Tsunamis and this Thing Called Humanity
Tsunamis and this Thing Called Humanity
From the Oceans, Indiscriminate Devastation
By Manuel Valenzuela -
Manuel Valenzuela is social critic and commentator, international affairs analyst, Internet columnist and author of Echoes in the Wind
As if to burst the bubble of human grandeur, infallibility and perceived omnipotence, Earth has once again thundered powerful vibrations onto her once pristine surface, in a sudden instant of horrific oceanic energy killing hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings and laying waste to vast coastlines throughout Asiatic lands bordering the Indian Ocean. In one brief moment the fantasies of Hollywood fictions fused with the horrors of our nightmares, creating one of the worst tragedies since recorded history put to paper such natural calamities and their inevitable consequences.
The utter devastation left in the tsunami’s wake is a reality never contemplated by the creativity of humankind’s most talented fiction writers. What is left are lands now in ruins, villages, towns and resorts razed, vanished from existence, survivors confronting death, misery, disease, thirst, hunger and the realization that nothing will ever be as it once was. A diverse amalgam of peoples, already living in various poverty-stricken, tropical areas, will be unable to extricate themselves from incalculable human suffering, being buried even deeper inside the quicksand of indigence, shortly to be standing face to face with a multitude of deadly water-borne diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, diarrhea and malaria that will claim countless lives. Those now dead will be considered the lucky ones, for those who remain living fight amongst themselves for food, clean water and remnants of their once peaceful co-existence, competing with each other for the relief aid provided by the world and battling those microscopic organisms that have forever laid waste to humanity and that mankind, the king of the proverbial jungle, has yet to defeat.
A tragedy of the magnitude we have just seen far exceeds the destruction of 9/11 in lower Manhattan, making the World Trade Center, where 3000 people lost their continued existence on the planet, look benign. Indeed, both tragedies are not even in the same universe. The sheer devastation of the tsunami ripped apart humanity, shredding countless lives to pieces, eroding the foundations of society, affecting numerous countries, erasing from reality entire towns and ways of life. Hundreds of thousands of natives perished, washed out into the vastness of Earth’s salt waters, never to be seen or heard from again, leaving behind them waves of destruction, suffering and untold sadness. Thousands of European tourists also vanished, one day basking in the glow of paradise and the next transported by water to the lands beyond the realm of human understanding. One nation, Sweden, with a population of only nine million people, may have lost as many citizens as the United States did on 9/11.
What it has taken George Bush and his Amerika a year and a half to achieve, namely the mass murder of over 100,000 people in Iraq, the physical and mental maiming of countless more along with unqualifiable levels of suffering, at the price of ceaseless and immoral violence, at a cost of $200 billions dollars, Earth has dwarfed in a microcosm of time, prematurely robbing of life hundreds of thousands of human energies in a tidal wave of cataclysmic proportions. Entire coastlines have been obliterated; lives have been torn to pieces; futures no longer exist.
It is no doubt difficult for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, those regions and nations endowed with insurmountable levels of human luck in environment, climate, soils, available crops, bountiful food and plentiful water, free of the corrosive effects on humans of living in the tropics, with its inhospitable weather unsuitable for human prosperity and its disease-riddled environments, to place ourselves in the same life as those now suffering. Many of us will never experience the incredible poverty of most of the survivors, nor the calamities that will befall those that must keep living in the next years. We will never see our feet inside wooden shacks or mud-brick homes half the size of our garages. We will never experience the smells, sights and tastes of living in shantytowns, without the comforts of the exorbitance we take for granted on a daily basis, nor the reality of sustaining our families on two dollars or less per day, roaming the streets for food or work.
Driving in our giant size SUVs from mega-size Wal-Mart to consumerist malls, gas guzzling the devil’s excrement of the third-world on vast highways and wide-open spaces, heading to our three story homes, many built with the wood of the once-pristine forests and jungles of those whose houses and belongings now call the Indian Ocean home, their insides littered with the spoils of exorbitant empire, we oftentimes fail to understand that our planet is shared with billions more, most of whom are born sentenced to a life of indigence, robbed of talent and ability, opportunity made extinct, forever to roam Earth’s expanse toiling for survival, excreting blood, sweat and tears day to day in order to live, not in comfort but in indigence, their energies exploited for the benefit of their consumerist brothers and sisters of the northern hemisphere.
