Tsunami Lesson

The devastation caused by the Tsunami that killed some 200,000 people on December 26 last year has left an indelible mark of haunting memories following the death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. Add to those who lost their lives, around 1.5 million people have been left homeless in countries around the Indian Ocean. Going by the magnitude of upheaval caused, the response in the form of relief and aid was truly inspiring and remarkable. As per United Nations record, it was the most generous and most immediately funded emergency relief effort.

Such a united response only goes to show how faith - whatever our religion - can inspire people to work together in friendship and peace. If this legacy of human bond and people’s indomitable spirit can be passed on to future generations, it would indeed be a worthwhile effort given that the year 2005 following the Tsunami has also been a terrible time of tragedy and death; the massive earthquake in Pakistan and India and the devastation caused by Katrina to mention only a few. Such disasters should once again be a reminder that the world is not always a painless place to live in, but also, it is the only place that there is to co-exist as individuals, society, nation and State.

Despite great advances in science and technology, human ingenuity has yet to decipher natures’ fury. Like the Katrina hurricane, Asian Tsunami or this year’s devastating earthquake in India and Pakistan such calamity should inspire not only awe at the power of nature and sympathy for the helpless victims but to quote the French philosopher Voltaire, ample proof that we do not live “in the best of all possible worlds”. In the understanding of a philosopher like Voltaire, such phenomenon, should serve to remind us of our common vulnerability as human beings in the face of a pitiless nature.

As the world remembers those who have lost their lives to such devastating natural calamities it should also be an opportunity to understand that there is a common thread of humanity that binds the destiny of people and nations. There is much more to life than mere power struggles and economic growth rates. Perhaps never in the history of human civilization, man had accumulated so much economic wealth, advanced in industrial fields in such leaps and bound and even mastered the most powerful element of nature, i.e. the atom and even conquered space. The impossibility of yesterday has been made possible today by the great scientific genius of the modern man.

But, it is also an irony of tremendous magnitude, that despite all these, the modern man has no peace of mind and the worst kind of conflict that is the cause of the present crisis, comes from man himself. “When shall there be kingdom of Heaven on Earth?” asked a disciple, and St. Peter’s prompt reply ran: “When thou shall love thy neighbor and take away the poison-belt of malice and jealousy from thy heart”. The waves of the future, to repeat Walter Lippman’s famous prophecy “are not of war or violence, but of peace and peaceful co-existence”. This more than anything else should be the lesson learnt from the Tsunami, of triumph in the face of hopelessness.