upon the edge of no escape,
And laughed I’ve lost control.

—She’s Lost Control, Joy Division

The tragedy unfolds, minute by horrific minute and we all watch on in fascinated terror. It’s the best possible news day, because a natural disaster is so much more engaging than Middle East dictators.
The zone of subduction seduces our day. It is mesmerising viewing. How a four-minute natural occurrence that has been happening for millennia could wipe out a whole section of humanity in mere seconds. The Earth is simply doing its do. And we humans we think we’re so clever. We build systems and have codes. And create structures of permanence. And then the Earth shows us exactly who is boss. Shakti run t’ings. T’ings doh run Shakti.

I can see the beauty in destruction. The mechanics of a tsunami, the way the waves radiate out from the epicentre rushing to embrace and smother anything in their path. It is the most magnificent dance. Of creation and destruction. It gets ugly when we resist. It gets ugly when we think we are more powerful.
Oh the horror is so real on my computer screen where I am safe from the wall of water rushing towards me. It looks so real not even Hollywood could have faked it. End-times stories start up again. As if we are somehow convinced that this life we live will last forever and these marks we make on the Earth will always be there. Time is as fluid as the motion of this tsunami. Destruction is creation is destruction again in one endless cycle that we will certainly never break.

I wonder how the camera crews who are up in the air safe and sound feel to be documenting the watery deaths of thousands as the wave advances across the land. Little houses, big buildings, tiny cars, nothing is spared. I wonder if the presence of the tragedy makes us more aware of the suffering of others or makes us more nervous about our own chances of experiencing a disaster. In town people talk about the tsunami like it’s just the latest disaster movie packaged by Hollywood. A woman says she’s been watching CNN all day. She then says that a hurricane is going to hit Trinidad and that New York is on a tsunami watch.

The fear mongering is astounding. The fundamentalist hysteria even more unbelievable. All around as we watch people die. Like, people are dying. People with loved ones. Who woke up this morning and looked forward to an after-work lime. People who were friends and lovers and horners and so many other things. Faceless, nameless “Chinee” people. They died as we watched. Their lives snuffed out and we looked on, thinking only of ourselves. Are we prepared? Would our government know what to do? Would we know how to cope with thousands of bodies littering our streets? What would happen if a tsunami hit us tomorrow? Would MovieTowne absorb the shock like the mangrove would have? Would the West Coast industrialisation save us from the sea’s kicks and stamps?

It shouldn’t take a live feed of carnage to make us ask these questions. It shouldn’t take tragedy on the other side of the world for us to question ourselves over whether we are ready to die or to live better lives.
It shouldn’t be that we watch others die to be relieved that we are alive.

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