It is these peoples, from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Somalia and all nations in between that are the front lines of modern day, market colonialism slavery, among the most destitute and exploited peoples on Earth. If anybody deserved a break in life, instead of a tidal wave, it was these hundreds of millions of human beings. Yet in a world that does not discriminate, being blind to the colors of humanity and the socio-economic status of peoples, moving to the vibrations of plate tectonics, free to release energy anywhere on the planet, it is the people of the so-called third world that suffer the most, adding to their daily misery, furthering the ever-growing gap between the rich north and the poorer south.
Tremors which sent tsunamis rushing towards habitable coasts did not discriminate among Muslims, Atheists, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, between rich and poor, European and Asian, socio-economic status and caste, between tribe, ethnicity, color, village and hotel resort. Walls of water swallowed vast numbers of man and devastated large patches of land, erasing from history coastlines, villages and countless lives, most of whom were living in quiet normalcy one instant and in utter terror the next.
Earth does not ask questions in its long journey through time. What transpired more than a week ago is but one manifestation of mechanisms that have shaped our home for more than four billion years. The mountains we see, the hills we climb, the valleys we cross, the canyons whose beauty we absorb, the oceans we traverse and the continents we live in are the result of timeless changes on the surface of our planet. Erosion, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornados, typhoons, rivers, lakes, glaciers, gorges, shifting continents, crashing plates, conifer forests, impenetrable jungles, fertile lands, arid deserts and frozen tundra are all witnesses to the living energy that Earth has created since its formation. The world of today is a result of four billion years of history, of evolution, of constant changes, of slow mechanisms that take hundreds of thousands of years to mold and form, to destroy and create. One human lifetime, not to mention civilization itself, cannot possibly comprehend how many times the planet has been devastated, altered and damaged, only to become a living paradise over and over again.
In the life of Earth, over four billion years of history, there have undoubtedly been millions of tsunamis like the one that killed so many people. Many have been bigger, many smaller, yet before, mankind did not exist as we do today. We have only been around this tiny planet for a few million years, a few hundred thousand as modern humans. In the long life of Earth, we are nothing, a simple second or two in a twenty-four hour clock, one exhale of carbon dioxide out of billions taken. Yet to humans it is hard to contemplate centuries of time, much less millennia or entire epochs. Time is unfathomable to us, an exercise in futility to primitive brains and short mammalian lives. How can we comprehend hundreds of millions of years when our existence lasts, on average, 70 years?
Earth is an eternal mechanism of energy which has played host to an unimaginable number of life forms, some bigger than others, some more dominant than most. Humanity is but one such species to grace the green grasses of Earth, a passenger on a grand bus in an endless journey through space. Our journey has but begun, yet the bus has been traveling for a very long time. Humans are mere infants still sucking our collective thumb, fragile creatures still immature, slowly learning and defining life, desperate to have meaning and purpose and an understanding of who and what we are. We were spawned by the bowels of Earth, made of carbon and Earthly minerals, molded from the sands of time and the clays of nature, a lowly animal whose evolution has led to the world of today.
Yet we are at the mercy of Earth and nature, and when the day comes, not too far in the future, when we get off the bus at the stop called self-annihilation, Earth will continue the journey without us, spinning as it always has, giving birth to life once more, its lands moving with the tremors and vibrations of tectonics, manifested by earthquakes and volcano eruptions and even tsunamis. Long after we are gone and nuclear winters are exchanged for warm and enjoyable summers Earth will replenish itself, in a blink of an eye in the parameters of time growing back her forests and her jungles and her multitude of species. Her oceans will be teeming with life again; her air will exhibit the pureness of nature and her lands will blossom with the diversity of living, breathing entities evolving along with the passage of time.
To a world of such size as Earth, whose magnitude remains incomprehensible to grasp by primates still living under primitive levels of understanding, still unable to escape the mechanisms of primitive dogma and archaic thought, still penitent to invisible and metaphysical deities whose use has long since passed the realm of human necessity and still shackled to the passions and behaviors of our animal selves, the cumbersome and destructive capacity of the plague called humanity is of little significance when its natural forces make themselves manifest. An earthquake whose energy was equal to one million atomic bombs does not ask for human permission before continuing on its natural progression through the underground tectonic plates that abound below our feet.
This Thing Called Humanity
Our species is in reality, when compared to the forces of the only home we have, an impotent army of six billion primates at the mercy of anything Earth throws at us. We are as primitive as the humans of 100,000 years ago, with slight evolutions – or regressions, depending on how one might look at it – of theology, music, dance, communication, war, culture, technology, art and food, to name but a few, that have grown with our increased numbers and our communal intelligence.
