Saturday, March 12, 2011

10. TRAGEDY IN THE DIGITAL AGE

By now everyone the world over has heard about the 8.9 ‘shaker’ in Japan a few days ago, as well as the resulting Tsunami that swept the Pacific. However, unlike the recent events in New Zealand, the most graphic damage in this case was from the wave. Northern Japan was devastated by a 10m (30ft) wall of water, while all the way across the Pacific Ocean in Santa Cruz, CA a harbour full of boats and docks were sent crashing together causing some to sink and many others to be severely damaged. Our thoughts are with a broker friend of ours from San Francisco (who assisted us with our own boat purchase back in Oct 2010) who currently has a Hans Christian 33 listed for sale. The boat is in Santa Cruz.

After looking at the above images we come to the real point of this commentary. Twenty years ago we would hear about Japan’s misfortune on the radio then see videos of the aftermath on the evening TV news. The next day we would read stories while looking at a select photo or two in the daily newspaper… the same select photos seen in hundreds of newspapers around the world. Our hearts would go out to the Japanese, especially the faces of victims we would see in the photos or interviewed for the TV news.

Fast forward to 2011.

Here in the ‘Digital Age’ we are still treated to the same imagery as we were twenty years ago, but it is now enhanced by the Internet, Youtube, cellphones and pocket sized video cameras. Thanks to the availability of these new mediums we get to see video of the event happening, not just the aftermath. We share in the horror as we get to watch the wave crashing ashore and racing inland with a destructive purpose. We watch ships and boats tossed about like toys in a bathtub. We view with stunned expression as cars and homes and dreams are smashed into a million pieces right before our eyes. And, on occasion, we will even see people falling victim to the tragedy itself; never to be interviewed for the evening news or photographed for tomorrows newspaper.

Twenty years ago the world’s disasters, although emotional, were always kept at a distance. Now, with our ability to watch and share in the event and to re-live it as it happened, we are exposed to a significantly greater emotional experience. Like most things in life that we experience over and over comes our natural ability to lose our fears, or to be desensitized. While this may be a good thing when getting to the top of Syrah’s mast, it is not something we should welcome when we watch some disaster wreaking havoc on another part of the world.

The ‘Digital Age’ has brought us the ability to see unimaginable devastation first hand, and the victims of such disasters deserve our emotional response, even if they are not able to be aware of it.

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