It is usually very interesting what certain events trigger in a country's press, and, when you have the (mis)fortune to see direct comments from people, also in the mind of the everyday person.
The recent disaster that hit Japan is no exception. The Romanian press has been covering it extensively, but there are, even for such an unprecedented event, typically Romanian after-shocks.
For example, one of the major national papers, Evenimentul Zilei, has published an online article with a headline which literally stated: "New explosion at Fukushima power plant. 5000 estimated dead". Now reading the article, it slowly became obvious that the statistics on casualties were the overall estimated figures on the entire disaster, and not specifically for the nuclear reactor explosion.
The headline caused, thankfully, so many outraged comments and phone calls to the sensationalist paper, that they quickly changed the headline.
But what was perhaps most interesting, and deeply disturbing, well, a high priest of the Romanian Orthodox church has today declared in the national press:
- The disaster is a warning for us, it shows what happens when we turn away from God. (Implication being: the Japanese somehow turned away from God... and hence the punishment. It is pointless to analyse the early medieval logic here, one would ask: surely, which God? and how can a very public figure make such an ignorant and deeply insulting statement, essentially judging the victims and the survivors, who are going through desperate times none of us can possibly imagine).
- The disaster is also a punishment for turning away from Nature. He followed by stating that in the Balkans, there is still a deep respect for Nature and the peasant, when cuts a tree, prays for God to forgive him. (Apart from the early medieval schmaltz at work here, would also then conclude that he implies: Japanese don't respect Nature... and also, that Romanians, who massacred all their natural resources, where most villages and cities are traumatising examples of how nature was destroyed in the name of the fast profit after the 'freedoms' were gained, somehow these Romanians worship and respect Nature and certainly more so than the Japanese).
It is simply breathtaking, also to read the comments to such emanations of utter bigotry. And of course, such people should first find out a few very fundamental facts about Japanese culture, their remarkable ways in which they integrate the most modern technological and environmental elements with nature, how they also integrate various systems of faith in a sometimes exemplary ecumenical thought system, how they combine and respect both ancient and ultra-modern... how they relate to their fellow human beings and to the environment around them. To make a comparison, from withing the borders of Romania, even if not a shockingly ignorant one as the certain high priest did, is just grotesque at best.
It is revolting, insulting, traumatising on so many levels, logical, emotional, rational and sentimental, that one can't even begin to make a lucid analysis of something so irrational.
It is remarkable how a figure like this can vent his bigotry in major national papers of a 21st century country. But the comments to various articles, including this one, suggest that he does have audience.
In a somewhat tragicomic and desperately bigoted comment, one person wrote that those who believe in the fact that we come from apes must take heed and see that only prayers help, because God is punishing those people. Again, same revolting insult to the victims, but... goes on to say on the comment pages of a national paper, that only a prayer and true faith can help, because, and literally quote, it is impossible to practically help the affected people.
Well, an early medieval mind clearly can not imagine practical 21st century ways of sending international help, so pointing out the websites of Red Cross, GlobalGiving and iTunes store from Apple (to name a few) would be a waste of energy.
Also, reading the polemic, one has to conclude: even in the face of such disaster, that tests (in this case) their Christianity, some people find dogmas and revoltingly comfortable ignorance worthy of the 11th century much easier than actually taking ANY action on a personal level.
Donations are a start, and one can be sure there are myriad other possibilities opening up soon, judging from just last few days of organisational developments internationally.
So whilst our thoughts and yes, prayers in many cases, go to the affected people, we can set example by acting - instead of using rhetoric from the depths of a dark 11th century.