The events in Japan of the last week hold the world’s attention. The quake and then the problems with the nuclear reactor have captured the 24 hour news cycle with breathless announcements and startling headlines. It often seems the news outlets compete for the most titilating and provocative language to describe events. If one read only the headlines and were from Mars, one would think that the end of the world was at hand. Of course the end being near is a prediction made at least every decade.
We have all heard about Rome burning during the time of Nero. That is not just a myth but was a real event. Ancient Rome was built most of wood. Those great public buildings were of stone and granite but most structures had a wooden frame and many were two or three stories high to accomodate the large population. Most of Rome did indeed burn and the destruction after the flames quieted appeared impossible to ever repair by many. But that occurred early in the 1st century AD and the Roman Empire had several more centuries of world hegemony before it. Rome indeed was not built in a day but re-built it was. No sooner was Rome mostly restored before another great tragedy struck only a short distance to the south. The great eruption of the volcano at Pompei was devastating to a wide area. An entire town of some size and significance was obliterated in moments along with all the surrounding farming and vineyards areas around it. This was only a generation after the burning of Rome. Yet the Roman empire endured and overcame the destruction.
When Napoleon attacked and occupied Moscow in 1812 the city was burned. Great swathes of the city were nothing but ashes. It has never been established how the fire started. Some blamed Napoleon but it is just as likely that the Russians themselves were responsible in an effort to deny Napoleon supplies, stores and a base to build on. After the fire there was nothing left to rule and Napoleon began his withdrawal. That turned into a retreat and rout that ultimately destroyed his army completely. The city was re-built.
After the fall of Cromwell’s regime in the 1650’s in England the people were mostly eager to have a return of the monarchy after the gloomy and dark days of the Cromwellian authority. Charles II returned in triumph without the need of any army. Of course there were many hardliners left from Cromwell’s corp and they predicted dark days for England for letting the sinners return. Indeed they were partially correct. In 1666 London was visited with the plague that killed almost a fourth of the population and that was followed immediately with the burning of London. There was never a clear answer how the fire started but it spread from the dock areas and east end to encompass almost the entire city. Again there were those who said that London would never recover. Square miles were only ash heaps. But day by day and building by building it was re-built and became the city that was the heart of the British Empire.
If you have never seen the films made of Germany and particulary Berlin after WWII you should look them up. Squre mile after square mile was nothing but rubble or skeletons of buildings. It was a moonscape. There was talk immediately after the war that the whole city should be abandoned and another city built somewhere else. But the Germans began within days of clearing the rubble brick by brick and street by street. It took a long time. Even into the ’50’s there were still large areas of building shells. But it was re-built and became the great city you see there today.
Regardless of how the situation plays out in Japan, they will rebuild the areas destroyed and recover. They have a very homogeneous society and pride. That gives them an enormous advantage. They don’t have to deal with a divergence of opinion or cultiural values. That cultural homogeniety is a great strength. Cultural diversity makes for great table talk and travel magazine articles but does not provide the cement to hold a together a national purpose or direction. See, the Middle East, Sunni versus Shia.
Even after Carthage was burned and salt scattered over the ground it came back and was not done as the Romans intended after the Punic Wars. It was a commercial and financial resource for future Roman wealth.
“The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort”. Confucius www.olcranky.wordpress.com