On January 15th of this year, my cell phone sprang to life. It was a message from my county informing me of a tsunami advisory. I’ve always lived near one coast or another, but this was my first tsunami advisory. It kind of set me back on my heels, to be honest.
The natural disasters I’ve had to deal with the most have been hurricanes, back when I lived in Florida. They move slowly. You get plenty of notice. Once you know a strong one is headed your direction, you’d be a fool not to get out of the way if you are able to do so. Sadly, there are a lot of fools in this world.
Tsunamis are a bit different, though. It’s really hard to determine the height they will reach when they hit land, and the closer you are to their source, the less notice you have. There’s no tsunami season, and anyone near water is potentially at risk. As far as I’m concerned, tsunamis are nature at its most raw and unpredictable.
According to our county’s Emergency Operation Center, this particular tsunami might not hit us at all, or it might be three feet high. That’s a huge margin of error. Naturally, my first thought was for myself and Dear Husband, but we were both well inland, and our house is high on a hill. While a mile-high tsunami might take us out, a three foot one would not. So I did my best to spread the word to friends and coworkers.
My next focus was to find out what the heck had caused this tsunami in the first place. When I saw the aerial photography of the massive volcano eruption near Tonga, I was horrified. Those poor people probably didn’t know what hit them. Their islands would be devastated, both from the water and from the ash. This kingdom is so small and remote that most people, including me, rarely give it a thought. But we’re talking about more than 100,000 people with absolutely nowhere to run. This was going to be bad.
But in the following days, all hell broke loose a work, the pandemic raged on, I came down with strep throat, and became increasingly muddled in my thinking. I sent a snarky text to a friend who understands my humor, only to discover that I had accidentally sent it to someone who barely knows me, and was sure to misinterpret the message. I was mortified. She was gracious about it, so all I can do is hope it didn’t irreparably damage our brand new friendship, because I really do like her and her husband a lot.
I also watched as my democracy continued to crumble, as evidenced by the erosion of women’s rights and the steady chipping away of everyone’s ability to vote, all while our environment circles the drain. Covid tests have been hard to come by, fools are still not getting vaccinated, putting us all at risk, and I am feeling misunderstood, unsupported, and exhausted.
So, I’m ashamed to say that when I saw this article about the desperate state of Tonga after the eruption, I realized that I had forgotten all about this crisis. And it had only been five days. What the hell is wrong with me? (Well, yeah, strep throat. But, I mean, besides that.)
It’s so unlike me to forget things like this. I genuinely do my best to help others when I can, as so many people have helped me along the way. But this horrific event had popped out of my mind like a soap bubble.
And then I realized what it was. Chaos.
The reason people make up and spread conspiracy theories is so that they can watch everyone else scrambling around in a panic, while they make great strides toward their own agenda. Unfortunately, that chaos can have dire results. It can do even more than divert your attention from what really matters.
For example, convincing people that public health should be politicized and that vaccines are dangerous and/or an assault on your freedom results in the deaths of the most vulnerable amongst us. And while the rest of us try to talk sense into these manipulated people, others can be above it all, trying to destroy our democracy and wring as much money out of the world as possible without any resistance from us.
In this era of unfiltered social media, you can create chaos in a wide variety of ways. You can incite insurrections and block desperately needed legislation. You can convince people that immigrants are the sole source of our problems, that they’re the enemy, that they’re going to steal our jobs and rape our white women. You can refuse to fill critical governmental positions, or fire people once a month to deprive governmental protection agencies of their continuity.
Chaos allows the convincers to scurry around in the background, raping our environment for maximum profit, widening the wealth gap to an unprecedented degree, and creating a supreme court so biased that our laws won’t reflect the will of the majority of the people for many generations to come.
With all this going on, we forget the “minor details”, such as the total devastation of a distant island nation, or the total devastation of our human rights. We can’t work up the energy to maintain the proper level of concern about anything. And that is exactly what the people in power want.
Once you start looking for chaos, you spot it everywhere. (There was never any critical race theory being taught in public schools, folks. Not ever. It’s a distraction.) “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”
We are turning against each other, rather than uniting to put a stop to the corrupt, evil people who are pulling our puppet strings. And it appears that a great deal of us are quite content to suckle on a steady stream of sugary misinformation as the world crumbles around us all. When this era is studied by future historians, it will be considered the beginning of a very dark age; one in which things took a drastic turn for the worse. They will most likely still be trying to dig out from under our rubble.
Surely I’m not the only one who finds that terrifying.
If you would like to help those suffering in Tonga, please check out this article for legitimate sources of support.
A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5