Relative Misery

Time being tighter than normal this week – work intervenes – so far it’s just been two brief rides on a fixed wheel bike, bookending one less-than-great regular road ride: into a fairly strong easterly wind for 10 miles outward bound and the homeward leg blighted by lousy road surfaces for at least 50% of the time.

There have been very few pedestrians around on any of the days; several notably considerate drivers give me room to avoid pot-holes, overtook with thought. It’s always appreciated; I always try to acknowledge it too. It does no harm to say thank you. Particular thanks to the Royal Mail van driver at the roundabout near White Waltham airfield, going out of his way to let me know I didn’t have to slow down for the junction.

Again, all things are relative. I’m hacked off by some lousy roads. That is not a big deal. Japan remains a good contrast. With the scale of the devastation still unfolding and the nuclear plant issues seemingly worsening, it would be hard to not let the plight of so many people cross your mind.

It would be bogus to say it is troubling; it’s not keeping me awake at nights. But it is distracting – the scale of the destruction is attention-grabbing. Of course, that it is distracting is media-driven, by the mainstream media and others channels too. Whether via TV, via different aspects of the ‘net or whatever else, the before and after images, the amateur footage, the on-the-spot newscasts relayed around the world all make for compelling viewing.

We didn’t get the same ‘great coverage’ of the earthquake in Haiti. Whatever the death toll in Japan, I’d bet a lot of money the number of casualties in Haiti will be vastly higher, and the recovery will there will take far longer – if it ever happens.

A TV report on the Japanese disaster made me question what I thought earlier, about any sympathy I might feel being futile and vacuous. It mentioned survivors being surprised and grateful at world interest and concern. Perhaps I am too cynical. I don’t know. I still don’t know what a meaningful gesture of support would amount to. This is the world’s third largest economy. They don’t need hand-outs. Perhaps we should give money to Haiti instead, our consciences pricked by the better coverage of the misery in Japan.

‘Consciences pricked’ or ‘consciences stirred’?

It does me no credit to say that, until now, I’d forgotten about Haiti in the months since it happened, but at least I’d not actively decided to ignore it. That would have been worse.

The big earthquakes this century, so far –

  • Haiti 2010: 220,000 dead
  • China 2008: 87,000 dead
  • Pakistan 2005: 86,000 dead

The misery and suffering in Japan may be terrible; it may also be small in comparison. Things – all things – can only be properly judged and understood in context.