It was Anzac weekend last year that Australians learned that the World Health Organisation was on high alert after a new influenza virus killed scores in Mexico raising concerns of a global epidemic.Weeks of near hysteria set in.Sales of face masks and flu shots soared; P&O’s Pacific Dawn became a modern-day fever ship, denied access to Queensland ports; 5000 passengers and crew on another of the company’s cruisers, Dawn Princess, were quarantined after arriving at Darling Harbour from Hawaii.Their subsequent release caused a Typhoid Mary-like tremor to course through Sydney. A paroxysm of blame ensued, state governments accused each other of inaction, medical experts offered different scenarios and confusion reigned until flu season passed.But when an Icelandic volcano grounded flights in and out of Europe 15 days ago, a feeling of powerless gripped more than those whose holidays and business trips had been interrupted, delayed or cancelled.Depending on your deity, volcano eruption is an act of God or Mother Nature, and neither divinity is in the business of accepting blame for things that go wrong.Julie Fitness, associate professor of psychology at Macquarie University, says in the era of the individual, people are driven to new heights of anger when there’s nobody to blame.”All around the world, particularly in richer nations, we’ve come to live cosseted lives with high levels of perceived control that ensure a sense of predictability and calmness not available to previous generations,” she says.”We are unused to being held up or prevented from doing what we have become expert at doing, indulging ourselves, so when a volcano interrupts us, our world view is suddenly shaken violently.”Nature has almost been banished from many people’s life experiences,” she says. ”Earlier Australians pragmatically accepted drought and flood with equanimity but they’ve become nearly irrelevant, particularly to city dwellers, so when a volcano stops them in their tracks it is a personal affront to the sense of individuality that modern society has enshrined.”Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland put much of the world’s international airline industry into gridlock as its ash cloud drifted east and shut down European airspace.Departure boards in international airports started posting ”Cancelled” for flights in and out of Europe, stranding 5 million passengers across the world.There were stories of travellers bored to near death at airports, airlines gorging ticket prices, riots on Spanish ferries, brawls on Eurorail and hugely expensive taxi rides across six borders.And while HMS Ark Royal was dispatched across the English Channel to rescue marooned holidaying Brits, wealth and power received the usual preferential treatment, with Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elizabeth reportedly among the earliest to return to Britain, flying first class with British Airways from Los Angeles.There were mordant jokes about eruptions, interruptions and oral sex.Qantas and other carriers into Sydney bravely tried to assuage Australian horror of long-term detention in Europe on one hand. On the other hand, they also sought to calm European backpackers’ fears of being stuck in Bondi, issuing a stream of optimistic updates.Meanwhile, Eyjafjallajokull kept pumping ash into the atmosphere and a sense of powerlessness into society, and a desultory hunt started to find scapegoats.First, British meteorologists copped it for causing an overreaction to the ash cloud.An Icelandic vulcanologist told Reuters ice melts associated with global warming could effect magmatic systems. Somebody else noted the British television motoring show Top Gear had visited Eyjafjallajokull a week before it blew and the publicity-conscious program was happy to accept blame.After word leaked that American authorities routinely allowed jetliners to take off and land at Hilo International Airport in the middle of the volcano-rich island of Hawaii, Europeans sent up test flights to see if aircraft would tumble back to earth, engines choked with ash.None did.The first Qantas flight out of London arrived in Sydney eight days ago and most flights are returning to normal.But Eyjafjallajokull continues to spew forth ash and cast a pall of uncertainty over Australians wondering about travel to Europe for the northern hemisphere summer.
Nanjing Night Net