World: Natural Disasters
No, we're not referring to the Bush-Cheney Misadministration, for once.
An earthquake measuring 7.9 has killed some 9,000 or more in China and injured thousands of others. The epicenter of the earthquake was in Wenchuan county of Sichuan province. The total number of casualties will undoubtedly increase as relief workers gain access to the stricken areas, a task currently made difficult by damage to roads linking outlying areas to the provincial capital in Chengdu.
The Chinese government has released millions in emergency aid and is rushing food, emergency shelter, and supplies to the affected areas. The earthquake was also felt in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan, and as far away as Hanoi, Vietnam, and Bangkok, Thailand, according to the Hong Kong-based Mandarin-language channel Phoenix TV.
Will Mother Gaia succeed in shaking off this irritating plague of humans that is drowning her lands, blackening her skies, and destroying the sweet green peace of her light and comely garment of life?
The last serious earthquake in China occurred in the 1970s and the death toll was 255,000. Our sympathies to the Chinese people in their hour of grief.
Meanwhile, in Burma, the death toll from from Cyclone Nargis is expected to rise to 1.5 million. The Guardian has some excellent coverage available here, some of it &mdash be warned &mdash quite upsetting.
The Burmese government has decided to respond to the cyclone by refusing to permit international disaster agencies and workers access to stricken areas; insisting to the rest of the world that timely warning was provided to the people regarding the cyclone (those of us who saw what happened to the city of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina know quite well that warnings are worth shit when the people have no way of implementing an escape. Heckuva job, Georgie!); and asking its citizens to report any person who complains or "spreads rumours" about the slowness of rescue operations to the proper authorities. No doubt they're planning to cosh such unfortunates, or, as we have it in the common parlance, whup them upside the head and toss the bodies in the already corpse-burdened waters now covering much of the country. Heckuva job, Generals.
If our armed forces were not already bogged down in the twin quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan inflicting unwonted (and unwanted) distress upon millions, we could be using them to implement the functions required by peace and humanity: bringing aid to the suffering. But we're too busy bombing and murdering women, children, the elderly and the disabled.
In other news, tornadoes have killed 23 people in Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Georgia. While that may seem like small potatoes to some, and we are not of the school of belief in the sanctity of human life, still, every person who dies so is somebody's son or daughter, or sister or brother, mother, father, husband or wife, and there is no comparing pain. Is it worse to lose your entire family, or one member thereof? It's all bad. Our sympathies to all the suffering people and beasts, to the whole suffering planet.
Now do you see why we swear and curse and rant and rave? It's all bad, there is so little we can do to help and comfort the living, and the suffering of every creature merits our compassion.
Today we reflect on the Avalokitesvara Boddhisatva, that divine being who gazes down on the world with compassion; who is known to the Chinese as Guan Yin, to the Tibetans as Chenrezig; whose Sanskrit name is Padmapani, holder of the lotus. One of the legends of Guan Yin/Avalokitesvara is that she, through her countless merits, attained enlightenment, but as she reached the threshold of the Realm of the Pure, she heard the cry of the suffering masses and turned back, vowing not to enjoy the fruits of her merit till she had saved the peoples of the world.
No, we're still not a theist or deist or any kind of godbag. As we remarked over lunch today, if there is a god, it is a very stupid one indeed, and guilty of bad aim. It could have taken out the entire military junta of Burma in one fell swoop. Instead, it landed a cyclone on the heads of the weak, the bereft, the poor, the already suffering. The junta is well-ensconced in power, and appears to fear no threat other than the depradations of the high life and old age. A thousand curses on their bones and may their families wither and die as the families of the poor wither and die and may their names be utterly erased from history.
Yes, we're well aware of the irony of sympathizing with the suffering of the poor while simultaneously calling down curses upon the heads of their exploiters. However, irony adds a delicious flavour to life, and since superstition is not our bag any more than god is, we venture to opine that our curses are merely a safety valve to relieve our rage rather than any viable threat to the many worthless scumbags who prey on the weak and the meek. Otherwise those types would already be extinct, given how many curses we have rained upon their heads lo, these many years.
Our meditation upon Guan Yin is simply a hope that the world will respond with compassion to the suffering. And a search for some way of looking at these horrors that inspires internal peace instead of furious rants. It's hard being a cynical yet compassionate curmudgeon. Stumble It!