Blasphemy or holy geology?

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 29, 2018 - November 04, 2018.
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In a psychiatrist’s office near Kuala Lumpur...

Hamid: Doc, I feel like my whole education has been a lie. It’s stressing me so much I can’t sleep.

Doctor: What’s bothering you?

Hamid: Apparently, the earthquake in Palu was God’s wrath because the people allowed deviant activities to go on. It was said in parliament so it must be true ... but you see, my professors never told me about this in my geology classes.

Doctor: Er ... God’s wrath?

Hamid: Yes! The thing is, this means we’re at higher risk. Do you know what sort of danger we are in?

Doctor: Now, let’s not jump to conclu....

Hamid: Look, there was this Pew Research Center survey a few years ago that looked into which countries tolerate LGBT communities more.

Doctor: Oh, what did they find?

Hamid: It found that 3% of Indonesians think society should accept LGBT. The scary part is our percentage was 9%! So we’re three times as likely to receive divine punishment.

Doctor: I don’t know how to respond to this. Let’s backtrack a bit. You studied geology?

Hamid: I did, four years, graduated with honours.

Doctor: So what did you learn about why earthquakes happen?

Hamid: Well, they happen when there’s a release of energy. The earth’s surface is made up of many tectonic plates that rub against each other very slowly on the edges, so when they overcome that friction, energy is released in waves that travel through the earth crust.

Doctor: Right ... and places far away from where that friction is usually don’t have earthquakes?

Hamid: Not necessarily. I mean, Malaysia is quite stable because we’re far away from the plate boundaries, like the Ring of Fire, so we don’t have any volcanoes and we don’t get big earthquakes that often.

Doctor: So we’re quite safe.

Hamid: Usually, I guess, but not always. Remember the Ranau earthquake in 2015? That was 6.0 on the Richter scale, at the time the strongest we’ve had in 40 years.

Doctor: Erm, if we’re far away from the plate boundaries, why do we still have earthquakes?

Hamid: My professors told me that we’re on one big tectonic plate, but the big slab of rock beneath us has geological fault lines too, basically fracture lines where pressure and strain build up. When the energy is released, the earth shakes.

Doctor: Ah, so we do have earthquake risk...

Hamid: Not as high risk as other places with more active earthquake zones. Or so we thought, isn’t it. Turns out we’re a divine geological disaster waiting to happen.

Doctor: You mean, the deviant activities?

Hamid: Of course. If Indonesia with just 3% of the people accepting LGBT preferences got it so bad in Palu, we’re doomed with 9%.

Doctor: I understand you’re feeling strongly about this, but didn’t you just explain the mechanics of earthquakes...

Hamid: It’s like I don’t know my geology anymore, you see. Turns out divine retribution is also causing earthquakes and stuff. I don’t know what’s right anymore.

Doctor: Seems to me you may be confusing right with righteous.

Hamid: Oh my goodness, I just remembered. My niece is about to fly off to Spain for a vacation. I should stop her.

Doctor: Er, what?

Hamid: That Pew Research Center study? It found that Spain has the highest tolerance of LGBTs in the 39 countries it surveyed, at about 88%. So Spain must be on the verge of total divine destruction any day now.

Doctor: Okay, let me stop you there...

Hamid: In fact, nowhere is safe. The tolerance figures are above 74% in most of Europe, 60% to 80% in North America, anywhere between 34% and 74% in South America and almost 80% in Australia.

Doctor: Oh?

Hamid: So if Palu is decimated with Indonesia’s 3%, imagine how terrible God’s wrath will be on these other places, including us ... 9%! (starts sobbing)

Doctor: (sighs)

Disclaimer: This is neither a commentary nor a criticism. Please don’t get all shaken up over it.

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