Thursday, September 01, 2005

There's a storm coming...

I don't know if it's the time of the month, or just my overwhelming sense of humanity, but I'm getting very emotional about New Orleans and Katrina.

And while I know there's a difference between weather and ... that other thing it's different from, I feel like there's been a lot of natural disasters in recent years. I mean, even this year, with the tsuanmi. Or maybe, as I get older (puhsing thirty, right?) I have an increasingly acute sense of the fragility of life.

And not even just the natural things: Beslan, 7/7, 9/11, yesterday in Baghdad. The world just seems scary, somehow. I'm a lot more interested in insurance than I used to be.

So I've been utterly overhwelmed watching what's happened on the news, and at the amazing humanitarian response (on Craigslist New Orleans, there's pages and pages of people just offering spare rooms and shelter).

But I'm not going to link to a million other hurricane-style things. Because there's a bit of me that is torn by the bystander-grieving. Like, when I was kid, growing up near Manchester airport, it sometimes happened that there'd be a crash or something at Ringway. And my mum's cleaner (and a whole bunch of other people too) would always go straight down there to watch. Like there's often a motorway accident on the other side of the road from the original one: rubberneckers taking their eye off the road. Disaster tourists. Grief porn. I'm sure someone else has already thought up a bunch of good words for this.

This doesn't in any way detract from the horror of what people have to deal with in the American South (and I guess, selfishly, that I won't be going to New Orlean's Jazz Fest for a while). It's just that maturity has taught me that I have choices about what I "consume" (media, food, whatever), and I can't help the world knowing the detail. Like I didn't watch the Beslan programme on Tuesday. It doesn't mean that I don't want that community's life to be healed as soon as it can, it just means that I know where to draw the line, for me.

I read something at the weekend, that because I have a brain like a seive right now, I can't find, but it was about conspicuous compassion, apparently a truly twenty-first century happening. In my fragmented media life, I saw some woman on TV this week, who'd had terrible things happen to her, that made her change, and when she was interviewed, she talked about her mum getting cancer, and something else, and then she said "and Diana. When Diana died, that really affected me."

Now, Diana's funeral went practically right past my door, so purely for the historical experience I stood on the Finchley Road, and I know from firsthand experience that the people crying were crying as much for themselves as her. Their conspicuous compassion was as much a mourning of what they'd lost as what she had.

I don't have any answers. This may just be a random rambling emotionally flamboyant something-or-other, but what I'm saying is...

... that while I don't want people to think I'm some kind of cultish nutter, the world is in a bad way. I know, I'm glass half-empty. There's good stuff, too.

What I'm really saying is - and maybe a weblog isn't the place to say this, but whatthehell - one of the few things that works for me is knowing that there's a bigger game plan, somone/something up there.

So, what I can say is that I'm praying.

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