Sunday, March 20, 2011

History Always Repeats - but we only have a Pinhole View

An article in today's New York Times analyzes the impact of the aftermath of the tsunami disaster on Japan's rural communities and elderly inhabitants.  It's a very interesting and well-written article (as most NYT articles are).  But after reading it, I paused, stared out into space to ponder the ramifications and context and realized, that it's almost embarrassingly obvious that this is nothing new.  History is riddled with thousands of examples of communities, even entire cultures, vanishing or migrating in the wake of a disaster.  Sometimes suddenly, sometimes very gradually.  Examples range from Mongolian villages, to South American village towns, to Balkan trading towns, to North African trading cities.  They even run right up to recent times with small examples like the abandoned town of Wash Woods, Virginia.

We like to say that we "learn from history", but we rarely do.  We are informed about it.  We remember details and some trivial aspects like names, dates, and other nonesense, but actual learning is rare.  Humans repeat the mistakes of history all the time.  A great example is the Financial market systems we've pandered to for hundreds of years.  From the Tulip market bust of the 1600's Holland era, right up to the 2007 nose-dive, the same lead-ups occurred.  The same rhetoric and political arguments were spewed out, but we followed the same script as if blindfolded and led down a cattle slaughter corrale.  What does this have to do with tsunamis and Japan?  From one aspect it has everything to do with it: we read history and ignore it.  Then when something occurs again, as it has for thousands, if not millions, of years, we act as if it's all new.  Brand, spanking new. 

Stop and think, over the past thousands of years, before we had any way to report "news" or even write things down, of how many times Earthquakes must have occurred in the western band of the ring of fire (tectonic plate stuff), and how many times tsunamis must have come in and wiped out entire villages, towns, cities and the lives and cultures along with it?  We won't likely ever know.  Only cultures that have survived the onslaught of history have been able to record their experiences.  Many that perished never had the ability or the chance to do so.  Those are the things left for Archeologists to dig up later.

So before you buy into the sky-is-falling hype, or start worrying that our planet is suddenly turning against us, keep in mind that from a geological and cultural/societal aspect, we live in some of the most calm and relatively uneventful times in the history of this planet.  While horrifically tragic, these are relatively small blips in the violent history of this planet.  Some will parish.  Some will move and start over.  Some will barely notice it happened.  But the Earth will move on, just as it did with every previous disaster, of which we only know of a small number.  Imagine if this happened today in a populated area?  It's called: luck (or bad luck).

Disclaimer: I really don't know shit about what I'm talking about.

Post a Comment