Monday, 14 March 2011


I'm not a religious person. I try not to get involved in anyone else's religion either. I try not to impose my beliefs on others. But I'm making an exception right now. Right now we all need to be praying for Japan.

Pray to God, Allah, Buddha, Jehovah, Ra, the Great Mother Goddess or just send positive thoughts if you don't believe in any higher power. Take five minutes to think about what the people of Japan are going through.

Think about the texture of your day-to-day life. The people you see every day - the pretty young woman who lives across the street walking her little dog, the grey-haired old man at the bus-stop, the children you see running to school. The streets you walk down, stepping over the wonky paving stone, taking a short-cut across a bit of grass. The houses you see, the patterns of trees or street lights. Think about the chair you sit in as you eat your breakfast, washing your dishes in your kitchen sink, the view from the window. Think about running your hand over the back of the sofa as you pass it, stopping to stroke the cat, shoving a book haphazardly onto a shelf or leaving a magazine half-read on the coffee table. Think about chosing what coat you'll wear to work that day, putting on your shoes.

Now imagine that you can never ever see, do, live any of that ever again. Imagine that the woman and her dog, and the old man, and the children, are all dead. The bus-stop isn't there anymore, or the houses or trees or street lights - it's just a jagged jumble of smashed wooden beams, tumbled cars, shattered concrete. The grass you walked across every day and the building you were walking towards are both lost forever, destroyed by the wave. The chair you sit in, your dishes, your kitchen sink, the soft material of the sofa, all disappeared, not even shards or scraps left. The view from your window is gone too, the land warped and cracked, covered in feet of mud and wreckage. The coat you chose to wear to work and the shoes - those things are the only possessions you have now. There's no way of knowing where the cat is, but in your heart of hearts you fear she's probably dead.

Everything that was familiar and safe and normal to you is gone.

And that's if you were lucky.

Much has been made of how well prepared, how 'stoic' and 'pragmatic' and 'well-trained' the Japanese are, as if that means things aren't really so bad out there. But no matter how well prepared you are for earthquakes and Tsunamis, how many times your civil defense force has drilled, how carefully you have constructed your buildings, there's just no way a disaster of this magnitude can be anything but that: disastrous.

At the moment they know that at least 10,000 people are missing. Because the Tsunami hit a lot of isolated rural areas, that figure is probably twice or three times as large in reality. Some of those people might have survived. Might. Having seen the footage of cars bobbing and swirling on the surface of the tidal wave like bubbles, having seen the houses crumble up like structures of tissue paper and just disintegrate, I feel as if any survivors are a miracle.

The majority of those missing people will be discovered, dead, in the wreckage. Others will simply have disappeared into the sea. Their families and loved ones will never know what happened to them, never get to say goodbye. They won't even have a final resting place to visit, as the families who lost people in 9/11 do. Worse, some families will have been wiped out completely. There will be no one left even to mourn.

In Japan, and especially in rural areas, some families live within the same houses for generations. They have family shrines where they hang photographs of their parents, grandparents, where they honour the memory of their family. Now those houses are gone. Literally gone. The people who managed to flee in time have only the clothes on their back. They cannot go back and get a suitcase to last them until things go back to normal. Things will never go back to normal.

No, you don't see the people of Japan running in the streets screaming and panicking and making a fuss. That's not who they are. They are working incredibly hard and incredibly well to put things back together. But can you, can any of us, understand how they must feel inside? Maybe because I love Japan, love the culture and art and media of Japan so much - even though I have never been there - I feel closer to this disaster. But I honestly believe this is the worst natural calamity I've ever seen in my life.

After the earthquake in New Zealand I donated money to Shelterbox and to the Red Cross. I donated more than was sensible, and had to watch my budget for a bit. But this time, no matter how much I donate I can't feel better. I need to do something more.

I'm involved in this auction: Authors for Japan. It's not set up yet, but we hope to raise some money. You can like our Facebook Page here. I will give you more information when I have it, and I hope you'll spread the word.

