Before doing the reading for this week, my knowledge of the 1985 Mexico City Earthquake was quite limited. I knew it had been big, and that it took many lives, but I was not aware of the political implications of that death toll. What I found most jarring in the reading was the notion that factory owners set fire to, or otherwise demolished their buildings with workers possibly still inside. The cynicism in this is staggering: the lives of many, and at that, the many whose labor makes the world turn, are being valued at expendable by the privileged few who might otherwise be found guilty of employing faulty building practices. To borrow from Joan Didion, this strikes me as an example of the centre failing to hold. In this case, I am referring to the way in which society is effectively eating itself: in order to maintain the hegemonic class, all evidence of its faults must be erased. When the lives of the few are being valued above those of the many, a society ceases to be sustainable.
To look at this another way, maybe we can see this type of event as a sort of rock bottom. The addiction to capital sometimes seems as violent as the addiction to heroin, and can have similarly destructive effects—the difference being devestation on a macro level (a society) or a micro level (the individual). When things fall apart in a manner that no amount of capital can fix, then there is a big problem: ‘when there is no more water, you can’t drink money.’ To rebuild after disaster creates the opportunity to reinvent oneself or a society. One example, albeit maybe a bit of a stretch, is the way in which, in the post-World War Two era, the countries that had faced the most destruction via large scale bombing campaigns (Japan, Britain, Germany, France, etc.), today have some of the most advanced transit systems in the world, whereas the USA faced no bombings, and is often using infrastructure that is far past its due. Disaster is an interesting, albeit harrowing thing. The destructive effect of a disaster is compounded by state corruption, often for the sake of covering up a lack of preventative measures, or the existence of profit incentives over safety (Hurricane Katrina 2005, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster 2011, Deepwater Horizon explosion 2010), that ultimately result in a greater cost of human life, and a greater ecological impact.