In fact, we have been doing much of the above since the beginning of time, banging on drums, wood and rock with bones, grunting and singing below a sky-lit night, thus making music in front of fire; conjuring up deities to explain a mysterious and dangerous world around us, encompassing the unknown and the fear-induced, creating myths and fables to give our existence meaning and our world answers; painting figures on cave walls to the extent of human imagination much like today’s art masterpieces conjure up world’s of creative design and ingenuity; hunting for mammoth and bison and picking seeds now replaced by hunting and gathering at the nearest supermarket; caves and primitive dwellings have been replaced by homes and buildings, yet we still sleep in our nests, our beds, and still perform daily functions in the home much like our forefathers did in their caves; we still fear out of ignorance, we still fight over territory, we still claim hierarchical leaders and we still battle over which god is better than the other; we communicate much like those of yesteryear, much like humanity has done since the beginning, but with newer technologies. Everything remains the same, only altered by changing technology and the power of the growing communal brain, now six billion strong.
Yet primitive we remain, no matter how enlightened industrialized nations and their peoples think themselves to be, no matter how modern their societies tend to be and no matter how ego driven their delusion of supreme ascendancy is. Modern man, with all his knowledge, intelligence, technology, culture and civilization, remains as primitive as his ancestors of centuries past. He remains a product of his animal urges, needs, wants and psychology, a mammal confined to the basic elements of what makes him a bipedal primate.
In the end, all humans, whether from industrialized nations or third world hellholes, whether rich or poor, whether from one tribe or ethnicity, live life in much the same way, breathing, seeing, hearing, sweating, bleeding, communicating, reproducing, thinking, observing, eating, drinking, sleeping, surviving and behaving much the same way humankind has done for thousands upon thousands of years, much the same way as our mammal cousins have and continue to do as well. We are the same species of long ago, our brains being of the same variety, not having grown or evolved for millennia, leaving the long chain of primate links behind as testament to our origins and our reality. For evolution does not work in decades or centuries, and our changes over the last 100,000 years have been civilizational and societal, not physical, mental or behavioral. Modern man of today has not changed significantly for a few hundred thousand years, and our behaviors, while more technologically sophisticated and assaulted by the never-before stresses of modern life, are nonetheless very similar to those of our long dead ancestors who roamed the plains of the world in the greatest Diaspora in the history of man.
We are powerless to stop and control nature, yet we crown ourselves emperors and rulers of the planet. From the smallest virus birthing plague and disease to the largest earthquake destroying our cities to the deadliest hurricanes ravaging states to the most unpredictable tornado causing havoc we are at the mercy of nature and Earth, unable to control and dominate weather and even the smallest microbes. Yet we think ourselves beyond primitive, beyond the impotent and plebian species we really are, ravaging its planet and its home, making extinct untold number of species, polluting its air, water and land, growing in number like the most voracious plague of locusts, exploiting Earth beyond its means, ripping apart balances that have lasted into perpetuity and each year bringing closer to destruction an entire planet.
In our wake lies a planet whose paradise is consumed and devastated more each day, our appetite for destruction and materialism replacing harmonious wonderment with garbage and waste. The machines of human decimation suck up beauty and spit out refuse, wherever they go causing death and destruction of ecosystems, making paradise conform to our insatiable hunger for land and our vision of destitute existence. In front of us lies a world brilliant and beautiful, virgin and pristine, in balance with itself. In our footprints that land becomes barren and desolate, exploited, polluted and abandoned, devoid of life and marked by the repulsive signature of human presence.
For everywhere man goes destruction soon follows. It is our nature, being the most destructive species to ever walk on Earth. We have cleared entire continents of forest and jungle, making extinct once bountiful life, altering entire ecosystems and burdening a balance we care nothing to learn about. To have seen Earth 10,000 years ago, when man was but beginning its destructive ways, would have been like peering into a different dimension, a paradise of unsurpassed beauty whose magnificence we would fail to recognize. Yet it once existed, before human war and exploitation and destructive behaviors and territorial competition and sheer ignorance came about. It lasted for hundreds of millions of years, unspoiled and unsurpassed, a gift for all life to cherish and live in.
