The More Things Change….

Doesn’t it seem there’s been a loss of perspective when it comes to the outlook of the world in general? It’s the fear of the unknown.  Many Americans report they’ve become less hopeful for the future and there’s a growing trend that suggests many have become cynical and certain that the end of times are upon us. Maybe so, maybe not; there remain the vast majority, depending on their faith, who believe a mere human won’t know anyway, so the debate is moot. Still, there are those insistent folks who point to current events as proof of dark days ahead. The fact is, the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s amazing how perspective is gained by looking to the past, which is exactly what some are doing.

China - after the 1976 earthquake (Photo: Japan Foundation)

Acknowledging there’s no scientific basis for this comparison, the goal isn’t to mirror world events from the 1970s to those of today, but rather, to provide a bit of perspective for those who are convinced life is about to change and all hell’s going to break loose.

Natural Disasters

The Japan earthquake, the devastating tornadoes of 2011, the disturbing reports of various wildlife falling from the sky or washing ashore en masse – these are events that are pulling double time as proof to those doomsday downers that the end of the world is but moments away. But when we take a look through the decades for contrast, it’s clear these events, though disturbing and tragic, aren’t necessarily new; not the extremity of the events nor the timeline of when they occur.

In 1970, a monster cyclone (hurricane) annihilated East Pakistan. It’s believed 500,000 lives were lost in that two day storm. The country’s leaders immediately came under fire for refusing to let the people of the densely populated area know just how bad this storm was. Another typhoon in 1975 struck China and destroyed a dam (much the way Katrina did in 2005) and killed more than 196,000 people.

In 1976, the Great Tangshan Earthquake struck China and killed approximately 255,000 people. It measured between 7.5 and 7.8 on the Richter scale (some sources say it was actually closer to 8). The technology we use today wasn’t available then, of course, but spend a few minutes looking at the photos and it becomes clear the human toll mirrors that of those who’ve suffered through the ages. Contrasting this killer earthquake to that of Japan’s earlier this year, there are many distinctions, along with many similarities, when it comes the grief and pain – we’re talking about the human condition after all.

Currently, the Japanese government says more than 15,000 deaths occurred during the March 2011 quake, either as a result of the earthquake itself, the subsequent tsunami or the nuclear plant disaster that continues today. It should also be noted there were several other huge earthquakes between 1970 and 1976, including one that struck Honduras and killed 22,000; one that struck Peru in 1970 and killed more than 45,00 and a 7.7 earthquake that struck five years before the Tangshan, though in close proximity, and killed close to 16,000.

Economic Considerations

Between 1970 and 1979, both inflation and unemployment crept up steadily, resulting in what’s referred to as “stagflation”. Can anyone say “double digit unemployment”? Sounds familiar, yes? By the way, inflation’s up yet again (for March, 2011- the most recent numbers) as is last week’s unemployment numbers.

That 3 Letter Word: Oil

2011 Japanese Earthquake (Photo: AP)

Speaking of familiarity, the two major oil crises (1970 and 1979-1980) of the decade resulted in rations, rules that included odd and even numbered days for certain vehicles to purchase gas and even car-free days in some places around the world. Our modern day crisis hasn’t hit those levels yet, but the point is, there is always a point of reference that can be used for perspective – unless, of course, we prefer to move forward with tunnel vision and with no sense of grounding perspective. Life might be more interesting that way, but I’m thinking a healthy dose of reality is always good for the soul.

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2 thoughts on “The More Things Change….

  1. I wish we had more journalism like this-informative, grounded, and holding a realistic perspective on the humanity of the situation at hand. Emotion is good, too much can be chaos, and this article grounds such chaos. Kudos! Donna, keep up the good work!

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