Wednesday, September 20, 2023

How do you Solve a Problem like Tragedy?

 Bad things happen. And all the positive thinking in the world cannot change that. We know that. Even so, when tragedy strikes, none of us are remotely prepared for the raw grief and sheer extent of the devastation it unleashes. If heaven forbid, the victims are in our personal or social circles, one is never certain about the correct response. How can we help those reeling from the aftershock of gut – wrenching personal loss? Do we even want to be encumbered with such an onerous task in these dark times when our hearts are no longer in the right place and have long since been swallowed up into the bulging gut of the internet and regurgitated into the bottomless depths of digital dreck?

One supposes that sensitivity, compassion, kindness, and empathy always helps, even if the aforementioned are in short supply nowadays and therefore, absolutely essential not to mention invaluable. But how much is too much? And how little is too little? Even genuine concern can be cloying if it is constant and alloyed with awkwardness. Lending a shoulder for the aggrieved to cry on and all the ice cream in the world can feel pathetically, hopelessly inadequate. But only because it is.

In the face of overwhelming sorrow, hope for a better tomorrow is the first casualty because it seems sacrilegious to even think it, when someone we love or even only vaguely know is trapped in a quicksand of infinite pain and endless sorrow, marooned there by the sudden onset of misfortune. At times like that, it is hard to believe in the healing power of time, when every agonized second feels like an aeon and a half. What is one to do? Who has the inclination and the much-needed patience to let trouble run its course? To wait for a wound to stop bleeding. To refrain from worrying it. To let the scabs form and allow the healing to proceed at the inevitably lackadaisical pace which is so hard on the nerves. To be there for the ones we care about. To give them all the time, space and care that can be managed without being intrusive, invasive, or insensitive. That is hard. And few can manage the feat, even if inclined to make the effort demanded, especially if truth be told, we’d rather expend it all on ourselves.  

It is far easier to go on with our lives, putting aside the guilt over the gratitude and relief we feel that the dreaded bad thing has happened to someone else. Most of us are fully convinced that we can ameliorate a nagging conscience simply by putting up what we consider a poignantly worded post commiserating over the injured party’s loss and suffering. We might even throw in a prayer or two for aggrieved parties and hope that it helps them get back on their feet so that we can all put it behind us and try to move on. Preferably to admittedly insipid and fleeting pleasures which have been rendered even more attractive because we have been confronted with the possibility of our own mortality and the impossibility of holding on to our already limited hoard of happiness.

 It doesn’t help that tragedy brings out the jerks and trolls in droves. Every family and friend circle has its unwanted share of insensitive, rude pricks who always say the wrong thing, ask probing or inappropriate questions, and with a depth of cruelty that defies belief do not demur at all from inflicting further pain on those who are already hurting. We see this everywhere and up close and personal, but it becomes even more horrifying when well – known figures suffer from personal trauma which quickly explodes into a public spectacle. It is truly nauseating to see the massive pile – on as internet crazies get busy with conspiracy theories and news outlets have a field day generating provocative headlines, indulging the ever-growing public taste for sordid sensationalism, scandal, and endless speculation.

All the content in the world cannot compete with real life drama for sheer entertainment value especially when played out on a scale comparable to the elaborately gruesome and macabre spectacles mounted in the infamous Colosseum of ancient Rome to keep the masses appeased and conveniently distracted with an unhealthy overload of blood and gore. Even if we have been reduced to genuflecting before the purveyors of entertainment, does it entitle us to tear them apart when they are down? Why have we allowed ourselves to become such base creatures whose only requirement is the constant appeasement of a ravenous appetite for pleasure uncaring that it comes at the cost of someone else’s happiness or peace of mind?

By incessantly seeking little more than instant gratification we are no longer governed by basic decency or even reason. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to detox a little bit, practise austerity, and abstain from amusing ourselves all the time. With a little time and effort, it stands to reason we may just find our souls again and put the human back in humanity. At the very least, we will no longer allow ourselves to grow fat on the misery of others and join the feeding frenzy every time we scent blood in the choppy waters of this great tragedy we call life.  

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