Preparedness for Disaster

Is it unreasonable to be disaster-ready in a world which has regularly seen disaster?

Fellows in the revelation:

Seven years before I was born, atomic explosives were used to kill humans for the first time, and for the last time. Since that time, we have seen wars and rumors of wars, and a proliferation of nuclear weaponry. We have seen a Cold War end up with nuclear sabre-rattling several times, come thisclose to all-out atomic war. Despite some relief in the Cold War tensions, humanity still has enough nuclear firepower to lay waste to civilization, and sufficient international hostility to initiate such suicidal war. It is not humanity's fellowship and love which has so far prevented atomic weaponry from again being used against fellowkind; rather, it is self-preservation. If Pakistan decides to nuke India, Pakistan is likely to suffer just as much. All nations, by and large, are healthy and wealthy and sane enough, even the most crazy nations, that sustained civilization is better than nuclear suicide.

But this precious fearful balance may not hold. There is no reason to presume that nuclear explosives won't be used again to kill fellow humans. Hiroshima and Nagasaki have stood as warning against another world war, and the nations of the world have been more than ever forced to arbitrate their disputes, or at least confine them to conventional weapons. But all nuclear disaster requires is one world leader, someone slightly more bent than the media depiction of Saddam Hussein for example, or some vengeful terrorist group who feel that a major city is far enough away from their homeland that they could use a nuke, and off the map go millions of people.

All-out nuclear war is not as likely a scenario as a terrorist nuke at this time. The nations may very well restrain themselves and continue to grow into supernations and even ultimately a world government, passing what Jesus' paraphrased Urmia lectures^ call that most dangerous point, without resort to nuclear war. A scenario of terrorists nuking a city… or two… is all too likely, however.

Currently, we have a Soviet general claiming that some hundred suitcase-size Soviet nukes are missing. Both Russia and the US have hastened to say the Soviets never had such nukes, much less are any missing, but (1) they could be just trying to allay panic and (2) there could very well be such small nukes on the international black market regardless of the source.

I am not trying to incite fear. The last time the Cold War came close to going hot, ABC-TV had a dramatization of a nuclear war, the major news magazines all had cover stories on nuclear war, and a prominent Urantia Book preacher convinced many that nuclear war was imminent, sell your goods and head for the caves. The response which Mary Jo and I had to that threat was to restate our faith in the continuance of civilization in the most dramatic way we could — to have another child. In response we got two children, and we named those twin boys Michael and Christopher. I would want them, their older sister, their children, and all the world's children, to see continuing civilization, without ever seeing another Hiroshima. I live as if we will have this continuing civilization.

But I also recognize that wishful thinking and even prayer do not necessarily affect reality. World War III is really too all-consuming to care about — if it comes to that, we're back to the caveman days, at best, and it'll be so devastating it won't really matter what happens. But a little bit of nuclear war, say a regional conflict in Southeast Asia (putting it at a good distance from myself — Southeast Asians might want to put it in South America), or a terrorist nuking of a major Western city, that could cause severe problems enough. Responses to such an attack might include tyrannical restrictions of civil liberties, and we might all be suffering severe effects of radiation or other physical consequences.

As I say, I don't mean to cause distress. When we hear a Grim message that nuke war is going to happen, and then it doesn't, there's a tendency to relax, to say, "whew! false alarm," (or "I knew it wouldn't happen" or "Gee! Our prayers were answered and it didn't happen") and get on with the everyday. There's also, for some, considerable education that the efforts toward self-preservation, besides being mostly foolish, were also vain. Are followers of Jesus really willing to hide in our nuclear shelters, shoot our suffering neighbors to defend our canned goods, and otherwise play the game that height-of-the-Cold-War 1950s-fashion way?

When the thought adjuster attempts to flash its message across to our minds, we often get the flash accompanied by all sorts of less-inspired static. One might get a flash about preparedness against a disaster, for example, and the brain will mischievously add on details never included in the original message — where to hide out, when it will happen, who should be told (or not told). When the non-inspired matters prove to be dirty bathwater, out it goes along with the baby of truth contained therein. I'm not saying that by this I believe there was a germ of truth in the unfortunate affair the Urantia Moovement suffered years ago. I just acknowledge the possibility.

