Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Disaster Spirituality

I was reading another mans blog the other day, looking for the perfect passage to inspire conversation in a reflection group. I was looking for a quote that would comment about spirituality in the midst of a disaster. A book called Like Grains of Wheat: A Spirituality of Solidarity had a perfect quote that I found in this particular blog, and it has really struck with me ever since.

This community also understood how much the disaster was worsened by the long legacy of injustice, repression and exploitation in these countries. They understood why the poor people who had been forced to live in areas most vulnerable to natural disasters were once again the vast majority of the dead, injured, and homeless. They understood how the deforestation and over development had altered the climate of the region and left the earth vulnerable to the landslides and flooding caused by seven days of torrential rains.

Solidarity means more than giving food to the hungry and shelter to the homeless, it also means addressing the question of why they are hungry and homeless.

Here in El Salvador, asking the question of why has been very present in my mind lately. After a month of disaster, one simply prays that things will just stop. After watching the news every day, seeing people suffer, listening to the government and their lies, things just become more frustrating. I sit on the bus and I can’t help but wonder what life was or is like for the person sitting next to me. Sometimes I imagine them leaving their house in the morning, saying goodbye to their family. In my mind, the person sitting next to me lives in a home made of scrap metal and wood, and sometimes in my mind, the house is resting on a hill with a straight drop down.

It’s easy to imagine these conditions, because I see them everyday. My bus drives by marginal communities where homes have fallen in the valley below due to the rain, earthquakes and mudslides. It’s not hard to find someone around here who hasn’t been affected this way. And that is the reality that sticks with me every day. I wish it was just me and an active imagination, but this time reality tells the truth.

So if I am really a person of solidarity, then it is my responsibility to ask the tough questions. And trust me, I’ve asked these questions before, but this time it’s different, because I had this little revelation of sorts. It goes like this...

The so called "natural disasters"are caused by unexplainable forces of the earth. But we know that with things like global warming, the patterns and reactions fo the earth are changing every day. And we know that part of the problem of global warming and other abuses of the earth are caused by an over consumption and pollution of the earths people. But ask yourself, who is doing the over consuming here? Is it the campesino who still uses an ox to till his field, or is it the rich guy who insists on driving his BMW to work everyday instead of taking the bus, even if it’s just for a mile and a half?

El Salvador had a hurricane, earthquake and volcanic eruption all in one week. The effects included flooding, mudslides, falling volcanic ash, power outages, contaminated water, destroyed homes (the list goes on). The fact that all three of these "natural disasters"occurred in one week, doesn’t really seem like coincidence anymore.

When you think about who uses the majority of the earths resources or where the rich have placed the poor people of the world, it is not hard to see all the strings attached to this "natural disaster". Not only is the current situation in El Salvador, and all over the world, a perfect example of environmental racisism, but its also are really good example of a generational cover up of one giant human rights violation.

I think that the term "natural disaster"was created to take blame off of someone, or some body of individuals (ie the government). I think that when we use the phrase "natural disaster"we are welcomed to feel sorry for those affected, but we aren’t encouraged or mandated to change our lives.

Blame it on God....blame it on the earth...blame it on the cosmos...whatever. But why would anyone actually take the blame for the historical proof of oppression that has contributed to the suffering that we know today?

This is not a conspiracy theory...this is not some kind of liberal crap on a stick. This is what the poor have known for a long time. Think about it....

The tsunami, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, mudslides, wars...who are the ones who suffer and die?

1 comment:

wendy said...

people have said that the tsunami was more publicized & recieved more concern & $ around the world because the rich people were affected. it came in from the water & the rich people were in hotels on the beach.

i agree with your thinking about the poor being situated in bad spots.

i think back to the poor panamanians in the inner city when the u.s. destroyed their neighborhoods going after noriega. hopefully i have my facts correctly here; i tend to forget details.

the reaction to the hurricane katrina is an interesting phenomenon. i think that most of the people with $ were able to escape the city before it became a frightening jungle. bush initially ignored the situation, but when citizens across the country became critical & showed concern for these people, he put on a show of caring. i think that he was surprised that so many average u.s. citizens cared about these poor people.

these are just my thoughts on your post.