The Tsunami

3 Jan 2005

Paul R. Potts

Well. Usually not much interesting happens between Christmas and New Years. This year: ka-pow. The most devastating natural disaster of my lifetime. I could try to write something adequate to the event, but I don’t feel up to it. I am very deeply saddened. Last night in our family prayers I said that it while we mourn the dead we should be devoting most of our attention to the survivors, because they face huge dislocation, upheaval, disease, famine, and all the horrors that refugees confront, whether refugees from war or disaster. I am heartened by reports that aid is getting through. The challenge will be managing a long-term reconstruction and, we hope, putting in systems that will help prevent events like this from becoming so murderous.

This disaster was not about global warming per se, and it wasn’t a weather event per se, but as sea levels rise and storms become more energetic, the massive flooding scenario is one that is bound to be repeated. Nations like the Maldives, that are only a few feet above sea level, just don’t have any protection against whatever the tide and wind might bring them.

It also saddens me that we would like to contribute cash, but for the moment, can’t. I’m worried we’ll bounce checks this week if I gas up my car or pick up some groceries. There’s just nothing in the checking account, and won’t be for perhaps another month, assuming my job lasts. We had a cascade failure: the muffler blew out on my car, I got a speeding ticket, and we managed to trigger a pile of bank fees covering several hundred dollars more. We’re just barely above water. My parents contributed money to help us buy Isaac a bike for Christmas, and we barely managed to do so because so much of the money they gave us was eaten up by bank fees.

It’s embarassing to be struggling like this. If we weren’t still devoting so much of my income to pay down debts, this wouldn’t be happening now. Getting into debt out of school, and retaining bad spending habits for a decade or more, was definitely the worst thing to happen to me, in terms of undermining my long-term security, feeding depression and anxiety, and all that. I take personal responsibility for it, but a deregulated Citibank certainly hasn’t helped matters. I’ve also tended to choose, for the most parts, jobs that haven’t paid competitively, because I was more interested in the kinds of work and the work environments that they offered. I’m still looking to make that tradeoff in the future, if we can manage to do so.

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