Kelvinwright's Blog

postmodern thoughts

Watching the awful events unfold in Japan

Watching the awful events unfold in Japan, with new images released on a daily basis, with statistics about apocalyptic scenarios thrown before us, I recall the recent disasters that have been beamed into our front rooms. Postmodernism inventions like the television and the internet have allowed us to witness disasters and human suffering like never before.

I remember watching images of the Gulf War from 1991, the first real televised war, beamed from the desert into my front room. I remember seeing images of huts, bases, anti-aircraft guns shown in infrared and suddenly disappear in a bright flash. We were told that it was a base being destroyed. We had to take their word for it.

I think further back, to the images of starvation in Ethiopia during the 1980s that helped raise millions in aid. I recall history books at school; I was born after the Vietnam War, but I remember the photos: a naked child walking along a road between the corpses. Images of the second World War, from the front line, from Concentration Camps.

Fast forward to September 11th 2001. A terrorist attack captured in full. I remember thinking, “This has to be a movie!” Except it wasn’t a movie – we were watching the disaster unfold live, minute by minute. The 2004 tsunami that caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, walls of water flattening everything in their wake, houses, livelihoods, beaches, tourists.

We have watched the events unfolding in the Arab world, as country by country, citizens have turned on the tyrants who have ruled them with iron fists for decades. Images captured in mobile phones, and within seconds broadcast on video sharing websites for the world to witness.

And now Japan. Day by day since the 11th March we have seen the terrible images, worthy of the best movie makers, shot in a first person point of view. We have all been left to reflect on the fragility of human life, the vulnerability of the world itself, and the all consuming power of nature. We have also become experts in tectonic plate movements, in the Richter scale, in tsunamis. The benefit of hindsight has made us experts in nuclear power station construction; we all saw the dangers of constructing nuclear power stations in Japan. We are experts in nuclear danger ratings, quoting the latest danger posed by the exploding Japanese reactors. In short, we have become nuclear and geological “experts” thanks to the images and statistics bombarded at us in the space of five days.

Is it good and healthy to have so much knowledge at our disposal? Do the media fuel our fears by relaying statistics of the Earth’s weak points? Does it help to know how a nuclear power station is constructed? Or what the different levels of nuclear emergency are?


March 16, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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