1 March 2010

A tsunami of tsunamis

I was holidaying in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, when news of the devastating tsunami broke on Boxing Day 2004.

Conversing with others in the hotel, restaurants and clubs, talk of the sheer horror of the magnitude of the disaster gave way to questions. Especially - 'what's a tsunami?" Most had never heard of it before, and even though I did a pretty good project on earthquakes in school, the name was relatively new to me also. The general opinion was, that it was some sort of whopping big tidal wave. Like a scene straight out of a Hollywood shocky-horror B movie, visions of tidal waves higher than an office block filled the heads of many of those discussing the tragedy,

After 2004 another strange phenomenon happened. There was a tsunami of tsunamis. If someone farts in a bath tub there are warnings of tsunamis adorning the pages of the tabloid newspapers.

I have been around a fairly long time and though I had read about and seen coverage of many natural disasters, including earthquakes, I can not recall the word "tsunami" being so prevalent as it is now.

I agree, there is a need for warning systems to be in place - but has it been overdone? Take Australia for example, hardly anyone took any notice of the widespread warning that followed the recent earthquake off the coast of Chile. For one thing the sheer magnitude of the warning seemed to have the effect of lessening the seriousness of it in people's mind. The list of countries the warning applied to was as long as a Kate and Gerry McCann's "Must Sue" list - well almost, no list is quite that long. It is hard to take seriously a warning that included half the world's nations.

Instead of being scared or taking precautions', it was a case of "Come on Gladys, pack the esky and lets go and look at the tsunami."

The grim forecasts of the so called experts did not help either when their predictions gloom and doom came to nothing.

If warnings are to be given, they need to be realistic and targeted otherwise people will become increasingly wary of such warnings and that is when tragedy will occur.

But wait - there's more.

The word "tsunami" has now entered the English language. Whenever there is a lot of something, it is now a "tsunami". Public speakers love to use the word as they stand behind a never-ending stream of lecterns, spokespersons for NGOs have put it on their "must use" list of wanky words and phrases just below "empower" and "empowerment".

I know I am wrong, but it seems to me tsunamis only came into existence post Boxing Day 2004.

But maybe the use of the word by public figures, politicians, statesmen and executives of organizations with nice fancy initials and nothing else, is appropriate after all. Many lives have been washed away by their empty words, empty promises and ever filling wallets.

Wherever you may be - be safe

Copyright Mike Hitchen Online, Lane Cove, NSW, Australia. All rights reserved