Yet it was man, that most greedy and self-destructive entity, that claimed it for itself, as ruler of Earth, dominator of nature, despoiler of all things living. A gift to us turned to an invitation to do with the planet as we wished, and upon our arrival into lands once unknown and pristine, and those inhabited by peoples actually living in harmony with nature and in respect of Earth, exploitation soon began, made worse by technology and the Industrial Revolution, exacerbated by our growing numbers and our exponentially-growing demand, greed and love of money feeding the machine of destruction. After all, Earth was ours, given to us by the Almighty to do with it as we wished. As rulers of all things living and beautiful we exploited and destroyed, not caring or understanding about future ramifications, turning the only home we have into a cesspool of waste and pollution, leaving ruin in our wake and extinction in our midst. But Earth is “owned” by us, and so the devastation continues.
We refuse to understand our origins, and thus our reality, and so we continue on the road to violent suicide using the energies of the atom and the dangerousness of genetic, biological and chemical technologies. As humans we refuse to explore who and what we are, in the process failing to understand our behaviors, born of evolution and biology, and our passions, born of mammalian needs and reptilian wants. The belief in our greatness is the greatest mistake of our beliefs. We are on an ego-trip, deluded into believing in our supreme ascendancy, blasting off in a space ship of fantasy, traveling miles away from reality, inevitably heading to self-induced catastrophe.
In reality, we are humans, not gods, billions of pebbles in an otherwise inconspicuous beach, as vulnerable to crashing waves as once monolithic rock now made minute by the carving forces of salt water, eroded into millions of inconsequential sand. To the long, billions year old history of Earth we are but mere hiccups, insignificant organisms relatively new to the soils of the planet, barely scratching the surface of all that has come before us, unable to fully contemplate the longevity of time and space or the massiveness of a universe we belong to, which Earth is but a mere proton-size member of. We are mammals, born of flesh and blood, created out of the primordial cesspools of oozing blob and green ponds of organisms evolving together. We are descended from amphibians and reptiles, for hundreds of millions of years roaming the great expanse of Earth, in time evolving into mammals living among dinosaurs, finally given our chance to thrive through the calamity of a falling asteroid and subsequent extinction of the dinosaurs. A world now dominated by mammals allowed us to evolve once again, transforming from rats to primates over the course of million-year old epochs, in a slow process of evolution that our primitive brains cannot fully understand.
Our brains are the result of our history, from the bacteria we were born out of to the modern man of today. New layers were added through time, yet deep inside, in the most primitive reaches of our minds, the reptile and the mammal we once were talk to us through our behaviors, passions and emotions. It is they who we must understand if we ever want to survive what we are doing to ourselves. The keys to saving humanity from itself lie in opening the doors of our innermost psychology, in knowing and understanding the mammalian world of today, in discovering the ways of our cousins living in nature and in realizing that we are not gods or rulers or chosen ones, but rather a species descended from the primordial cesspool of long lost yesterdays from where everything living was spawned.
Of Tsunamis and Wake Up Calls
The tsunami humankind has recently experienced is a wake up call, a tremor trying to clear our minds from the hazy delusion we have for too long been immersed in. Trying to shake the foundations of our thousands year old ego trip, it has manifested our impotence to nature and the grandeur of Earth’s power, of which we are powerless to control or escape from. In every corner of the globe have we migrated to, and in each region do we remain at the mercy of Earth.
Yet it is humankind that has killed more people than all the natural calamities to ever arise from the bowels of the planet. It is perpetual war and violence, ingrained into the human condition since our inception, making us the most violent creature on the face of the globe, the only one to self-destroy both its home and itself, that has killed more humans than anything manifested by Earth. It is man’s exploitation of self and addiction to materialism, our inability to master the gripping control greed has over us, our perpetual reliance on corrupt and immoral leadership that constantly leads to war and misery, our insistence on pursuing the corrosive mechanism of capitalism, our pursuit of exploiting our fellow man and natural lands, our continued use of primitive forms of energy in times of great technological capacities and our blind pursuit and need for both flag and god that continues to devastate our fellow man, slowly but surely sending our species towards the point of no return, where momentum will be such that our destiny becomes sealed in an irreversible vicious cycle of the worst in the human condition.
