Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Of storms and superstorms: Yolanda and Ruby in Region 8

I wrote this in January 2014.

Right after Yolanda, when things have not yet settled down, when analysis and introspection and finger pointing were rife, one of the first things that came to me were these two books I read between May and August last year (2012). The books are called Black Swan and Antifragile. At my age, I still get impressed very easily, especially by ideas. So, in the ways that I can, I tried to follow some of these books' very reasonable, easy, and logical lessons. Diet and health and exercise, relationships and being human and humane, and of course money matters and finances since these books are basically about economics.

Black Swan, capital letters, is  about the impact of the improbable. Most of us think or believe black swans, small letters, do not exist. They are rare, but they do exist in nature. Hence, Black Swan, capital. It is about certain things we thought would not happen. Even when there are signs and warnings, we still would not think it would ever happen. The book is mostly about the economic crash of the US in 2008. When Wall Street and its banks and stock exchange went bankrupt. Before the economic disaster, there were few voices in the wild, telling of bad things to come. They remained unheeded.

In our case, Yolanda was a Black Swan, capital. We were told what is likely to happen. We cannot imagine what they were talking about. We were told to prepare. We  did prepare, but half-heartedly and haphazardly. The university was told to evacuate, but I and most people thought it was more suggestion than command, so very few went to the evacuation centers. Personally, all I did to prepare for the coming unimagined superstorm was put my books in large and clear plastic bags, the kind used by fishmongers for their products, but the plastic bags were not fastened or secured. It was more to keep the books safe from the roof leaking, not if there might be flooding. I bought ready to eat foods, prepared a standard emergency kit, and bought a 155-liter tub. I did not evacuate. I thought evacuating was an inconvenience.

The second book, a sequel is titled Antifragile. It is about what we can do to make ourselves unfragile, non-fragile, or antifragile when the improbable might happened. It is about preparing ourselves in case a Black Swan would happen. Antifragile is a made-up term since there is no proper opposite to fragile. According to the author, fragile is hurt when there is disorder. Robust is resilient in disorder. Antifragile benefits from disorder.

I realized after the storm, but I may be  wrong, that people cannot be antifragile in natural disasters. There is no way we can never be hurt in storms or earthquakes. In one way or another, we are all hurt by that Yolanda. The hurt may be great, or it may just be superficial, like what happened to me personally. I am simply inconvenienced. I was inconvenienced by the lack of electricity. I am inconvenienced by the lack of fast Internet connection. I am inconvenienced by the fact that I cannot buy the usual things I can buy in Baybay. I am inconvenienced by the fact that prices of basic commodities have gone up a little. But I can never say in all honesty that I or anyone can benefit from a disaster, or if anyone has truly benefited from the aftermath of Yolanda. Because what I understand of the book, when you are antifragile, you are never hurt in any way. In storms and superstorms, no one is antifragile. All we can hope for after is to be robust or resilient.