Cognition & Reality

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Japan & Reality

Filed under: Uncategorized — drtone @ 9:41 am

The disaster in Japan has become another opportunity for me to act the curmudgeon. Maybe inside this tai-chi-and-yoga social democrat there lurks a despicable right-wing creep. I hope not. Anyway…

When I suspended my news blackout to read about the nuclear meltdown in Japan, one of my first thoughts was that a lot of people were going to become even more afraid of nukes than they already are. Although nukes can represent a serious danger, as we now have illustrated for us again, they are only one danger in a dangerous world. Meanwhile, the industrialized world must obtain energy from somewhere. People can moralize all they want about overpopulation and over-industrialization, but everyone wants electricity, motorized transportation and the other basics of modern civilization. There is no way to produce these without “breaking a few eggs,” by drilling for oil, building nuclear plants, etc. The alternative is…There is no alternative. (There are those who offer the solution of a “sustainable” world population at about a quarter what it is now. In other words, their alternative is that four or five billion people should die.)

There’s reality, and then there’s everything else. At my yoga class the other night, people were talking about empty shelves at the local health food store. Apparently, if you want some iodine, you can now forget it. Fukushima, Japan, the site of the nuclear plant where the meltdown might be happening is over 5000 miles from Southern California, where the radiation plume will arrive tomorrow, raising background levels by a “miniscule” amount. Stipulating that the authorities, particularly the owners of the nuclear plant, are downplaying the risk, surely there is a danger gradient in effect, such that people close to the meltdown are in far more peril than someone literally across the ocean.

Consider, as well, that Japan is the only country in the world where people remember widespread radiation sickness, thanks to the boys at Los Alamos. A meltdown is a different animal, to be sure, but bombs that blew up in the atmosphere, incinerating and poisoning hundreds of thousands of Japanese, did nothing to the rest of the world. The Japanese are the ones with the warrant to be scared. The rest of the world is on a fear jag.

Then there is the destruction from the earthquake and tsunami. The horror. As real as the disaster might be for someone in Northeast Japan, what could be more of an illusion than scenes of broken cars and buildings and people beamed into one’s house from thousands of miles away? Shit happens, as Gautama would have said were he alive now.

There are a lot of things in this world to be afraid of. I worry about my doggies all the time, for example, and there are one’s own health problems. Things blow up. There are car wrecks, windstorms, and lightning strikes. Life is fragile, and the trappings of civilization are fragile, as well. Maybe that’s why we meditate, not to escape our fears, but to gather the inner strength to live with them.


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