A Real Disaster by Trevor Plumbly

Sometimes I think human nature can be quite unpleasant. Normally the unpleasantness manifests itself in fairly predictable ways, but recently it seems that the obnoxious tendency to point the finger of blame extends to just about any situation, regardless of how tragic. The Christchurch earthquake here in New Zealand demonstrates this point pretty well. At the time, there were glowing reports of heroism and dedication to duty by the public and the services involved. But, sadly, once the dust settles, the good things get pushed aside to make way for the blame merchants.

It wasn’t a major disaster by international standards, but in a small country like New Zealand, such tragedies become personal to all of us. Throughout the nation we supported the victims and praised the emergency services involved. But months later the spate of official enquiries began, along with the criticisms. Why? What possible purpose do these seemingly endless post-mortems serve? Will the constant reconstruction of events ease the pain of the bereaved? I honestly doubt it. Will it cause the agencies involved to question their effectiveness? I imagine they’ve all revisited that day countless times asking themselves whether they could have done better.

Those that support these de facto courts obviously feel that finding fault will prevent such things happening in the future. But it won’t! If there were faults, and I am sure there were, they were due to human error in the face of extreme emotional and physical stress. An entire city was in a state of total panic, buildings were crumbling and communications stretched to breaking point. In the midst of all that, fire officers, police and ambulance staff risked their own safety in an effort to save lives. The earthquake and the loss of life was a great tragedy for many of us, but to use hindsight to find fault with those who did their utmost in a horrendous and totally unprecedented event, simply makes it sadder still.

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