There’s a reason the death of a million is just a statistic: it becomes abstract, a number of bodies. I don’t pretent that it’s any different for a smaller number either though. If I don’t know you, chances are I won’t honestly care if you die. Sure I can empathize, but it seems like a(n insincere) waste to do that with or for perfect strangers. Definitely a waste to put energy into displaying that (supposed) grief for others to look on at.
I was watching the Breaking Bad marathon AMC ran back in December (of 2013), and I got to the episode centering around the plane crash that Walter and Jesse inadvertently caused. I saw it once before, when they had the marathon leading up to the final episode, and I’ve got to tell you… the scene at the high school pisses me off every time I see it. That schools actually do this sort of thing, enough that its portrayal on t.v. is fairly true to reality… that’s something I don’t much care for.
What occurs in the scene I’m talking about, and what it specifically illustrates, that’s what really gets me. The first kid is about as traumatized as you should realistically expect: fairly unaffected, bringing up college suicides and roomates getting automatic A’s when they happen, hoping against hope that maybe they’ll take his comparison and apply the tenuous parallel. That right there shows the reality of what these tragedies are in the abstract: people don’t really give a damn. Here’s my question:
Why should they?
Then comes the second kid, talking about how she doesn’t understand why god lets things like that happen, saying that she’s had trouble sleeping, asking if others have had that problem and (worse) getting nods of agreement from students in the crowd. This is where I literally started rolling my eyes.
Why should a plane crash – high death toll or not – be a traumatic experience for high school kids? Even if something happened in the same town, where’s the direct connection that dictates a collective mourning session? If any students need individual counseling because a relative (or friend) died, then that’s understandable I guess. I can even understand a kid feeling a little disturbed by it… you know, if there were body parts strewn all over their front lawn. But…
Why does everyone else need to put on their sad face?
Pretending that they’re sad makes no sense to me at all, and the same goes for someone that genuinely feels it… I don’t get it. Seems to me the only reason anyone would get that way in a real sense, emotionally traumatized by something that’s had no real affect on them, is because of stupid ideas they’ve been fed and conditioned with. Who would any of those passengers have been to them? Probably a bunch of nobodies. If their names weren’t on a list of causalties for the news to report on, the high school students never would have known them.
Maybe it’s just me, but when people feel sad for the victims of a school shooting or “send their prayers” to the friends and family of those victims… it all seems like a big facade. I don’t know, maybe I really am alone in that, but to me… most of these people don’t know the victims, don’t know their friends, and don’t know their families. So there is essentially nothing for them to care about. It’s a social norm to be have a sense of tragedy, I understand that much.
What I fail to grasp though is why we’ve created such a strange norm.
It just doesn’t strike me as very sincere.
Why is that normal?
The death of one is a tragedy because you can put a face to it, a name, people can relate, but even that seems strange to me if you don’t know the person. Lacking any shared experiences, memories, personal interactions… Maybe the odd moment here and there throughout the years, imagining that it was your loved one or friend that had been killed… but I don’t see why that’s the expected default reaction. Why is that considered more “human” than my lack of reaction?
Speaking as one myself, as a human being, it seems more authentic and honest to care about things that actually impact me and my own. That are closer to home. Certainly better than pretending to care about strangers and wasting emotional energy (or whatever energy and effort play acting takes) on the abstract tragedies involving them. Maybe I’m just a little bit more sociopathic than I thought, but I can’t help but wonder if people aren’t secretly more like me.
That’s the humanity I personify, and I believe it’s the more accurate version. It hides beneath the surface of all the fake compassion and empathy we try to fill our world with. No matter how many layers of bullshit you try to cover it with… there it is, right where it’ll always be.
Oh I know, I know…
Not the nicest person you’ve ever come across, am I.
The way I see it though, at least I’m honest with myself.