Martin LeFevre: There Are No Countries Anymore
There Are No Countries Anymore
The end of the year is the only time of the year when reflection is encouraged and expected. However, reflection and resolution are to New Year’s like going to church on Sunday is to religiosity—empty rituals holding less and less meaning in a world accelerating faster and faster.
Reflecting on the past acts as a mirror to the future. A serious, or superficial look back brings an equally serious or silly looking ahead. Personal conditioning and culturally determined narratives, if they are unseen and unexamined, determine and delimit what is seen. One can however, with a single sweep, hold it all in abeyance, and look with unfettered eyes.
More and more people can’t shake the feeling that something greater is happening on this planet than random nature and chaotic humanity. Though I am not a believer, I’m tempted to say that God put an exclamation point at the end of 2004, one which says in language far beyond words: ‘wake up people, there are no countries anymore.’
The massive earthquake in the center of the Indian Ocean was like a meteor striking the earth in prehistoric times: even if people on the landmasses saw it, they wouldn’t have known what was coming. But it wasn’t a rock hitting in the middle of one of the earth’s ocean-ponds; it was a shaking of the earth’s mantle so severe that it moved the huge island of Sumatra, and shortened that day by a fraction of a second.
The human mind has the capacity to respond to scale, but it usually reacts to cataclysm by shutting down. A tragedy of unprecedented this scale, directly affecting a dozen countries and millions of people, is beyond Biblical proportions. Does it have meaning however, beyond the refrain (which was tired by the second day) that this disaster will require “the biggest relief effort in human history?”
When I look up from my efforts to find what words I can for a catastrophe that has left me, like millions of others, pensive for days, I gaze upon a frozen bay stretching as far as the eye can see. Here for the holidays, I’m on the peninsula of Michigan, which is surrounded, in toto, with the largest amount of freshwater in the world. Peering into the arctic expanse, with not a trace of land or life visible, I can't help but think of the millions of people whose freshwater supply is now a deadly mix of sea and sewage.
Snowmobiles regularly race by day and night, their riders clad in black, ballooning snow outfits and headgear, like dark apparitions of a future toward which humankind is racing. The solid, snow-covered water and white-gray sky are fused together in a seamless line that obliterates the horizon. Perception is reduced to a two-dimensional stare—flat and empty, and yet strangely captivating, almost hypnotic.
That seems to be how the colossal calamity, like the human crisis itself, is affecting many people here in the insulated, wealthiest country in the world. They’ve shut down, and feel nothing, becoming as flat and lifeless as that frozen bay and white sky. For others, the emotional impact is immediate and overwhelming. Scenes of wailing parents carrying the lifeless bodies of their children overwhelm them.
One also cannot help but reflect, looking back over the year, on how thousands of lives and billions of dollars have been wasted on a “war of choice” that has predictably and agonizingly unfolded in the reeking bog the USA has made of Iraq. The contrast with the million dollars that a few automated tsunami-warning stations in the Indian Ocean would have cost, which would have saved tens of thousands lives, is almost too much to bear.
But if this natural disaster is too removed from so-called political realities, consider how American scientists, monitoring earthquakes around the world, knew within two minutes what was going to happen, but were unable to warn a single nation. The United States, swept up in the madness of macho-militarism, was impotent to lead and prevent a single death as the tsunami spread outward from the quake’s epicenter hour after hour.
There is something different in the air this year’s end. One hears not just another creaking hinge of history, but feels that the entire door has been blown away.
I hear a whistle; the last train is coming. Get on board, or be left at the station.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.