Earth has once again laid claim her mighty omnipotence, unaltered by humanity’s locust-like population growth or our voracious consumption and unhindered by the ever-reaching presence of human civilization. For billions of years she has moved the pieces of her living puzzle, delivering a plethora of natural phenomenon that refuses to stop, even for the perceived and self-aggrandizing greatness of our species. She has unleashed her energy since the dawn of time, and will undoubtedly continue to shift her underground plates after human existence ceases to exist. For she is Earth, over four billion years of balance and energy, understanding that plagues have come before just as they will surely arise once again. She remains unperturbed by the six billion strong species that is intent on destroying both itself and her, yet she will survive, in a nanosecond of time recycling the wasted landscapes, polluted airs and devastated waterways that humanity has created, washing away all remnants of what man was and did from the face of her surface. Long after we are gone and long after Earth has been made clean from the destruction we wrought, life will once more thrive and evolve, for Earth will continue living, creating life and returning balance to both herself and the universe.
Yet it is man that has and will continue to kill more of our kind than all natural calamities combined. It is man that will lay waste to more ecosystems than all natural calamities combined. It is man, the self-proclaimed ruler of the planet, and perhaps even the universe, that through human wickedness, exploitation, subjugation and oppression of our fellow beings will unearth more suffering and pain onto those of our same kind. Natural calamities come and go, yet human evil persists. We see it in unending wars, in ethic and religious strife and violence, in new and old crusades, in warlike leadership creating warlike people, in economic genocide and market colonialism, in slavery masked as capitalism, in individual pursuits trumping communal triumph, in division of classes and castes and skin colors and ideologies and opportunities, in the way we treat our fellow man.
Natural calamities such as earthquakes may seem evil, unleashing death and destruction onto humanity, yet it humanity itself which must look itself in the mirror, because what a tsunami achieves in mere moments we sustain for entire centuries. The only difference is that the former arrives without warning, suddenly and catastrophically, its damage apparent in an instant, while the latter is slow and progressive, systemic and devastating, clandestine in implementation and without the attention of the world’s cameras focused on the severe damage it unleashes on billions of human beings. Tsunamis may kill two hundred thousand in one fell swoop, but we kill millions upon millions through our actions, our voting, our acquiescence, our indifference and guilty complicity, creating untold levels of suffering with each passing day that the system creates more poverty, more exploitation and oppression.
It is in times of natural calamity when humanity rises to assist those devastated by what Earth has wrought, contributing money, aid and assistance, helping in any way we can. This is the innate goodness ingrained in most of humanity, and helps bring us all a little bit closer together. This is a wonderful manifestation of humanity, yet we must not wait for these natural phenomenon before we assist those who desperately need aid and food and medicine and shelter and opportunity. The tsunamis of poverty, hunger, exploitation, lost opportunity, disease, marginalization, dehumanization, lack of education, ignorance and oppression are much more debilitating than the natural kind, and must be attacked preemptively, before they unleash their devastating and continued malignancies upon billions throughout the world. It is these tsunamis we must fear most, and those which we should attempt to destroy through our human goodness and willingness to aid our fellow human beings.
Millions of humans die prematurely each year not by tsunamis or earthquakes, but by our exploitation of their lands and labor, by our indifference to their plight as industrialized nations commit yearly acts of economic genocide, as their nation’s treasure is gobbled up by banks and lending institutions, as their lands and their resources are pillaged and raped, as their social programs are gutted to suit the needs of America and other northern nations, condemning billions to a life subsisting on two dollars a day, their talents ignored, opportunity made extinct and futures oppressed.
The goodness of humankind should not wait for tsunamis to rise from the ocean floor because every day is a tsunami for billions of fellow human beings who are being swept out into the ocean of lost lives and shattered dreams. It is time we awaken to this reality, knowing that behind every tsunami-like catastrophe lies an even greater man-made tragedy.
Mr. Valenzuela’s new novel is now on sale through Authorhouse.com at Echoes in the Wind Sales Page. A philosophical, educational and spiritual story on humanity and our civilization, as relevant as today’s headlines, this book is almost 600 pages in trade paperback form on sale internationally through secure web page transaction. Additionally, the novel is now available on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, as well as other online book sellers. If preferred, the novel can also be ordered at any local brick and mortar bookstore worldwide through the book’s ISBN number, 1418489905.
Manuel Valenzuela is social critic and commentator, international affairs analyst, Internet columnist and author of Echoes in the Wind, a novel now published by Authorhouse.com. A collection of essays, Beyond the Smoking Mirror: Reflections on America and Humanity, will be published in early 2005. His articles appear regularly in alternative news websites including informationclearinghouse.info . His unique style and powerful writing is read internationally and seeks to expose truths and realities confronting humanity today. Mr. Valenzuela welcomes comments and can be reached at email@example.com. A collection of his work can be found visiting his archives and by searching the Internet