Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Nobody Deserves a Tsunami March 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 3:55 am
Tags: ,

I’ve posted before about my discomfort with the rhetoric of the anti-whaling movement.

Now I see that Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd has posted a little poem on Facebook about the tsunami that’s hit Japan:


Neptune’s voice rolled like thunder thru the sky
Angrily he smote the deep seabed floor
From the shore echoed mankind’s mournful cry
……The sea rose up and struck fast for the shore

From out of the East with the rising sun
The seas fearful wrath burst upon the land
With little time to prepare or to run
Against a power no human can stand

Whether or not you interpret this as the tsunami being karmic retribution for whaling or prefer to see it as an oh-so-coincidental comment on the uncontrollable whims of an anthropomorphized force of nature, this is completely out of line & no different from those people who are saying Japan deserved the earthquake & tsunami because of Pearl Harbor. I am disgusted by the 550+ people on Facebook who clicked to indicate that they liked the poem.

If you have spare money & are so inclined, [community profile] help_japan & help_japan are running fannish — see my worlds intersect! — auctions to raise funds for disaster relief. There are lots of non-fannish things being offered, too, & certainly on the Dreamwidth auction (the first link) all you need is a valid e-mail address to bid.


13 Responses to “Nobody Deserves a Tsunami”

  1. veganelder Says:

    Thanks for a realistic response to some of the activities of the “rational” animal.

    • Wendy Says:

      First I can’t believe that people are still going on about Pearl Freaking Harbor! (never mind that it’s likely the US government knew about it and could have prevented human deaths but wanted war to boost the economy, but that was almost 69 years ago. Um, sounds an awful lot like the confederate holdovers I’ve encountered here in the southern US)
      Second I agree that’s really a disturbing poem and chok full of problems. Like, if Neptune gave a shit about animals he’d have devastated the US back in the whaling days, right? And I find it really quite self-absorbed for Watson to imply that he’s on the holiest gods-given mission in the world. I am not suggesting that whales don’t have the right to live, but come off it, Watson, how many land animals, how many mice, are tortured every day for various and sundry reasons across the US? Why has no god smote us?
      It’s ridiculous.
      Human suffering is no more important than non-human suffering, but it is no less important, either.

  2. Every time there is a natural disaster with a high death toll, some fool, somewhere, just HAS to ‘rationalize’ it as that particular demographic or nation ‘deserving’ it. We in the USA heard this after 9/11, when Christian fundamentalists claimed that God was punishing the USA because they allow abortions. When the Tsunami hit Thailand a few years ago, my colleague at work said it was a message from god, “Because they have that children sex trade there and the deserve it.” When Haiti was hit we heard that they “deserved it” because of the ‘pact they made with the devil to free themselves from colonialism.” When Katrina hit, I heard people in the media saying that it was a ‘cleansing’ of all the ‘bad’ people down there who ‘deserved’ it.

    I often feel like people create these binaries of, “God has never smite me because I live ‘morally’, while God smites YOU because you don’t live my perception of morality,” so they can simplistically rationalize why pain and suffering occur. Natural disaster or not, when pain and suffering occur to OTHER human beings, there seems to be defense mechanism that people take on that make it impossible for them to ever even think of how they could be complicit in the suffering and pain of others. “I’m a good person because I am [vegan], [anti-whaling activist] or [Christian], or [type it whatever you want]. I don’t need to think any deeper than that.”

    Heartbreaking and disappointing, but not hardly surprising.

  3. Cakes Says:

    I passionately dislike that man. There are in fact many veg*ns in Japan, especially with a large Buddhist population. So by his logic, what did they do to deserve this disaster? Ugh.

  4. Neil Says:

    Nobody who understands the idea of karma would ever think about it that way. That’s just ridiculous. I don’t think this was what he intended in writing this poem at all. It was more a general ‘mother earth is angry and will fight back’ comment. Not a direct comment relating to whaling. Like anything in life mate, it’s not what happens or what people do but rather how YOU react to it that effects your peace.

