Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Perspective relativity

Today there was an earthquake in Virginia. My first reaction was, Virginia?!! They’re pretty rare in the northeast of the US, enough so that it struck me as really odd.

A 5.8/5.9 quake may not sound like much, especially with the much stronger jolts that hit Christchurch or Japan, but it’s certainly strong enough to cause property damage (and it did) and could have killed someone had they been under the falling debris and collapsing walls at the time. A friend has family members who live in the general area of the epicentre and they sustained some damage.

It didn’t take long for people to start mocking east coasters over the earthquake. The AP reported that much of it came from the west coast of the US, though I saw some from New Zealand, too. Apparently ex-comedian-turned-rightwing-pundit Dennis Miller led that charge. This doesn’t surprise me. On his best day, the most appropriate phrase to describe him is “arrogant asshole”. But, I digress.

I kept seeing snarky Tweets and other online comments, so I posted a Tweet and then on Google+ (which contained that Tweet). It said:
I'm puttin' on my preachin' hat!!

Look: Earthquakes, no matter how small and insignificant they may be when compared to other quakes, nevertheless can be terrifying to the people feeling them. Whether those people "should" feel frightened or whether they're "overreacting" is irrelevant. Telling them that doesn't change what they're feeling—in fact, it can make them feel worse.

I've seen lots of people piling on the snark about the earthquake in the eastern US. There's a difference between gentle humour (I've seen some) and gutless, bitchy snark from folks belittling the people who were genuinely frightened by—and this is hugely important—a rare event for the eastern US.

In time, the folks in the eastern US will calm down and their sense of perspective will return. In the meantime, more humanity, less snark, please! Oh, and remember this the next time there's a natural event you think people are overreacting to: Don't make me get out my preachin' hat!! :-)
I was trying not to be as bitchy toward the snarky people as I was feeling, but I probably didn’t succeed. It’s just that it annoyed me immensely that people were belittling the real fear that people along the east coast experienced.

Because such an event is rare, there’s every reason for people to be upset by it. But we’re talking about a region that’s on edge with the tenth anniversary of 9/11 coming up, a fact my friend Jason reminded me of. For many people, their first thought would be that it was a terrorist attack. One American news report I saw showed people in New York City expressing exactly that feeling.

It seems to me that we now have an almost need to make fun of the experiences of others, to belittle them. Social media just speeds that up and increases the audience. These snarky people really ought to stop and realise that next time people could be piling onto them. The perspective of people toward events like is relative, after all.


Roger Owen Green said...

What's really weird is that I felt the quake in Albany, NY. If one were sitting, one might have experienced a bit of vertigo.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

The only earthquake I've felt have both been while I was sitting. The truth is, I may not have noticed them at all, otherwise.