Radioactive Concrete, the Threat of Ebola and Fear

News that a ship laden with radioactive concrete is adrift in the North Sea and making for the Firth of Forth just about sums up the way in which our solutions to one problem tend to create others. Add in the unpredictability of wind and tide, and it is easy to see why some people want to retreat to a pre-industrial world of presumed safety and security in which there is no need for radioactive material to exist, let alone be disposed of. The truth is, of course, that there never has been a safe and secure world, if by safe and secure we mean one in which there is no risk, no danger, no possibility of disaster. As the Ebola epidemic begins to touch the lives of those of us in the West, we are forced to admit that we remain very vulnerable despite all our technological and medical advances. Nature has a way of slipping past our puny pitchforks.

Whether we face a deadly virus like Ebola or a shipload of radioactive material, fear can make us behave foolishly, sometimes even cruelly. Put baldly, we try to run away, either literally or metaphorically, abandoning others in our flight. We try to put a good gloss on it, of course, with our talk of being sensible or taking prudent precautions, but, deep down, we know that we are allowing fear to dictate our conduct. At the same time, such challenges can lead to acts of great selflessness and courage. I don’t know much about those dealing with the Pirada, but the number of doctors and nurses who have volunteered in this country alone to help try to stem the tide of Ebola is heart-warming. Those of us who lack their skills must salute their bravery and do what we can to support them — with our money, our prayer and our concern for their families. That is our role. A single shipload of radioactive concrete may be unlikely to do very much damage; we already know what Ebola can do and can guess at the rest.


3 thoughts on “Radioactive Concrete, the Threat of Ebola and Fear”

  1. Thanks for a thoughtful post. The risks of Ebola have been known for a number of years, but we’ve done little to combat it or to research suitable treatments. Perhaps coming under the heading of a tropical disease, which effects ‘others’ rather than ourselves. The consequence of this can be seen in the horror effecting the people’ of those African countries, where the current outbreak is spreading with frightening rapidity.

    Prayers are always necessary, but the Western governments have been slow to react and only now that the threat is coming closer to home have they entered panic mode.

    Perhaps more planning for such contingencies might be a priority for our future government.

  2. As usual, you capture the moment of struggle and failure of the human condition succinctly and with such clarity.
    I was always a “busy” person, trying to rebalance in my own small way the scales of human strife and suffering through acts of active charity. I always felt inadequate about my contribution and as though I was scratching at the tip of the iceberg with a feather.
    Spending the last year to so in relatively isolated periods of contemplation and gathering strength through simple and beautiful Eucharistic services, I believe that my best contribution has been through prayer. Prayer is so invisible, present and powerful. Thank you for reminding me of its power.

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