  5. Marc Says:

    A facebook comment by Paul Watson:
    “This was simply a poem about the power of nature. It was not anti-Japanese. People, I wrote this poem when five of my crew were lost. We did not know for over 40 hours if they were alive or dead. This poem was not written out of insensitivity to the people on shore. No it was written because I felt the need to understand and express my deep concern for my crew and all the people in the path of this tsunami. For those who say this is karma, all I can say is that you do not understand the concept of karma. Nature does not discriminate. My people on shore and the average citizen of Japan on shore were equals in the face of this tragedy. Japan did not deserve this disaster nor would I ever imply that they did. But we must acknowledge that we take the awesome power of nature for granted and thus we are shocked when that power is unleashed. Let’s remember that famous line, “ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” I had friends on that forlorn shore and I was not insensitive with my poem – the words came in response to the tragedy and I have long accepted that poetry is an eruption from the heart and is not to be denied. Those words came to me in response to the threat to my friends. From the shore mankind’s cry was indeed heard. And before such power no human can stand. This is simply an acknowledgement of the truth and not anti-Japanese in any way. A good poem provokes thought and discussion and stimulates the reader emotionally and each person sees and feels what their heart leads them to see and feel and we all see and feel things in different ways. I make no apology for my two verses – they are words delivered without any intent to offend but with the intent to provoke an emotional response. The comments on this thread have shown me that my poem accomplished just that.”

    • johanna Says:

      I think that’s a v. disingenuous response from Watson, & certainly easy to say after the fact. Given the context of the news at the time & his past activities & words, it remains irresponsible.

      Intent! It’s fucking magic.

    • Doris Says:

      Watson’s poem talks about Neptune – a god – acting “angrily” – over what? Why would Neptune do something angrily? Watson is not describing an indiscriminate act of nature; he’s describing an intentional angry act. Even if he didn’t intend to offend anyone, it’s clear that he did and he should have apologized.

      And saying “I was not insensitive” after people point out your offensive actions shows a lack of sensitivity.

  6. s Says:

    I would argue it is a mistake to confidently read hate in Watson’s intentions here. While I can see some responsible for the ignorant crap like this: may like and support the poem –it is not the same thing. Frankly, I think it’s ludicrous to casually suggest it is the same thing.
    Paul Watson is provocative, he pisses people off because he cares about the welfare of the ocean. It would make perfect sense for him to write a poem about the power of the form of nature he’s spent years living with and struggling for. I dont know if you’ve ever met a sailor, but many have a spiritual relationship with the power of the water. He’s clearly discussing some aspect of that in those eight lines, but it is not clear he’s talking about retribution.

  7. Jeff Says:

    Hello. Not a v.o.c, but I have always loved the blog. After 6 years, I am ending and starting up a new multi-social justice movement website. The new site will be dedicated to showing the interconnectedness of various social justice movements and how they are related. We hope that it will be as popular/big as our last site x 100.

    I would LOVE if a VOC writer with some researching/writing experience would be into writing a section for the human liberation category for our new site about anti racism. Please email me if you are interested and we can go over details. Thank you!

  8. Nopal Juice Says:

    Thanks for the links to help out Japan. I agree that peoples ideas on the reasonong or Karma can be far fetched.

  9. Watson’s justification of the poem is a little disingenious. As I recall, he gloated over the deaths of a few sealkillers in Canada a few years back, calling them “sadistic baby killers.”

    Maybe he didn’t say they ‘deserved’ it but that was the implication there too. Completely insensitive to the real suffering of those who have lost loved ones, and completely unaware of any possibility of dialogue that could have resulted from that event. Animal activists could have talked about how dangerous seal killing is for humans as well as animals, and how more sustainable ways of living must be secured for the very low-income and marginalized people who participate in this activity. If you are interested more in the topic I published an analysis of it a few years ago –

    For an anti-whaling activist to publish a poem talking about the retribution of the gods in response to a natural disaster hitting a foreign whaling country – if it’s not deliberately hateful, it’s at the least in very poor taste.

    I don’t see Watson as someone deep and spiritual, out to save the lovely animals, but instead as someone largely self-serving and egotistical, out to wage war and get press coverage. I don’t get why people idolize him. His words are violent, his actions are violent. He’s a shocking person and I don’t welcome him in the movement for justice and liberation.

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