Friday, April 26, 2013

why the fascination?

After the bombing at the Boston Marathon, and after any tragedy that involves a human perpetrator, the days after the event are filled with news stories about the accused; the person's life, hobbies, mental health status, goals, and plans. Contrast this to the number of national news stories of some 'natural' or 'accidental' tragedy such as the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. There will be a story or two when they figure out what happened, but nothing to the extent of the psycho-thriller of analyzing the criminal mind. What are we so fascinated with in these cases? Is it that we want to reassure ourselves that we are different from someone who could do something so atrocious? Do we want to justify ourselves? Or are we afraid we might be just as bad? Is it a chance to entertain ideas that we otherwise would not permit? To hear about it from someone else keeps us safe from ourselves?
Perhaps it is any number of combinations of the above. Maybe something else. Maybe because we can learn from that, and the evil represented or enacted by a person seems more manageable than the tragedy perpetrated by nature or neglect of property. The accidents of life are beyond us, and maybe we don't want to dwell so much in them. I don't know for sure, and I suspect there are many varied and complicated reasons behind this. It still bothers me, though, and I feel that something is amiss around it all. Is this the best way to respond to these things? Of course the investigators must do in depth exploration both of the human perpetrators and the natural disasters, but do all of us need all of these details? Then again, maybe it is not so different from the common fascination with celebrities. For many reasons we seek to learn more about the lives of others in ways that I think can be quite invasive but that we perpetuate nonetheless. Humanity is a fascinating collection of creatures, and I think we are as often mysteries to ourselves as we are anything else.

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