An Epidemic of Anguish

When a natural disaster strikes in a distant part of the world, we tend to fix our minds on the tangible – the loss of life, the displacement of people, the environmental cost, and the economic expense – but struggle to understand the emotional trauma. This does not mean that we ignore it or are by any means indifferent to it; it’s just that we are not capable of developing more than impressionistic, anecdotal, and extrapolated senses of what may be occurring. The news media can show the greif-stricken faces of mothers who have lost their children, but they can’t quantify the misery for us. This makes it more difficult to talk about around office water coolers, in cafes, or in our living rooms. And so we don’t.

But we think about it, or at least we struggle to.

The vast human anguish generated by the Indian Ocean tsunami is beyond comprehension. And it is epidemic. Can you even begin to ponder it without also becoming overwhelmed with sadness?

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