Sunday, September 17, 2017

A View Through the Sociological Lens: When the Mind of the Crowd Takes Over the Mind of the Individual, the Human Spirit Shines by Sonny Boy Arias

Such a beautiful and profound, if bone-chilling, reflection by Sonny Boy Arias on the Mexico earthquake titled, A View Through the Sociological Lens: When the Mind of the Crowd Takes Over the Mind of the Individual, the Human Spirit Shines.  

It links poignantly back to the terrifying 1985 Mexico City earthquake of similar strength.

It was published on Sept. 11, 2017 in Somos en escrito: The Latino Literary Online Magazine  

Follow them on Twitter @Somosenescrito

-Angela Valenzuela

First responders to southern Mexico earthquake, September 2017

Chicano Confidential

A View Through the Sociological Lens:
When the Mind of the Crowd
Takes Over the Mind of the Individual,
the Human Spirit Shines

By Sonny Boy Arias

Given today's cascade of catastrophes, I ponder on how disasters can change the course of history.

Southern Mexico just had an 8.1 earthquake two days ago. We know that the economic and political landscape of any country is permanently disrupted when hit by a serious hurricane, earthquake, flood, fire, or war event. It’s September 9, 2017, in the early morning on the West Coast, and Hurricane Irma with the strength of a Category 5 level threat is upon Florida, and a large part of the United States.

I am reminded of the time I was "on the ground" in Mexico City during my days as the Founding Project Director of the Binational English & Spanish Telecommunications Network (BESTNET). The apparent danger I was in didn’t occur to me from the view I had on the 11th floor of Hotel Crystal. I said to the maid, “Are you okay, are you afraid of another earthquake?” And she turned to me and said, “If you look around you will see that all the buildings that fell down were made by the government, yet Hotel Crystal still stands,” and then it struck me: all of our BESTNET staff were safe inside the hotel.

We witnessed trained First Responders from the Mexican Army dig frantically through the pancaked remains of the National Maternity and Pediatric Hospitals in Mexico City. Further on, we saw volunteers, mostly young boys between 12 and 20 years old, working to save doctors-in-training who were trapped in what had been the high rise dormitory of UNAM's medical school. There were very few survivors. A whole generation of Mexico's new doctors was gone.

First responders to Mexico earthquake, 
September 2017 (CNN)
Following the 8.1 earthquake the next night, in spite of a magnitude 7.4 aftershock that sent us scrambling to get out of our hotel, we were able to meet with the Medical Director of that nine-hospital and medical school complex which had been completely destroyed by the quake.

Owing to our presence, the Director had quickly organized the first damage assessment of medical facilities and, within two days presented us with the first needs lists that enabled an effective response from the U.S through BESTNET. Although the Internet had not yet been popularized, we utilized BESTNET as a social network to communicate through DECNET, an early encapsulated privatized telecommunications network—a precursor of the Internet known as ARPANET, to communicate binationally. When all other forms of telecommunications were not working, BESTNET was up and running.

With our partners, they enlisted the personal jets of regional petroleum corporations to deliver the specifically requested medicines and supplies to Naucalpan's Red Cross Hospital. Ambulances began delivering victims immediately. There were hundreds of them.

Direct Relief donations began to arrive that same day. Volunteers received, sorted and dispersed the medicines, supplies and equipment to the hospital, while I worked on site to coordinate the response. Within just a few days, several emergency field hospitals were flown in, and set up nearby to supplement the hospital's capabilities. BESTNET’s consortia of over 20 binational partners were integrated into the over-all medical response social network.

I can’t help but think of the accounts and reflections we will hear about as Hurricane Irma looms forward in the next few hours. Living through earthquakes in California, the most recent massive fires and cliff slides in Big Sur, and hurricanes in Texas, I have some experience but don’t really know what it is like to be at the center of a major natural catastrophe.

Hurricane Irma, September 2017 (CNN)
Nature's forces can be very terrifying and even the strongest weep or feel impotent, yet what I do know is it brings out the best of the human spirit as well. I saw this in the many disaster volunteers and professionals we encountered in Mexico, California and Texas. The mind of the crowd (humanity) takes over the mind of the individual and it seems that everyone tries to help under these conditions.

Some people arise and become leaders in emergency situations, quickly mobilizing the best they know how, with steady head and purpose, while trying to figure out how to gain access to resources hundreds of miles away from human calamity, and observing them is all-inspiring and a demonstration of great human spirit! 

Leaders who rise up like this are amongst those many heroes who made a lasting contribution to saving the lives of those that had been spared death but needed medical care and attention, many doing so at the risk of their own lives.

Again, I can only imagine what our fellow humans in the Caribbean Islands have experienced and what Floridians will soon be going through because of Hurricane Irma. The destruction of all they have – can you imagine having to endure that? – will be the least of their lasting worries and fears as the hurricane closes ground on them.

We are all linked forever to the social network of humanity and to those who are asked without choice to face nature's unforgiving destructive forces and calamities, a choice which we, too, may one day have to face.

Sonny Boy Arias is a dedicated contributor to Somos en escrito via his column, Chicano Confidential. Copyright © Arts and Sciences World Press, 2017.
Armando Rendón
Somos en escrito Magazine

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