Inherently Different


The world view of most people can best be represented by shades of grey. They tend to prefer grey areas as it allows wiggle room just in case they make a mistake… they can point to the varying shades and say, “well, I didn’t say X or Y, so I can’t be blamed.”

I, on the other hand, see things in stark black and white. Something either is or isn’t… there is no in between for me, not because I lack imagination, but because I believe whole heartedly in the things I choose to believe in. I’m not a fence straddler… I’m not hedging my bets… I’m not half-in, half-out. What this means is that I’m not only willing to make mistakes, but am willing to accept full responsibility for them.

When I do something, I do it because I’ve given thought to not only the action itself, but the reaction that results. This philosophy permeates every facet of my life. I alone shape the world around me since my actions are solely my responsibility.

There is an order to the world. We’re born, we live, we die. When we’re born, where we’re born, to whom we’re born is irrelevant. When we die, how we die, where we die is also equally irrelevant. The only thing that counts is how we live… the experiences we gain, the places we go, the people we meet, the lives we share… those things are important. Because I view the world in this way, I really don’t find anyone’s death tragic, regardless of the circumstances. The only tragedy, in my opinion anyway, is not living every moment as if it were your last. It is the worst kind of squandering possible… a life lived carefully is a life wasted.

Here’s where I’m gonna piss some of you off.

The world is no less dangerous now than it was when life clawed its way out of the primordial ooze. Shit happens and when it does, you’ll get plenty of people who will ask, “Why?” They’ll see human suffering, but I see nothing more than proof that life is precious. Proof that there is a natural order to the universe is best displayed when some natural or unnatural disaster occurs.

When calamity strikes, some people feel compelled to wax poetic about the tragedy and question the heavens for reason in the face of chaos. Out of pity, out of guilt, out of some misplaced sense of responsibility, they’ll struggle to connect with people they wouldn’t, in most instances, give a rat’s ass about if they passed them on the street. I wonder about the motivations of such people, not because I find their attempts at compassion admirable, but because the idea that some kind of disaster is required before you’re willing to reach out to your fellow man is the worst kind of conceit imaginable to me.

The tsunami a while back. The hurricane last week. How did you react? Were you moved to make a donation after being riveted to the tv like a gawker at a fatal traffic accident? How would you have reacted to the 1904 earthquake in San Francisco, the sinking of the titanic, the felling of the Hindenberg… would you have reached into your pocketbook to ease your conscience?

Even when the event is driven by the most basic of human emotions, hate, I see nothing tragic about death. The lives lost on September 11, 2001 aren’t any more tragic than the lives that ended on September 10, 2001 or June 8, 1967 or February 12, 3005.

I might be easiest for someone to read this and label me callous and unfeeling, perhaps even inhuman, but nothing could be further from the truth. The only difference between me and someone who is motivated to act when calamity strikes is that I’ve made my peace with the idea of death and won’t fear it if and when it comes. Whether the ground opens up and swallows me whole, or disease ravages my body, or some fanatical miscreant takes me in a hail of bullets, I hope to be judged not by how I died, but how I lived.

I wonder if the real motivation behind benefit concerts when natural disasters occur is actually something less noble… like a misplaced sense of guilt, or worse, a way of aligning yourself with a cause so you can be viewed in a favorable light. I wonder why these musicians and actors don’t just work for free, donating everything they earn above what is necessary to survive to the poor… why only give of their time when it is required by their publicist?

I know, I’m a malcontent, a shallow hole that is filled with the worst thoughts humanity possesses, but at least I’m not afraid to admit that I’m not perfect.

15 thoughts on “tragedy”

  1. Here’s my thought…
    Why do people of this country not take care of their own? We send troops and aids to countries, and yet when it comes to our own.. there’s none to be seen…. Poverty is so widespread in this country alone and education just sliding into oblivion…. why oh why?
    As for the Hurricane… officials already said that a cat 3 would wipe New Orleans leves clean.. but yet there any urgency to evacuate prior to the storm was just an alert… come on.. it was a cat 5… they should’ve prepared whether the leves were going to hold or not. That region is mostly home to your low income households and yet they don’t help those who need to evacuate the cities. Not to mention the “great” President Bush…. cutting funds to the leves a few years back.. of course… his cause is not there.. I could go on and on.. but the reality is.. these politicians pat each other on the back, taking credit for organizing help.. but where is the help?…

  2. Slightly at at tangent to your post but, as someone with some experience of these types of situations I note..

    1. Most emergencies degenerate into chaos in the first 3 or 4 days post event. Having said that and given that New Orleans (NO) had around 24 hour notice prior to the event, things do seem particularly badly organised.

    2. Why are the 100,000 people still in NO being allowed to wander around? Why havent they been forcibly gathered up and located in a number of central points so as to facilitate distrubitions of relief and medical aid.

