Disasters Bring out the Best in People. Do you Agree?

Disasters are commonly accepted to be terrible things, destroying tangible objects like infrastructure and killing people, and also causing intangible harm, like causing people to feel traumatised. Such harm is perpetuated by various forms of disasters, be they natural like tornados or man-made like oil spills, or social disasters such as terrorist attacks. Yet, it is worth noting that it is exactly these disasters that motivate people to live through the terrible times, and bring out the best in them. In response to disasters, people seem to become more courageous and civic minded, with many of them becoming leaders as well. These are all admirable traits in man.

In the fore, it may seem as though natural disasters create opportunities for people to commit crimes. In the wake of a natural disaster, there is bound to be some form of chaos that presents itself as an opportunity for people to steal and rob the community. Many people think about their needs before that of others and this selfish attitude is more likely to show itself after a disaster strikes than in normal circumstances. However, more often than not, people tend to exhibit more positive behavior in the face of calamity. One pertinent example would be the case of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Miki Endo proved herself to be a hero of her community when she sacrificed her own life to make continued announcements from a building for people to evacuate to higher ground, eventually saving over a thousand others. This form of heroism is particularly admirable because it is extremely difficult for a twenty-four year old to sacrifice her life for the sake of the community, in which she may not particularly have known everyone. Such heroism is indisputedly one of the best traits of mankind, something which would hardly surface in everyday living. Another widely observed phenomenon was the civic-mindedness of the survivors. After the calamity, despite the grief and terribly cold weather, the Japanese remained thoughtful, giving up their places in the ration queue to the elderly folks among them without hesitation. This form of help goes to show that disaster does make people more civic minded, as they not only consider their own suffering, but also that of others.

Of course, cynics may assert that in times of social conflict, there would be many casualties, which have multiple implications on different groups of people. People may become discouraged and feel let down if they end up losing their family members in disasters, and lack the motivation to carry on with their lives. Survivors are also harmed when they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or survivor’s guilt. Despite this, there are many instances in which people have continued to live on, and have even developed greater resilience after a while. For instance, Victor Guzman was a survivor of the 9/11 attacks, suffering from both of the abovementioned illnesses. However, after the incident, he was able to pick himself up from the ordeal; he learned to treasure his family more, and started to prioritise his family over his work. Such disasters make people ponder what they consider to be most valuable to them, spurring them to treasure these things. In this sense, disasters make people value what they love most, as the experience of nearly having lost these things drives home the ephemerality of life. This is in contrast to modern society, in which many people blindly follow others in the pursuit of material gain, but do not question the underlying reason for it. Disasters make their lives seem more unique in a way, allowing them to develop their own understanding of their particular priorities and circumstances. Therefore, disasters do bring out the best attitudes in survivors.

Pessimists would also claim that it is easy for people or even corporations to shirk their responsibilities in an effort to cover up man-made disasters. People who are more concerned with their image are unwilling to admit their contributions to the problem, and may be more likely to hide from the problem. However, most people are more likely to develop more possibilities to solve the problem. The BP spill of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico proved this. It took eighty-seven days for the engineers that came at the behest of both BP and the USA to find a solution to the problem, but they still did it in the end, achieving the supposed “impossible”. The effort encouraged more governments and corporations to understand the importance of our environment, such that we can protect and preserve it. This is in contrast to the normal attitude of taking the exploitation of the environment as a right of mankind. The motivation to stay responsible for one’s actions in spite of the consequences is extremely admirable, yet only it often surfaces only in the wake of a disaster. In fact, we owe the existence of the Pacific Tsunami Warning System to a tsunami that swept Hawaii in 1946. When disasters take away something that is usually taken for granted, then people will realise its importance and begin to preserve it. It is thus safe to conclude that disasters bring out the best efforts and intents that differ from the norm, for the benefit of both the present and the future.

In conclusion, the disasters that we face today may indeed be problematic, doing great harm, but they do encourage mankind to move forward, to continually improve, and adopt selfless attitudes. Differing actions arise while chaos erupts, but the cumulative response tends to be more positive than negative. Therefore, man has the ability to become better, whether temporary or for good, as a result of disasters. 


hasan khan 14 November 2015 at 17:46  

Very well written, thank you!

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.