Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Misanthropist Moment

Current Reading: Myths of the North American Indians, by Lewis Spence

Inspirational Quote: If you're looking for inspiration, I recommend not reading the following post.

First: Haiti.

Earthquakes are remarkable phenomena. Like hurricanes and tornados they remind me that for all our technological advancement, for as often as we look around at the environment we've transformed, we are not the masters of our domain. To our planet our human concerns are nothing. Faith, love, art, science, even existence are of no consequence to continental plates and vagrant air masses. As "Life After People" shows, the planet would get along fine without us. Maybe better, because there are so many of us.

But from a human (and humane) perspective, what's happened in Haiti is tragic. So many dead, injured and dying. So many looting and stealing and stockpiling supplies to feed a black market that must, by now, be staggering in its reach. Yet I haven't seen it mentioned on the news. I've heard no reports on those who are making a killing off the billions that are pouring into Haiti. There is profit to be made, and so there must be those who are making it at the cost of lives and suffering. Because this is a facet of the human animal: we are not a moral species.

Second: Late Night Television.

In other news, Conan O'Brien has lost his job. Jay Leno is getting his old job back. David Letterman is having a field day. The masses seem split between O'Brien and Leno. I'm split between disgust and loathing.

I think I've seen far too many people who have lost their jobs and who did not have million-dollar homes in Los Angeles or New York, who did not make more in one evening than most of us are likely to see in our lives. Why are so many people paying attention to this? Personally? I'd rather fire Jay, Conan, Letterman and every executive at NBC, then blow my meager savings on buying them shovels and plane tickets to Haiti. Let them dig for bodies and scrounge for food. Maybe they'll come back with some perspective. Maybe they won't come back at all. Either is fine with me.

We live in a society where a person who plays a doctor on television makes more pretending to save fictional lives than does a real doctor trying to save real lives. We live in a society where millions of dollars are spent on cell-phones and ipods while the food bank down the road from my house pleads for donations because my neighbors don't have enough to pay for groceries and shelter at the same time. We live in a society where celebrities are patted on the back for organizing telethons to extract money from people who have lost their houses and watched their cities drown when they and their circle of friends could donate every penny they own and still not be reduced to the circumstances of those from whom they are soliciting donations.

And this is one of the most advanced societies our species has ever developed.

Please understand. I like people. I love my family and friends. I know other people love theirs, and that the loss of any one of us is a tragedy to someone.

Still: Looking at the whole overpopulated species of homo modernis, I think we could use a good meteor strike.


Susan Quinn said...

I'm not going to vote for the meteor strike, but I am ready to slap myself if I ever feel sorry for myself again. Ever. For anything.

And, because I'm one of those wretched optimist people, I have to point out the amazing human goodness that rises up out of tragedies like Haiti. My husband has been working furiously to get three, large-scale, water purifiers (that his company makes) down to Haiti. Private company donations of time and resources. Non-profit managing the logistics to get it down there and installed. 50,000 more people getting fresh water.

Faith in humanity = restored.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Ulysses said...

People like your husband, who are not throwing money at the problem but are actually trying to mediate suffering, are the only reason I have any faith in humanity at all.

Tragedy brings out the best in some people and the worst in others. Had I the power, I would make it so that first, tragedy would bring out the best in everyone, and second, that tragedy would not be a necessary catalyst.

I have no water purifiers, nor anything else to offer (unless they need some writing done) outside my outrage at those who make a bad situation worse. Thus, men like your husband (and women too, of course) who have the means and who offer it and themselves without thought or hesitation, they humble me. They make me proud to belong to the species, come flood or earthquake or meteor strike.

Susan Quinn said...

Never underestimate the power of the pen, cleverly aimed at an idea, to bring about change. People of character need people of ideas to focus and bring out the best of them.

See, not such a misanthrope after all! :)