Monday, March 28, 2011

An Insight

Not for the close-minded. If you know for a fact that you are one such person, do not read on. If you think your mind is open enough, go ahead, but if at any point you start to feel offended, or any sort of negative emotions, please stop - it means you're not as open as you think you are. There are plenty of stuff to read on the Internet, you do not need to suffer yourself through disagreeable ones.

Since the earthquake and subsequently, the tsunami, followed by the nuclear power plant crisis, hit Japan, I have quietly observed in the various reactions of friends and some strangers. Most wrote generally well-meaning wishes for the affected souls, asking the world to pray, beseeching readers to appreciate life and their loved ones, etc. Others wrote longer notes, on their blogs, on roughly the same things. While I appreciate the empathy shown (contrary to the perhaps popular belief, I do empathize with the worthy), I do not see how such can amount to anything practically useful. I'm not a hardcore skeptic, but I do not believe in prayers and I do not believe praying for Japan can in the least be helpful to her people. Do I have a point where I'm going? Yes, please bear with me.

A friend close to my heart lives in Hiroshima. Following the quake, he sends weekly emails to provide updates on the situation as he sees it. Three days ago, we had an exchange I felt was worth sharing. I have his permission to publish it here:

Dear --- ,

Some earthquake-related updates from me.

One. The death toll has passed the ten thousand mark as of twenty sixth of March. Still there is a total of more than ten thousand people unaccounted for at the moment. There is a possibility that they would be dead, making the total toll to more than twenty thousand. But that is of course a rough forecast from the local media, should not be taken as an official comment.

Two. A temporary surge of radiation level in the state of Okayama, which is the state right next to Hiroshima by the way, has been detected yesterday. No immediate health hazard was announced but I am not taking this lightly.

Three. The Japanese government is contemplating to change the regulation that specifies the maximum level of radiation exposure that is safe to be exposed to. I really don't understand why would they want to do this.

Four. The state of Fukushima has imposed a ban on delivery of farm products until further notice. Unusual level of radiation has been detected and there is now fear that food shortage will follow.

Five. whether the situation is under control or not isn't made clear to the public. There is a debate whether the evac area is wide enough. I don't know what to believe but one thing for sure you guys do not want to go anywhere near the place, right?

Six. Automobile and electronic devices might see a drop in production because of the supply chain problem. So, what I read from this piece of info is that whoever wants to buy a Japanese car or a, say, computer, might want to buy it before it is too late. The price of computer memory has gone up since the quake.

Seven. Life is good, don't waste it.

Going back to the point I was making - I felt that I could only stand by and watch. The monetary aid that can be given by an average individual like myself is but insignificant relative to the magnitude of the disaster. So, is there anything practical and useful that an ordinary person like me can do? Anything at all?

He replied:

Dear --- ,

If you are talking about how an ordinary person could help as in helping the people who have lost their home or loved ones, unfortunately I don't think there is anything you can do. (as a matter of fact I don't even think there is anything I can do to help them)

Those people needs a new place to settle down, a job to attend to, warmth, food, water, and most of all, hope. They don't need money per se, what they need is a life to live.

The Japanese society in a whole is polling batteries, clothing, bottled water, cup noddles, gasoline and whatnot and sending them to the people in ground zero. I have tried to play my part in this incident by making a small donation. I don't really believe that my money will even reach to the needy, nevertheless I did it because it seems to be a norm doing so. I didn't dig up the canned food or batteries I have in my storeroom and send them off because I am more concerned with my own welfare.

You might think I am being cold-blooded, but I would have asked you doing the same. There is no need to do anything out of ordinary to help. What we need to do is, put it simply, the everyday stuff.

Live a normal life, carry out all the activities and transactions as if nothing had happened. Help to stabilize the economy by doing nothing unusual. Say, buy the Japanese goods, Japanese fruits, Japanese dairy products or Japanese snacks. This would be the most you or anyone outside of Japan can help those people - to rebuild their lives. If you (not you per se, of course) were to put your self-interest of protecting yourself from possible radioactive contamination above everything else (which is normal) it means you don't need to do anything special for those people.

People who will benefit from helping the affected people will do so without being asked for. So rest assured that you don't need to do anything special, just do your own thing like nothing had happened.

If this doesn't make sense to you, well, which is what I suppose would happen, you can try to donate money even a little, just don't have high hope that the money will do the people any good. You know there is human cost and institutional cost involved to move money around, right?

Thank you, CK, for sharing, and allowing me to share.

For those who will: *click here*
If you're registered with Google Checkout, all it takes is a few clicks.

Actually, I never thought much of the cost involved in moving money, and I don't know if our contribution can indeed reach the intended recipients. I guess we will just have to put our trust in the people we give our donation to.

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