Cognative Dissident

Sunday, January 2

Rooting For Disaster

As Tim Blair has noted some people aren't content to limit themselves to rooting for the enemies of civil society, but cheer on natural disasters as well. There's a particularly obtuse example of Tsunami worship in The Sunday Times today:

A small, insistent voice in the back of my head says: “Isn’t this amazing!” A minor but insuppressible part of me has almost relished — yes, relished — those huge numbers. As the newspaper headlines spoke greedily of the numbers of dead “approaching” twenty, then fifty, then eighty, then a hundred thousand, something undeniable twitched in the back of my brain. It was a sort of excitement as the figures mounted; as though some great auctioneer of calamity were taking bids from the media floor, and I was willing the bidding to carry on upwards. When will it reach a hundred thousand? Could it reach a quarter of a million? Was this a record? How did it stand in the history of these disasters? That high! Wow!

This isn't a damn football game! Those numbers represent real lives, and though, for the sake of appearances, Matthew acknowledges such, it's pretty clear he doesn't really care. He apparently assumes his disaffection to be universal, and asks what I'm sure he thinks is an oh-so-clever question:
Suppose it within your power to usher in instead an age where the seasons and the harvests were regular, the oceans calm, the Earth’s crust quiescent, the weather predictable; an age when mankind lost its former nervous respect for a planet which could smash lives without warning; would you welcome such an age? Would you banish random, man humbling catastrophes?

Well, would you? I think you hesitated.

I have to say, no, I didn't hesitate. If it were within my power to ensure regular harvests and prevent natural disasters, you're damn right I'd do it, and without thinking twice.

And frankly, I find it appalling that Matthew prefers to root for chaos. To express excitement at the rising death toll in modern history's most devastating natural disaster is nothing more than nihilism, covered with a veneer of pseudo-intellectual claptrap about "unmastered mastery" or no. It's simple hatred of civilization.

It's tragic, not entertaining, that the hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives or their families and that millions of more have lost their homes, and livelihood.

There certainly is something awe-inspiring and humbling about the power of nature, particularly when on such ferocious display, but recognizing and respecting that power is something completely different than hoping that it runs up the bodycount.

28 Comments:

  • As all lefties do, he thinks himself a god. Small 'g'. A god who has the dispensation of having his wishes and desires enacted, and he presumes to claim the tsunami as his manifestation of his desires. He is arrogant and proud because, as this 'god', he is separate and therefore absolved of the usual human deficiencies, which he hopes the tsunami will correct in his favor.

    A prime candidate for hubris himself.

    This the root of most of the Leftist theology.

    By Blogger esgaroth, at 3:07 PM  

  • Except he isn't actually a lefty. Matthew Parris is a liberal conservative who used to be a Tory MP. My guess is that his view of the tsunami is an extension of the conservative idea that things are best left alone, and that states shouldn't intervene. He's wrong on this one.

    By Blogger wardytron, at 5:59 PM  

  • It's very simple; he's an idiot.

    By Blogger Firehand, at 6:26 PM  

  • "[S]omething undeniable twitched in the back of my brain..."

    Is he sure it wasn't Slubgob?

    By Blogger Baillie, at 6:27 PM  

  • Well, if little Matty needs a twist, I suppose we could just send him a list of snuff porn websites.

    He must nearly embarrass himself in public every monsoon season...

    By Blogger richard mcenroe, at 6:59 PM  

  • As all lefties do, he thinks himself a god...This the root of most of the Leftist theology.Ummm. No. You are wrong. Not "all" lefties, to be sure. And, what is "leftist theology"? Please explain. I'm willing to learn. Your not being a "leftist" obviously, you have something to teach me about myself, being that I'm a "leftie"? Please do dain to correct my life, and tell me what I believe. I'll wait.

    By Blogger SNAFU Principle, at 8:00 PM  

  • I'm not sure that the "go tsunami" attitude is particular to the left, so much as it particular to Matthew. There's been very little except goodwill and expressions of support and solidarity as far as I can tell.

    That said, it seems to me that the impulse to say something clever and shocking is more prominent on the left than the right. I find it hard to believe that he actually roots for the body count to climb, and read this article as a way for him to draw attention and say something that will shock some, irritate many and tittilate a few.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:11 PM  

  • Actually, you give the fellow too much credit referring to him as an idiot. He's no where near that bright.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:43 PM  

  • it seems to me that the impulse to say something clever and shocking is more prominent on the left than the right.Oh really? Could you post some links please? I'd be interested in understanding, or are you simply making "an observation"?

    Because, if you'd like, I'll glady provide several links to "right-wing" sites saying something "shocking" and / or "clever" in regard to the tsunami.

    Start with this.

    The problem on both the left and the right is people who generalize to such an extreme point that reality and progress become phantoms lost in the rhetoric.

