?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Feelings About Distant Tragedies - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

> Recent Entries
> Archive
> Friends
> Profile
> my rpg writing site

February 12th, 2008


Previous Entry Share Next Entry
03:21 pm - Feelings About Distant Tragedies
In thinking about how much of an impact September 11 has had on popular culture, I began thinking about the various distant tragedies that impinge upon our lives and wonder if my own reactions to them are unusual. There is a lot of mass media and popular wisdom about the impact various distant tragedies have on us, specifically incidents involving either mass death or the sudden and unexpected death of some public figure. With everything from the widespread and ongoing US reaction to September 11, to the British reaction to the death of Princess Diana, many people seem to be significantly affected by such incidents and these effects can clearly last for years.

For the purpose of this discussion, I'm leaving aside continuing tragedies, such as the ongoing horror in Darfur or the disgraceful ongoing federal neglect of New Orleans, since I see such incidents as falling into a completely different category. Also, I'm not including anything that anyone was actually present for, since being part of something or personally witnessing it is vastly different from learning about it on TV or the internet. Instead, I'm only focusing on singular incidents where large numbers of people or a single (or small number of) famous people die.

In all cases, my reaction falls into one of two categories. If the public figure was one I disliked or have little knowledge of or interest in, the incident has no affect at all upon me. I try to avoid being pleased by anyone's death, but beyond that, such events are largely irrelevant to me. In the case of a public figure I had positive feelings toward or in all cases of mass death, I'm sad, and sometimes deeply so, but it's always a rather short-term feeling.

Like almost anyone else in the US, I watched the various footage from New York on September 11, 2001. However, within two weeks, I honestly wasn't thinking about the incident – no one I know died, and no one close to anyone I knew died, and that was pretty much that from my PoV, it was sad, but it was also over. Similarly, I have never once been afraid of being the victim of a similar incident, since it was so clearly a singular (and exceptionally difficult to repeat) incident. I definitely continued to think about how that incident had changed the US, but such thoughts had solely to due with living in a nation ruled by a would-be tyrant and were largely reprises of the first thought I had when I learned about the attack on the WTC – "If this was the work of foreign terrorists, the US will be utterly screwed by the political backlash".

Similarly, when I learn of the sudden death of a public figure who I liked or admired, I'm sad, but rarely moreso if it was unexpected, than if it was simply the result of being very old, like was the case for both Andre Norton and Madeline L'Engle. For me, the death of intelligent beings it always a loss and never something to simply accept with homilies about someone having lived a long and productive life or how death is in some way "natural". However, if I didn't know the person, I also don't dwell on the event and it's largely passed out of my mind within no more than a day or two. By this time, the incident holds no more emotional resonance that it would if I was remembering a similar incident from 20 years before. I remain completely puzzled by reports I've read about on-going national shock at events like the assassination of JFK.

After-effects, such as when dead public figures that I liked or approved of are replaced by ones that I dislike or distrust can definitely continue to have a profound emotional effect, much like as my continual dismay at the many Republican atrocities that form the political aftermath of September 11 or the fact that pope John Paul I was replaced by one of the worst popes of the last century. However, the actual incident is far less relevant to me.

Phenomena like (what I can best describe as) the Princess Diana cult seemed to be a significant cultural influence for several years after her death, reports I've read about the lingering public reaction to the assassination of JFK, or the (to me) strange and disturbing public reaction to September 11 that has only begun to fade within the last year or two, utterly baffles me. Obviously, some of this ongoing reaction is driven by the mass media, but some of it seems to be more than that.

I've often read that many people are far more affected by tragedies that happen in their own nation than elsewhere, and especially that inhabitants of most first world nations are significantly less affected by tragedies that happen in the 3rd world. My reactions are pretty much the same to both first and third world events, and to events both in and out of the US, with none of these reactions being particularly lasting. Of course, this makes sense to me, I find patriotism to be a completely baffling idea and nationalism to be a rather distasteful concept. I'm guessing that these feelings may partly explain my reactions, since I feel absolutely no sense of belonging to large and impersonal groupings like nations or ideologies. All of my attachments are both small scale and personal.