Besides nuclear disasters, we have plenty of other threats which might come upon us suddenly. The too-recent Iraqi conflict demonstrated that some folks are still too willing to unleash chemical and biological weapons, which can be more widely devastating than would a local nuclear bomb. Nature can out-do small nukes easily, with (for North American examples) the anticipated San Andreas "Big One," or the less-well known but as-anticipated Madrid earth-shaker which could devastate numerous cities the unprepared heartland of America. An asteroid smaller than the one that is alleged to have hit the Yucatan millions of years ago could still have catastrophic consequences.

Okay, what's the point, fellow truth-seekers and love-doers? Panic and anxiety are not reasonable reactions. Fear is stupid. But should we dismiss preparedness as vain? Is it unreasonable to be disaster-ready in a world which has seen regular disasters all along? Stocking up on food and water may not do us much good if hoardes of hungry neighbors overrun us, and having plenty of fresh batteries for your flashlights and fuel for your heater isn't sensible if you're at ground zero. In such extreme cases, preparedness won't help. Those whose love-inspired charity would not let them preserve their own family while watching fellows die for want of food or medicine would have to make hard decisions in a real disaster. If you're the only family in miles that was ready, you might as well have been unready.

Does this argue against preparedness, though? There are civil defense folks (one example^) who have been striving (mostly in vain) to prepare cities like Chicago and Memphis for the very real possibility of a horrific repeat of the Madrid quake of the early 1800s. Should Noah^ not have followed his own advice to build his house as a boat and take the animals on-board at night during the flood seasons, just because all his neighbors were deaf to his wisdom?

My belief is, disaster will come. It could be local, or it could be worldwide. It could be financial or physical. The ongoing continuous civilization of the past, oh, several centuries, say, is no guarantee that we won't suffer a major setback to civilization. Sometimes we can avoid problems. A Jew in central Europe in the late 1930s might have had enough sense to get one's immediate family out of the way of the oncoming holocaust, and some did. But it can be a bit harder to dodge an unexpected nuke, biological weapons, or an asteroid.

Can you grow your own food? Do you have a water well? Is your shelter strong and secure enough? Do you have fuel and resources to survive for days, or even years, in case of emergency? If not, then, basically, you're running a risk. It may seem an acceptable risk, as year after year you live in relative peace and health, but if you are caught up in an Event, you may wish you'd had insurance. It is not human nature to prepare for winter like ants but rather to play like grasshoppers until the frost. The government widely advertised and promoted low-cost flood insurance in anticipation of flooding that hit Northern America recently, and few were interested.

Even if there's just a small localized disaster, your preparedness may make the difference between life and death for your family or even your neighbors, depending on circumstances. It's rather like fastening your seat belt in a car. A bad enough wreck, a seat belt won't help. Certain wrecks, you'd be better off without a seat belt. But statistically, you should wear it. This is wisdom. And the higher powers, I am given to understand, aren't always all that helpful to those who refuse to act on their light of knowledge and wisdom.

Regardless of whether the Armegeddonists have it right or wrong, preparedness is wise in this world. Faith is good. Trust is important. We cannot save ourselves in all circumstances, and we should always live in principle, act in love, and be so unattached to the world that it doesn't matter if the earth itself should pass away (wow! that asteroid's so big, all we can do is sing psalms until it hits). But we are also given this life, and just as we budget for next week's bills (or ought to — sometimes I have trouble making ends meet), so we would be wise to protect ourselves and our families as much as possible.

This has been a message from your local universe civil defense preparedness organization. This is a test. This is only a test. Had this been a real emergency, you would be wishing you'd stocked up on canned goods, bottled water, and energy sources. (Or, maybe, if it was emergency enough, as the old joke goes, you'd get underneath your desk, stick your head between your legs, and kiss your a$$ goodbye.)

Beep repaired!