ETA: Authors for Japan is now live and you can see all the lots and get more information here. Many very, very cool items on offer.

If you or your family has any money - a few pounds, a few dollars, whatever - you can donate to these excellent charities:

The Red Cross Japan Appeal



But most of all, keep praying for Japan. Keep this country of brave, resourceful, resilient people in your thoughts and your heart. They need all the help they can get.


Vivienne said...

This post made me cry. Beautiful Zoe, poignant but beautiful.

Cass (Words on Paper) said...

Amazing post, Zoe. I haven't even known what to say about this disaster. I'm not sure how much I'll be able to donate, considering I don't own, well, any money, but I'll be throwing in some of my birthday money. Life will never be the same again for them, and all of us, because disaster is occurring all around the world lately. It's all bad timing, but all that we can do is be there for those who are suffering, and donate. Because that's the most that most of us are able to do . . .

Zoë Marriott said...

Vivienne: Thanks. I cried a little bit writing it, to be honest. The devastation is so awful and I feel as if no one in the news is reporting on the human consequences, it's all facts and figures and 'cool' pictures of explosions and piled up cars.

Cass: I really didn't want to guilt-trip anyone - I know that there are times when you're strapped and you need every penny. There have been disasters in the past where I felt awful because I couldn't spare any cash. But I think keeping Japan in your thoughts is a very good thing, even if you haven't got anything material to contribute.

Isabel said...

I... honestly don't know what to say. I don't know how anyone could really make me REALIZE like you, Zoe. I was watching footage today at Finagle a Bagel, and I thought it was just awful, but I had never thought about it this way before. That 'cool' footage you just mentioned really made me furious. It's so true! Thank you so much. I don't think I can express what I feel for this post in words... I cried. Really, I cried. And I'm crying again now. I will definitely be praying for Japan over the next few weeks, months, as long as it takes, even though I don't even have an allowance and I don't know if my family has all that much to spare at this particular moment, what with school tuitions for three private schools and all the other financial stuff. But my mom definitely feels strongly about this too, and I think she may be interested in donating. Thanks so much.

Zoë Marriott said...

I'm glad it touched you, Isabel. As I said, I don't want to guilt-trip anyone, and I know it's hard enough to find the money for anything as a young person without your own income. I just wanted to make people stop and think for a moment. There is something worryingly clinical, a strange lack of compassion, in the way that the disaster is being reported. As if it's interesting more for the effects on the landscape than the people. I don't remember this sort of attitude with regard to the Tsunami in Thailand, or the recent earthquake in Christchurch.

Isabel said...

Unfortunately -- and I feel rather guilty about it -- I haven't really been listening to coverage of the situation in Japan all that much. It basically all comes from my mom over dinner and breakfast. So, I don't know how exactly they are addressing the news. My mom is certainly very empathetic. But I don't think that's at all fare. I'll listen on NPR next time it's on (well, it pretty much ALWAYS is in this house -- I can hear it upstairs right now...) and see if they mention Japan. Which they probably will, at some point -- it's a very big deal. They were just talking about how dignified the Japanese were... something about a line for a train to go somewhere else and the line was very orderly, they didn't even need the police. NPR is a great news station -- I'm pretty sure they're covering the right stuff.

Isabel said...

Sorry, by which I meant: I don't think that's at all fair.

bfree15 said...

I cried as well after reading this post it was very heartfelt and I shall be giving what I can. It also made me realise that no matter how tough times are right now, or how difficult or hard we think our lives are it is nothing compared to what the people in Japan are facing. The people of Japan will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Zoë Marriott said...

Thanks, bfree - it does make you realise how important the small things we take for granted really are. I was flooded a few years ago and lost everything from the ground floor of my house. I felt completely devastated, but I know that my feelings then can't even approach what so many Japanese people must be feeling now.

