New Zealand has been hit by a couple of cyclones and a pretty damn bad earthquake so far this year. I think the death toll is already up to about a hunnert and fifty or so, with about two hunnert still unaccounted for. I find this shocking because the quake was "only" a 6.3 or a 7.1, depending on where you look, and we are talking about a Pacific Rim country, supposedly a first world one at that, so—yes, yes, I know we can't build against the really big ones—but still, I don't think this one should have had this big a body count. The Loma Prieta of '89 nailed sixty three of us, injured upwards of four thousand and put way more than that out of their homes, but aside from some glaring inadequacies in our bridge and road construction being made immediately and indelibly apparent, there were far less places in which to be squished. Things, especially buildings, held up better. I don't want to be smug, but I'm thinking the Bay Area is the only place in the WORLD where people still have IQs.
I know, I know, I don't live there. I spent the first half of my life there. I grew up in Marin County. I moved up into the redwoods because they are wiser than people and I'm a damn maniac who needs the remove for sheer nerve preservation purposes... and... now... of course... there's no possible way I could afford it anymore.
I think that might be part of why learning about the rest of the world has always been somewhat shocking to me. Not only did I need to be bludgeoned to get through my head that racism was still a big problem, but many other culturally backward or bent outlooks were holding the day all over the country. Amsterdam was held up to me as the progressive society, but that was by a bunch of doper men who were thrilled by legalized vice, by the notion of lingerie-clad babes lolling in shop windows... that sort of thing. New York and London were higher on the arts and museums scale, but too meretricious and too stressful. Los Angeles was crass money feigning chic vs. abjection not feigning hostility. Paris and San Francisco had forever seemed the only cities on earth where truly sane people lived... when you are talking the very wildest generalizing humanly possible, anyway. But this earthquake thing is bothering me big time.
Even knowing they were eating dirt cookies in Haiti didn't quite prepare me for the devastation there. I didn't think anyone lived in a structure heavy enough to hurt them in a quake. It didn't occur to me that the serious buildings there were NOT serious buildings. I'm glad I was not there to find this out the hard way. Chile recently had the biggest quake—by very far—and yet seems to have come out of it with about the same losses as we're finding in New Zealand.
You just can't depend on anything.
It's really hard to train your brain to live with that in mind, but if you don't, it's much harder.