Tuesday, April 17 2007

Thoughts on the Virginia Tech Tragedy

This post may turn out to be unexpectedly serious.  Both my immediate supervisor and one of the secretaries at work have sons at Virginia Tech.  Both are alright, as are their immediate circles of friends (as I understand it).  My bosses' son had a class scheduled in the building at 11:00.  The secretary's son was just entering the building when he was warned out.

Its too soon to draw conclusions from this event, aside from the obvious. This is a serious tragedy. Our condolences go out to all the families and friends of those killed.  There were heroes among the dead, and a few among the living.  Beyond that, not much is certain.

Part of me wants to second guess the actions of all involved.  Part of me realizes that its too soon to do so.  Perhaps when the facts come out we can look back and come to some sort of idea.  But the emotions are too raw to allow anything other than anger or sadness to come out.

While I won't attempt to analyze the events themselves yet, I will take a look at how I and others outside the events look at what happened.  It took a while after the full extent of the tragedy became known before the reality of what happened sank in, but I feel the reflected shock from coworkers with a connection to the tragedy.

I see anger from coworkers, superficially directed at the authorities of Virginia Tech, as if the perfect vision of hindsight should have been obvious.  It's anger at the impotence of being unable to do anything, of not having a perfect solution.

In the real world, there are no perfect solutions.  Everything has a tradeoff.  Imagining that some perfect level of gun control or perfect freedom of self-defense would solve all the problems is a luxury available to those living in a world of ideals.  Everything can be better for a sufficiently defined value of 'better', but no one can agree on defining what 'better' is.

I'm going to go back on what I said earlier.  I will make a statement regarding contributing cultural factors to this incident after hearing in the background a press talking head asking leading questions about gun control to one of the state law enforcement chiefs.

You know what cultural factor I think holds the most responsibility for these tragedies?  The idea that no matter how insignificant one is, you can get fifteen minutes of fame somehow.  Often its by being an idiot.  But sometimes its by being a complete and total evil asshole.  Somewhere out there in America, someone, probably a boy in high school is looking at coverage of this event and thinking "if I do better than that, I'll be famous."  Suicides have been around forever, but the idea that if you do something sufficiently stupid or evil before dying you'll be remembered forever is largely a product of the modern media age.  We've created a cult of celebrity by elevating people who are famous for nothing to some kind of divine status.

I'll go into this more later, but modern celebrities have taken on a unique cultural niche in American and Western society that is a unique byproduct of the expansion of modern culture.

Posted by: Civilis at 07: 58 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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