Harshly Philanthropic

I was able to find more than 20 websites that featured people doing stupid things, often with fatal results.  It made me wonder if stupidity is becoming like bacon, a staple of modern western civilization. I mean, just about everyone has heard of the Darwin Awards, perhaps the most notorious herald of non-survival and finds humor in the telling of the stories.  Like the drunk who decided to bungee jump from a bridge one night and tied his ankles to the bridge with a 40 foot run of steel cable. When he jumped, the cable having no give, separated his feet from his legs and he drown from blood loss before he could make it to shore. I react to stories like this with a literal physical discomfort in the gut, yet there are a lot of folks out there that think that this is hysterically funny stuff.

Or the thief who tried to break into a restaurant by climbing down the chimney. He expected to wind up on top of a cold stove but found himself in the combustion chamber of the furnace, which automatically engaged before he could get back out. The premature cremation a part of the funny time hit parade. Or the mail bomber who sent out a bomb with too little postage and the post office returned it to him. Unthinking, he merely opened his mail and that was that.  While there is a certain ironic dark humor, is it really funny?  How about the girl that took a big swig from a thermos to discover it was full of nearly boiling coffee. The scalding in her throat inflamed the cells and cut off her wind and she suffocated. Isn’t that a riot?

In my circle, America’s Funniest Home Videos has been renamed to America’s Most Without Empathy, thanks to their laugh track punctuating hurtful bad luck happening to people on screen. It seems like we find a lot of ways to take pleasure from the misfortune of others. In an earlier article I commented on the brutality of the thinking prevalent in candidates for office. Suggestions of electrified fences, moats, and cheering the high body count of the Texas penal system and the opinion that sick people without health insurance should be left to die have made the news.  I don’t mean to sound like a wimp, but holy crap.

Then I look at our society again and I see the way that we will reach out to others in troubled times, reaching around the world to help if that’s what it takes.  Here in Spokane, when we see news stories about people who suffered a house fire or some other significant loss, a volunteer fund will be started within hours of the event.  Still today, neighbors will gather for barn raisings and there’s no need to explain Habitat for Humanity.  Look what the nation, in spite of government failings did for New Orleans after Katrina or the Iranians after the earthquake two years ago. Actually, I could go on and on with examples of American generosity –and just as many examples of insensitivity as I mentioned above.  We seem to exist with contradictory character manifesting the height of generosity while at the same time demonstrating incredibly crass ambivalence toward suffering.

It seems somehow very American to take both sides of any given topic, so perhaps I should find this interesting at all. I mean heck, our government seems mandated to operate in ways are geared to ensure that their successes are limited and often accidental. So maybe I shouldn’t think this was worthwhile to comment on. In many ways it’s par for the course. But I do think it’s interesting and something worth considering, another of the ways humans demonstrate their humanity.