There were several things that I thought of blogging about today – including that fact that I have finished reading ANNA KARENINA – but in the end there is only thing to write about: the earthquake in Japan. These days many of us will know someone affected in some degree. My son’s brother-in-law lives in Tokyo with his Japanese wife and daughter and had a three hour walk home on the day of the earthquake. The son of my close friend Sue was on holiday in Hawaii with his wife and baby: they were moved to the fifth floor of their hotel and – the blessing of these days of email and Twitter and mobile phones – she knew immediately after the tsunami arrived that they were OK.
It’s only recently that the world has grown so small. Never has it been so true that no man is an island. Before the invention of the telegraph in the mid nineteenth century it would have taken weeks for news of a natural disaster so far away to have reached us – and even then how much would it have meant? How much does it mean now? The fact that thousands of people have died is hard to take it, and it tends to remain a fact until we hear about individuals: a man searching for his parents, a mother for a missing child. These we can understand and they wrench our heart.
Living out here in the sticks, I always buy the Saturday GUARDIAN, but I don’t always buy a paper every day, don’t even want to if I am busy writing. When I do, I usually buy THE INDEPENDENT and that is what I have done for the last few days. For me this is still the best medium to try to understand what has and is still happening. The reports are more detailed than those of TV, radio, and the internet and the photos somehow less voyeuristic. But even if one can grasp the scale of this suffering, what can we do, apart from holding these people in our thoughts and prayers? Is it worth sending a donation to Save the Children or Shelter Box, when the problem is not one of money, but of logistics and a damaged infrastructure? I think it is. It is the only way most of us have of showing that we care. We see from the reaction of people to the arrival of the foreign search and rescue teams how much it matters that we try to stand alongside them.