Yes, that is really what some people are saying. They are saying Japan deserves the 8.9 (recently upgraded to 9.0) magnitude earthquake and subsequent 7.1 aftershocks stronger than the not-so-distant Haiti earthquake and subsequent tsunamis. As I write this the death toll stands at approximately 1,800 and is expected to rise above 10,000.
So many reasons have been brought up, from karma for their attack on Pearl Harbour, to their apparent “refining” (as one 5fm radio caller put it) of ancient torture techniques. Apparently this is why the Japanese should not be glorified.
But no one is talking about glorifying them. Their collective society, in my eyes, has always been superior in so ma ny ways to the Western ideal of an individualistic society. Look at how kind so many Japanese people have been towards their fellow quake survivors in these translated tweets from Japan. This isn’t glorification, just a simple acknowledgment that some aspects of their society are more admirable than aspects of our and that they deserve our support and respect during this very difficult time in their history.
Every nation has a negative history. If these tragic natural disasters had struck South Africa how would you, if you are a South African, like it if people from other nations generalised and said that we deserve it because we’re all racists who legalised racism and supported Apartheid? This is simply not the truth. The majority of South Africans are, as I’m sure the majority of the Japanese are, everyday people who do not deserve to be punished for the atrocities a few long-dead elite are guilty for. That is irrational and cruel thinking, and also shows the person accusing the country of this as blindly in denial of their country’s own starkly obvious flaws.
Another reason which has been given, which is so beyond condemnation it does not even merit discussion, is the idea that God (I’m assuming this can only refer to the bigoted Judeo-Christian God) is punishing the Japanese for being predominantly Shinto and Buddhist, or punishing them for whaling (because somehow the jump from destroying just the handful of whalers to wiping out entire innocent families is a rational one to make, although if the Christian Bible is true then it’s certainly not out of character for God).
The natural disasters have natural explanations. The Japanese have been preparing for this expected earthquake since 1923. Earthquakes are caused by the shifting of plate tectonics, not by sadistic divine intervention.
Conspiracy theorists have been crawling out of the woodwork in the last week, and as usual science tends to get the brunt of it. North America has a science program called the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP. Its purpose is to analyse the ionosphere and investigate the potential for developing ionospheric enhancement technology for radio communications and surveillance purposes. Improvements in these fields could have massive implications for a wide variety of activities, from missile detection to satellite communication. Scientists are interested in the basic natural processes that occur in the ionosphere under the natural but much stronger influence of solar interaction, as well as how the natural ionosphere affects radio signals. HAARP prides itself on openness and public accessibility. Instrumentation includes the Ionospheric Research Instrument (IRI) and operation involves pulsing high-frequency radio signals into the upper atmosphere.
What conspiracy theorists who know little about meteorology and geology postulate is that HAARP can cause seismic activity and is being used as a weapon of war to destroy the Japanese. Skeptic computer scientist David Naiditch called HAARP “a magnet for conspiracy theorists.” The project has been blamed for triggering floods, droughts, hurricanes, thunderstorms, and devastating earthquakes in Pakistan and the Philippines aimed to frighten terrorists. It’s really unfortunate that the popularity of conspiracy theories often overshadows the benefits science may provide to a community.
Amidst this outcry of science denialism and unscientific superstition is the pseudoscientific idea that a so-called supermoon is responsible for the natural disasters. Although NASA scientists admit a vague kernel of truth within the astrological claim, they specifically state that there is no connection between the Japan earthquake and the moon. In fact, at the time of the tremor, the moon was actually closer to the furthest point from Earth of its orbit than to the position it will be in on March 19th.
“A lot of studies have been done on this kind of thing by USGS scientists and others,” John Bellini, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey, told Life’s Little Mysteries. “They haven’t found anything significant at all.”
Other conspiracy theories have centered around a more numerological interpretation, with people drawing links between the Gregorian calendar dates, which simply counts the years from the traditionally accepted incarnation of Jesus, and the dates of some cataclysmic events in recent years. 9/11, the Haiti earthquake on 11 Jan 2010, and the Japan earthquake on 11 March 2011. The fact that the Haiti earthquake occurred at 16:53 local time on Tuesday, 12 January 2010 and not on the 11th seems of little concern.
Numerology is the study of the occult meanings of numbers and their influence on human life. Since there are no occult meanings to numbers and since numbers by themselves can have no significant influence on anyone’s life, numerology is nothing but superstition masquerading as science or art.
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.
This Bible verse was followed by this rebuttal:
There is a 1/30(or 28/29, 30) chance that a event will happen on the 11th, pretty decent chances when you think about it. If ALL tragedies followed the same pattern I would be interested, but:
- Hati (was actually the 12th)
- Chile (27)
- Christchurch (22)
- Kashmir (8)
- Shaanxi (23)
- Boxing Day Tsunami (26)
- Titanic (15)
- Deep Water Horizon (20)
- Katrina (29)
The world is constantly in turmoil. There is nothing new about that. Social media and access to technology makes more people draw connections between the events, something which wasn’t possible in the past. None of the above claims have any solid evidence to back them up and are all based on apocalyptic, paranoid thinking.
Japan in no way deserves what has happened to them. It is simply geographically unfortunate that this has happened to such a densely populated region, and no matter how fervently we believe in a just world it does not change the reality of the situation.
For live tweets and live blog updates from Japan, I recommend following TimeOutTokyo. Do what research you can to find local aid organisations to donate to and offer your services in any way you can.
For moving, upsetting, and informative high-def images of the crisis look at these unbelievable Big Picture photosets:
- Japan: vast devastation
- Massive earthquake hits Japan
- Japan: earthquake aftermath
- Japan: continuing crisis
- Japan: new fears as the tragedy deepens
- Japan: Hopes fade for finding survivors
- Japan: One Week Later
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