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The Toll of Natural Disasters

The Toll of Natural Disasters

By Elder George

THE greatest hardships experienced in the United States seemingly result from natural disasters such as fire, snow, rain, drought, flooding, tornados and hurricanes. The news media covers these disasters in great depth as it attempts to capture the emotional impact on the populace.

What causes this emotional impact? The damage to health and life is minimal; probably the same death and injury rate would occur without natural disasters. The emotional impact comes from seeing ones home and possessions destroyed. A frequently heard reaction to fire and flood damage “everything we worked for the past 30 years is gone” expresses the reason for the emotional impact − the loss of material things.

The headlines scream about the loss of material things, the costs of clean-up, of repair, rebuilding, insurance claims, and a multitude of other costs. The inconvenience caused by the loss of electricity and transportation add to the turmoil. Without the material considerations, the natural disasters provide little fodder for media broadcasts.

The same weather conditions occurring before the advent of European colonization would not have been called disasters. When water rises people and animals move to higher ground. When the water recedes they move back to the lower ground. Only the damage to material things and their replacement costs make these events newsworthy in our culture.

What health or life threatening impact do snow storms have on society? They become inconveniences to our daily activities resulting in lost business revenue and increased municipal expenditure for snow removal and possible electric power restoration. Snow storms have little life threatening impact or damage to people’s health.

The destruction of the Western family fuels the impact of natural disasters.. People have no place to go. The era of going to live with a cousin, niece, nephew, uncle, or grandmother has vanished. People have become wards of the state and moved about like stray cattle during extreme weather conditions. The true hardship and disaster of our time results from the loneliness that accompanies material loss.

The conditions that enabled the indigenous people of this world to cope with natural disaster were the support of the family and tribe. The loss of a few tents or huts had little significance as the displaced people would live with other family members until their accommodations were replaced.

The American Indian Chief Sitting Bull said in an address to his people, “the white man’s desire for material possessions is like a disease.” It has become more than a disease; it has become an obsession that affects our lives negatively. It has produced an epidemic of  anxiety in the Western world because of the obsessive focus on matters material and dearth of understanding of matters spiritual. We have become dependent upon the world that man has created instead of the world that God created and are paying an increasingly high price for that condition.

The reader of these essays will have noticed that I hold Western thought responsible for these conditions. I am not alone in this thinking. A subscriber has sent me the following commentary, which I have slightly amended, from Imam al-Asi, an independent Muslim thinker.

In recent history, the closest human nature has come to reflect a culture of generosity and openhandedness is within the context of non-Western civilizations. They are the ones not infected with the possessive, materialistic, and covetous nature of Western society. The natives of the Americas, Australia, and Africa, out of their caring and sharing pulse with other humans, would actually give, relinquish, and offer what was theirs to other humans. Unfortunately and especially in their colonial incarnation, Westerners have turned out to be suspicious, acquisitive, and selfish. The givers, by dint of being dominated, paid a high price for their altruism.

Imam al-Asi stated succinctly the materialistic bent of Western society.

While considerable sharing does occur during natural disasters, so does price gouging and looting as the fixation on matters material remains unabated.

The toll of natural disasters in the Western world is proportional to the level of family disappearance and the worship of materialism.

Elder George can be reached at: His blog: 



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