    By Blogger SNAFU Principle, at 8:59 PM  

  • Snafu, the right-winger you link to isn't even in the same class as the bodycountmonger under discussion. Whether disaster relief is best done under gov't or private auspices and the right of the government to spend American money abroad are legitimate topics for debate, even when the dead and displaced are still being counted. Note that, despite being a conservative, I don't have a problem with foreign aid in cases like this--goodwill in the international community is a public good, in my view. I'm just pointing out that David Holcberg is engaging in legitimate debate, not cheerleading death and destruction to be "shocking" or "interesting" or whatever.

    By Blogger Max, at 9:39 PM  

  • I've got to agree with Max. Discussing how disaster relief aid should be distributed (i.e. either by governments or private organizations) is something entirely different than hoping that natural disasters kill on a record-setting scale.

    Which isn't to say that I agree with the Ayn Rann institute on this point. Despite my little "l" libertarian leanings, I think that it requires and exceptionally narrow conception of our national interest to assert that the government has no business distributing aid in this case.

    By Blogger TW Andrews, at 10:25 PM  

  • RE: SNAFU's comment: I've been asking lefties what their principles actually are for years. But they never seem to be able to say, which leaves the rest of us to speculate.

    Or, as a friend once said of Muslims, it doesn't matter much what their scriptures actually mean. What they mean to them is obvious, and that's the only thing that counts.

    What lefties actually believe is obvious.

    By Blogger Roderic, at 10:39 PM  

  • the right-winger you link to isn't even in the same class as the bodycountmonger under discussion. Ah. I see. So, it's a contest then? I see. I was only attempting to make the point that there are many different ways of having a less than charitible attitude towards victims of a disaster.

    You all seem to be prepared to excuse such behavior from conservatives but not from liberals. Is that right? Because, that is what is coming across.

    And, please, what basis of comparison are you using to compare David Holcberg and Matthew Parris? Are you comparing ten articles side by side, have come to conclusion and have something to link to or are you simply making it up as you go along? Because, what I have read so far is a lot of opinion without much real fact.

    "Bodycountmonger"? Gracious me. If you took off your liberal bashing hat for a single second, (can you?) you might be able to see that Matthew Parris was simply engaging in a bit of "what if" rhetoric. A rather long winded suppossed tribute to Lennon's "Imagine" and a not well written way of saying "It would be nice if their were no natural disasters, but that's not going to happen so we have to live with it." Simple. Comparing Walcott's wrong-minded and misplaced "glee" at the Flordia disaster and Parris' article is a bit much. Walcott was being rather glib, for the most part. Parris' was simply saying that he accepts disasters, and chaos is part of our world. Granted, it not the best of time to do so, but again, what's the difference between what Parris has said and what Holcberg has said? Not much. Both are pretty disrepectful to the pain and suffering that has occurred.

    You can disagree, but why does it have to be the focus of your "argument" that that's how "all liberals" think, or that it's because he's a liberal? (He's not a liberal by the way, as noted.)Which brings me to...

    Whether disaster relief is best done under gov't or private auspices and the right of the government to spend American money abroad are legitimate topics for debate, even when the dead and displaced are still being counted. Note that, despite being a conservative, I don't have a problem with foreign aid in cases like this--goodwill in the international community is a public good, in my view. I'm just pointing out that David Holcberg is engaging in legitimate debate, not cheerleading death and destruction to be "shocking" or "interesting" or whatever.Discussing our inablility to control our world, particularly nature, and the different perspectives upon such disasters is also legitimate. I'm a liberal, and I don't agree with Parris' perspective in several ways. But, I understand what he is attempting to convey, and he's not taking any pleasure in the number of victims. I also understand what Holcberg is saying. Again, I don't agree.

    But, your excusing Holcberg and not Parris is entirely transparent.

    You are engaging in simple liberal bashing. Step back. Think about what you are implying. It's silly. Do you hate liberals that much to think that they would take glee in others peoples anguish? All liberals think that way? Please.

    By Blogger SNAFU Principle, at 11:42 PM  

  • The man is jaded, simple as that. He lives a life where threat and danger has largely been eliminated. Like the armchair travelers of the past who got a vicarious thrill from the adventures of explorers, he gets a charge out of reading about wholesale exterminations in distant lands.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:52 PM  

  • Roberic wrote:I've been asking lefties what their principles actually are for years. But they never seem to be able to say, which leaves the rest of us to speculate.Have you been asking lefties what their principles are and they haven't had an answer or was the answer not to your liking and thus no answer at all? I find it hard to believe that so many people are unable to answer the question. Then again, who knows what "lefties" you are speaking of in the first place. If you are as hostile to other people in person as you are in this thread, I'd not answer your question either. Who wants to talk to a hater? Not me. And, how do you actually ask someone what their principles are? Why would you even ask if you were contemptable of them in the first place? Do you go around asking your conservative friends "what are your principles?"