Emma said...

This is the most human response I have read. There does seem to be an effort to underplay the human suffering in the media, perhaps it is the only way we can digest it. But it isn't something we can fathom, and I think it's so important what you've done Zoe, and the Authors for Japan is such a wonderful idea, especially when it has been organised in such a short amount of time.

Zoë Marriott said...

Maybe you're right, Emma - maybe the scale of the tragedy this time makes it necessary to look at it from a certain distance. I have a nasty, suspicious mind, though, and I do wonder if it's because Japan is full of people who don't look like Hollywood's version of sweet, Caucasian disaster victims...

Emma said...

That's a very good point. Even before this, every time a disaster happened there has been a lot of focus on how many Brits have been affected and I'm not entirely sure if this has changed but on the news yesterday they kept reiterating that no Brits have been confirmed dead. I just don't think national pride (of the unaffected countries) has a place here. In other words I agree with you!

Zoë Marriott said...

Good. I hate it when people try to take my soapbox away :)

Megha said...

Zoe, I read this before but really didn't know what to write in my comment. What could I say that hadn't been said before?

You have touched me more than ANY news has. At all. And I mean it. Like Emma said, this is the most human response I have seen.

I ALWAYS give to charity at these times. What got me going was Haiti. I've been donating for Haiti, and the Pakistan Flood Appeal, and now I will definitely be donating for this.

I don't get ANY pocket money WHATSOEVER, but I don't really care. I've got £300 pocket money (I know, right? I save A LOT.) and I NEVER spend that money. Not even on notebooks. I'll make sure I give to Japan not only some donation, but lots and lots of prayers from the bottom of my heart.

I pray that everything in Japan gets sorted out. Some people don't care about this because it's a NATURAL disaster. But really, if the world doesn't give, it'll be worse. And then, it won't be a NATURAL disaster, but the fault of the people who didn't give.

I'm very, very proud to be going to the school I go to today. Because my school ALWAYS donates, even when there isn't any international problem; we've CONSTANTLY been giving to charities. I am sure that everyone in my school, too, will be just as wanting to GIVE as I am.

This earthquake and tsunami will also affect everyone's lives OUTSIDE of Japan. Not only because we are worrying about Japan, but because many of our items COME from Japan. I know we pay for the things we get, but I personally think that the people in Japan have to work harder than us when in factories, and I think that the prices of items today don't really cover or pay up for the hard work the Japanese do. So it's time for the world to give, instead of the take take take we have been doing without realising.

For once, too, I am not sorry I rambled on. My rambling had a purpose. And even if others don't read this post, Zoe, I will try and make them realise the situation in Japan just as well as YOU have been making me realise it.

I *WILL* try and encourage them to read this post, but personally, I don't think that people should NEED other people to make them realise what a horrible time the Japanese are having. Unfortunately, not everyone in the world is so accepting, and sometimes you DO have to explain it to people, although they themselves should understand without the news making them guilty.

Anonymous said...

Oh. My. God. I just wrote THE longest comment ANYONE on The Zoe-Trope has EVER written. And it's not there. NOOOO!!! Is it in the spam, Zoe? WHYYYYY!!! It was sooooo loooongggg!!

I'm really sad now. My comment expressed all my feelings.

Basically, what can I say that hasn't already been said? I hope to encourage others to give just as much as you've encouraged me.

I know that doesn't sound all emotional and stuff. It DID when I commented before. And now I can't express my feelings right because I'm upset over something else; my comment disappearing.

Excuse me, I need time out.

Zoë Marriott said...

Don't panic, don't panic! It's there, it just took me a while to figure out where it went and how to get it back. Look! Your heartfelt comment is not lost after all. And very moving and well expressed it was too. I commend you and your school. You have a really good attitude, Megha, and I know that you'll be rewarded for it in life. But then, all my beloved Blog Readers are wonderful, remarkable people it seems. I heart u guys.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...