Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Sea of Troubles.

It seems a little disrespectful to Japan to think about spring, so our gloomy weather of the last few weeks seems only fitting. How can I enjoy flowers and sunshine when so many are suffering in the cold without food, water, fuel or sanitary arrangements. And they are the lucky ones, the ones who weren't swept out to sea or buried underneath the rubble. At the same time the Japanese are struggling to help the survivors, a nuclear power facility is threatening to blow up, rendering that part of the country uninhabitable for generations to come. They say that this was one of the most powerful earthquakes in history. In terms of the Richter scale, it's a straightforward, objectively measurable ranking. The tsunamis that followed were also measurable and quantifiable. But the jolt delivered by this calamity to the world is only beginning to gather force. I am not talking about the minute increase in the planet's rotation, or the movement of the island of Honshu, or the shift in the earths axis, but about the global economy. Japan is one of the most productive economies in the world, a linchpin in the structure of all our economies. The Japanese are also one of the planets most educated and civilized people, making important contributions to our common intellectual and moral capital. They are going to have a tough time recovering and the rest of us are going to miss their contributions. At this point it's pretty well impossible to guess what will happen, but with the turmoil in the Middle East threatening oil supplies, and the world's financial system already in trouble, more devastation could be on the horizon.
The human suffering is always the same, whether in Haiti, Chile, Indonesia and New Zealand. People alone, hungry and cold, with many of their loved ones- parents, children, friends- dead. It's hard to imagine. And yet, if poor Haiti disappeared tomorrow it would hardly make a difference on the global scale. But Japan is a giant, it will make a mighty crash heard around the world.
Meanwhile life goes on, as the saying goes. Daffodils are finally blooming on Beacon Hill's south facing slope, and a demonstration was going on outside the legislature.
The demonstrators were university students complaining about the high cost of school, and more to the point, why they should have to pay for it. I got in a bit of an argument with one of the protestors, a reasonably intelligent young man. I asked him why he thinks I should pay for his university education, and he answered respectfully without really addressing the question. Probably I wasn't that clear at this unexpected encounter. What I meant was this. When they carry their signs around, they are asking the rest of us to buy something. It's not that I don't think society has an obligation to educate its young. The problem is, I don't want to pay for something I don't like, and I very much dislike the 'product' that our public education system sells. Schools are no longer places where students can go to learn about their heritage. Far from it. Students are taught to despise their heritage. Schools have become indoctrination centres. The young man tried to tell me that he was taught how to think at school, but all the evidence I have seen shows me that they are taught what to think. If he truly has a vocation to acquire knowledge and understanding he's better off to find a useful occupation and in his spare time read. Above all, read the classics. Stay away from the university at all costs. And, no. I don't want to pay for the stink hole that university has become.
Been watching the tantrum the union goons are throwing in Wisconsin? If so, maybe you are like me and asked yourself, "What are these people doing teaching school?" Apparently they don't believe in elections. They don't believe in peaceful discussion of the issues. They do believe in making death threats to people who don't give them what they want. They do believe in using the children they are supposed to be teaching as props. Ah, the unions. That's a rant I'll leave for another day.
Pray for the Japanese, once our bitter enemies, now our loyal friends.