    3. You know my site, you know I am no fan of the UN but it does seem to me that the US should accept the offer of help from the UN. Not in terms of aid but in terms of management and co-ordination. There is something rather ironic when ones sees the piss-poor management now on-going in Lousiana and other states and then remembers that this kind of nonsense is exactly what the US accuses the UN of.

    4. Helping the poor would have been an obvious thing to do. it also strikes me that the poor and those who decided to remain might have helped themselves a little more comprehensively by stocking up on essentials and engaging brains. A woman on tv last night was screaming that she had no powdered milk or clean water for her 2 month old baby..look inside ur bra.

  3. I do get your point about death and living your life. I agree that death in itself is not tragic. There are worse things than death. And I think that is what is happening now — the people that are still living are suffering. And watching them on TV and seeing that they are apparently not receiving help makes people want to contribute financially. Many people do this probably with real compassion and caring. I agree, though, that these benefit concerts are probably selfish in nature.
    To zero$iN – your comment is interesting. I lived for a short time in a “third world country” and because of that I thnk it is funny when people talk about poverty in the united states. Find the poorest bum on the streets of any city and he doesn’t know poverty the way some people in other countries do. That bum can still go to a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. People in the united states have opportunities that people in many other countries can’t even fathom. If you are poor in america and you aren’t mentally ill than you need to HELP YOURSELF not wait for someone to help you.

  4. I’m upset not as much by the destruction and loss of life as I am by what appears to be needless suffering by survivors. I admit I do not have any experience in managine disasters, but it seems to me if TV crews can find and film these people, someone can help them. Otherwise, I really don’t know what to say or think about all of this, but it’s horrible and painful to witness, though I feel that can’t ignore it on any level.

  5. Funny that you mention the thing about the TV crews filming the goings on but doing nothing to help… it sort of reminds me of nature shows in which they show footage of some animal in harms way, say a baby bird falling out of a tree and slowly dying of exposure and hunger, and the film crew just stands in the background watching it unfold. Same sort of thing really.

  6. Hold on; filming a crowd of refs. needs a cameraman and a front person and I guess a sound guy. To feed the same crowd requires about 5 trucks, security and, most importantly and what seems to be missing here, a person who can organise it all.

  7. I was just thinking, too, that perhaps the most disturbing thing to many people is that the veneer of civility has been been stripped clean away, and much of the national ego has gone with it. The ugly side of humanity is showing, and we can’t point the fingers at a “them” – the shame is rooted strictly in our soil. By shame, I mean the shame of having our citizens in a state of desperation we have trouble aligning our “superpower” image with, and not accomplishing enough quickly enough to remedy.

  8. I think that Pea’s point is spot on; the hubris of seeing the world’s richest and, excuse me, rather arrogant state scrambling around unable to cope with a natural disaster is going to have a profound impact on the way that “we” see “you” and also, I suspect, the way you see yourselves.

    All this talk of the “New South” or whatever, which i admit that I dont really know much about, seems rather nonsensical when all we see on TV is black faces.

    On a slightly different matter; blaming Bush, blaming the State authorities or whatever is all very fine but, as people keep pointing out, it was known that the levees needed repairing, it was known that 80% of New Orleans is below sea level, it was known that New orleans is in a hurricane belt. I have a great deal of sympathay for people who had no choice but to live there; I have rather less for those who knew all this and chose to live there.

  9. I guess my whole point with this post was to say that I really don’t care about any of these people in light of current events than I would under the best of conditions and that most people really feel the same, but feel compelled by circumstances to feign interest and compassion.

    People are really self-centered and only natural disasters seem to make them look outward for any length of time. What I find interesting about natural disasters or unnatural disasters is that the true nature of humanity shows itself despite our best efforts…

  10. I’d have to agree with you there. Every human is selfish, and we all have an ugly side to us; the ratio may vary from person to person, but it’s there.

  11. I work with the “poor” everyday in my job. Everyday I go to work, I make a difference in someone’s life. So when I donated to the Red Cross and as I send a money order for baby formula to a friends hurricane relief efforts, I am not doing anything out of the ordinary for me. I like to help people who need it. I’m a sucker for the dehydrated babies who have no diapers because their parents didn’t have enough money to get out of a city that let hundreds of city transit buses drown with other babies in the arms of parents who can’t swim.

    That’s me being who I am, however self-centred, egotistical and self righteous I am.

    Your right E, Death isn’t tragic, it’s inevitable, But there was a way to save some of those lives. Only a small fraction of what could have been done was actually done. Some died because some people didn’t think or didn’t care. Other people died because they where stubborn, but that’s different. You make your bed, you die in it.

    If I was in a boat that was sinking, and nobody stopped to help me from drowning because I didn’t have money to pay for the gas that operated the rescue boat, You better believe I’d go Amityville Horror on someone’s ass.

    My 10 bucks worth.

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