In any case, do any of you have lingering reactions to the death of public figures or mass tragedies that you only hear about through the mass media, and where you did not personally know anyone involved? I'm specifically not counting having an on-going emotional reaction to continuing events that occur because of the death or deaths. I'm curious to know if my own reaction is atypical or if it is actually quite common, but that most people do not wish to admit this fact because it is believed to be in some way unfeeling or wrong.

(14 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:rm
Date:February 12th, 2008 11:37 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I think you overlook the weird aspirational content of the two things you focus on here.

Perhaps everyone almost _wanted_ terrorism to happen in their home town because then they'd be New Yorkers too.

Similarly, Diana was viewed was a commoner (not exactly) who became royalty. Preoccupation with these events and grieving them when we are not personally effected is a means of claiming status and also grieving a status one lacks.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:February 13th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
(Link)
I think you overlook the weird aspirational content of the two things you focus on here.

Perhaps everyone almost _wanted_ terrorism to happen in their home town because then they'd be New Yorkers too.


That idea had never remotely occurred to me. I find it nearly incomprehensible that people would think that way, but that's true about a number of reactions many people tend to have to events.
[User Picture]
From:alobar
Date:February 13th, 2008 01:35 am (UTC)
(Link)
9-11 was a direct outgrowth of many decades of US foreign policy. I saw it as an example of the chickens come home to roost. 9-11 also was an excuse for increasing the US police state, thus making 9-11 a tool of the very people who screw over other counties. Not one person I know wanted more terrorism, except maybe terrorism aimed at the war mongers in the ruling class.
[User Picture]
From:eclective
Date:February 12th, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Do fictional characters count? I suppose that counts as witnessing it, even somehow being involved... but I've likened the feelings I've had about the deaths of fictional characters to the likes of what happened to Princess Diana. People who care about those people, who follow them in the media, who fictionalise their lives and weave stories around them, likely feel more impacted when that person dies. They've made themselves feel like they were a personal part of their lives.

That said, otherwise my reactions tend to be similar to yours. I don't feel any attachments to nations or the like either (except perhaps fictional nations where I feel I've "lived"), and I tend not to be affected by the deaths of media figures/celebrities/large-scale deaths in any way I'd really consider "grief". Sadness, yes, but not a heart-stricken feeling, really.
[User Picture]
From:slothman
Date:February 12th, 2008 11:50 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I have mostly achieved saturation on outrage and horror; I’ll still react if something affects a person I know, but for anything outside the range of personal contact I just sigh and ponder “what do we do to fix the problem?”
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:February 13th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
(Link)
*nods* Most definitely.
[User Picture]
From:kitten_goddess
Date:February 13th, 2008 12:51 am (UTC)
(Link)
"I've read about the lingering public reaction to the assassination of JFK, or the (to me) strange and disturbing public reaction to September 11 that has only begun to fade within the last year or two, utterly baffles me. Obviously, some of this ongoing reaction is driven by the mass media, but some of it seems to be more than that."

I've gotten paranoid every time I've had to fly since 9/11. Namely, I'm afraid I'll do something "wrong" according to the TSA and be detained and thrown in jail or not be allowed to board my flight. Foxgrrl rather drily added, "And watch out for the dinosaurs, in case your plane falls into a time machine." I've only had to be wanded once, and I removed the penny from my pocket and I was fine.

Once I'm through the security checkpoint, I'm perfectly fine. I've never been afraid of flying in my life and that did not change after 9/11. I have been scared of falling afoul of the government and getting taken away occasionally, but every time I start to think like that, I realize I'm heading to Batshitcrazytown and pull myself out of it.
[User Picture]
From:alobar
Date:February 13th, 2008 01:38 am (UTC)
(Link)
I now refuse to fly or go thru their police state checkpoints. I do not fear terrorists, I fear homeland security.
[User Picture]
From:xi_o_teaz
Date:February 13th, 2008 04:01 am (UTC)
(Link)
I've never felt bereavement for the Deaths of others. I understand why others do, and I try and be as Compassionate and Empathic as possible (difficult for a mouthy Trickster like my selves, to be sure), but I have always seen Death as something natural and inevitable. I have long felt that bereavement is a strictly Selfish emotion, and that has been one of the easier "selfish" emotions to rid myself of.

Specifically regarding the deaths of people I've never met, when others ask about my indifference, I typically respond, "If I bereave ____________'s Death--whom I never met--then I'd feel like I should feel that way for ALL the people whom I've never met who died that day (and every other day of my life), and I just don't see the point."

At most, I will be sad when someone's (e.g. RAW's) contributions can no longer continue to enrich the world, and (though I won't often admit it), happy that people contributing to evil in the world can no longer do so. Clinically sociopathic, I know, but there you go

*shrugs*
[User Picture]
From:rhiannasilel
Date:February 13th, 2008 04:36 am (UTC)
(Link)
This will sound really silly, but when Joe Strummer from the band The Clash died I felt like some strange part of my youth died with me. They were the first band that I really, really liked and connected with; the first one that I collected all of their albums even if it meant driving all over town to find the imports. I'm still sad about his death and it probably has had more of an affect on me than 9/11 did in the long term. The effects of 9/11 for me are felt on a less personal level and the tragedy that I see from that is the changes in the country itself as a result.
[User Picture]
From:athenian_abroad
Date:February 13th, 2008 05:05 am (UTC)
(Link)
In any case, do any of you have lingering reactions to the death of public figures or mass tragedies that you only hear about through the mass media, and where you did not personally know anyone involved?

Generally no, with one limited exception: the deaths of people who were noted for their creative productions. I am a little sad that there won't be any more Kurt Vonnegut novels or Jerry Goldsmith film scores. (Or Bernard Herrmann film scores for that matter; I still -- dimly! -- remember his death, just after he completed work on Taxi Driver in December of 1975.)
[User Picture]
From:hasufin
Date:February 13th, 2008 06:44 am (UTC)
(Link)
For me, 9/11 was personal and, frankly, annoying. I was attempting to work with people in New York at the time, and while I have some sympathy about the event, it seemed to me that it was being used as an excuse to not get work done.
[User Picture]
From:dancinglights
Date:February 13th, 2008 02:13 pm (UTC)
(Link)
In any case, do any of you have lingering reactions to the death of public figures or mass tragedies that you only hear about through the mass media, and where you did not personally know anyone involved?

Not generally, but I rarely talk about it because the surrounding culture makes me feel incredibly heartless and guilty for it. The Holocaust is the only mass tragedy of that description I can think of that continues to affect me, in small part because of my Jewish and Eastern European background that fled its early rumblings before I was born, but mostly as a "Never Again"-style cultural warning. Mass tragedies that are less systemic, I often try to send some help, but I move on fairly quickly. I've yet to care about a celebrity death, and probably only would if someone I firmly believed was currently in the process of turning around a serious political situation got assassinated.
[User Picture]
From:rjgrady
Date:February 14th, 2008 06:47 am (UTC)
(Link)
When I heard about the 9/11 attacks, probably my third or fourth thought was, "thousands of kids die of cholera every month, I wonder what it would take to get that on the news?" I mean, death is sad, but in my perspective, the 9/11 attacks were relatively inconsequential. Violence like that would hardly make the news in some other countries, but for the loss of architecture. The US is terribly naive, and that naivete is what colors the national reaction. Many people have never quite escaped the notion that bad things must happen to bad people. So I feel compassion to people confused and frightened by the attacks. But as to the attacks themselves... well, we all die someday. It was senseless, it was horrible, but it was one of many senseless, horrible things that happens that did not personally affect me.

> Go to Top
LiveJournal.com