    More Roderic:Or, as a friend once said of Muslims, it doesn't matter much what their scriptures actually mean. What they mean to them is obvious, and that's the only thing that counts.Do you even know any Muslim's? Why don't you ask them rather than making an arrogant statment like that? Generalizations are dangerous, and the corner in which the fearful gather.

    What lefties actually believe is obvious.Oh, please, tell me what I believe. I need to know.
    I'll wait. It's obvious, but I'm an idiot. Teach me.
    I'd really appreciate it. I'll wait.

    By Blogger SNAFU Principle, at 11:53 PM  

  • Anonymous wrote: The man is jaded, simple as that. He lives a life where threat and danger has largely been eliminated. Like the armchair travelers of the past who got a vicarious thrill from the adventures of explorers, he gets a charge out of reading about wholesale exterminations in distant lands.Perhaps. But, how do you know this? Again, you are making a great leap, a basic assumtion about someone, and nary a discussion (almost none)about the pretty interesting issues brought forth. Why is that?

    Is the point simply to bash liberals? If it is, I'll leave the circle jerk. Someone throw me a bone here.

    By Blogger SNAFU Principle, at 11:56 PM  

  • I think my assault on SNAFU's example has led to my being lumped in with a side of an argument on this board that I'm not really on, so let me clarify:

    I was only attempting to make the point that there are many different ways of having a less than charitible attitude towards victims of a disaster.I don't believe Holcberg is being "less than charitable." He even suggests the appropriateness of private donation. He's making the point about the limits of governmental rights, which is relevant because they're currently overstepping the rights he's willing to grant them (and again, I don't agree with him on this one, I'm just pointing out what he's doing).

    And, please, what basis of comparison are you using to compare David Holcberg and Matthew Parris? Are you comparing ten articles side by side, have come to conclusion and have something to link to or are you simply making it up as you go along? Because, what I have read so far is a lot of opinion without much real fact. Okay, I seem to have mispoken above; what I should have said is "The comments of the right-winger you linked to are not even in the same class as those of the bodycountmonger under discussion." I don't mean to compare the two WRITERS, just what they did with this particular topic this particular time. Look at the comments on this board--some are trying to draw broader patterns about liberals and conservatives; I'm just saying your example is weak. In this instance we have a guy saying, "Hey, maybe it's good to have a disaster come along every now and then to wipe out a bunch of people and other people's dreams and remind us we're not in control" and another guy saying, "Hey, it's not their fault, so private charity is okay, but this isn't the governments job or money, so no foreign aid from the public coffers." Yeah, I know, Holcberg spends more time on the latter point and barely mentions the former, but it's there, and the worst way to take his article is still a lot nicer to the disaster victims than Parris, in my estimation.

    "Bodycountmonger"? Gracious me. If you took off your liberal bashing hat for a single second, (can you?) I can. In fact, I didn't even put it on before I posted. Again, you've got me lumped in with the other posters. This isn't liberal-bashing--this is bashing a guy, one particular guy, with no connection to his politics (I believe someone already pointed out he's really fairly conservative, and I don't know enough about him to conclude otherwise). Why bash? Because he said something highly crass and disgusting in pursuit of making an iffy point about the awe of nature and the human condition.

    So, before we go any further into this, let me be clear: I THINK THIS IS A STUPID ARTICLE EXPRESSING A RIDICULOUSLY CALLOUS VIEWPOINT. When I stepped up to defend Holcberg, I was defending ONLY that one article you linked to, and only to the extent that I condemn THIS SINGLE ARTICLE of Parris'. I draw no broader conclusions about whether this is a liberal thing or a conservative thing; there are probably plenty of conservatives saying "clever" and "shocking" things right now, too, but I've been lucky enough to see very few people on either side do so in this tragic event cycle.

    I just thought your example was lacking in comparative punch, that's all. I have no broader conclusion to draw about liberals, conservatives, tsunamis or cheese sandwiches. My bad--I should have been more specific.

    By Blogger Max, at 12:23 AM  

  • Max, did not mean to bunch you up with the bashers... and, yea, I suppose my example was lacking in comparitive punch. But, I wasn't really trying to make any larger point (such as comparing the two issues) than "it's all a matter of perspective." Holcberg's article is offensive to many. As is Parris' article. So, whose to say which article is more offensive? It's a hard question.

    The point I was making was simply that both are offensive in different ways.

    That being said, I don't think that I entirely agree with your point that Holcberg is being less abusive than Parris. I mean, Parris' article is ultimately an analogy. Holcberg's is practicle.

    So, if people don't read beyond the headline and the first paragraph (the majority will do that, unfortunately.) act directly on Holcberg's article, they aren't going to dontate much needed money to people who really really need it right now. If people do the same with Parris article, what's the ramification? As you say, Parris is saying ""Hey, maybe it's good to have a disaster come along every now and then to wipe out a bunch of people and other people's dreams and remind us we're not in control".... you know? BFD. Who cares. It's callous, sure, but in two weeks, we'll chalk his statment up to being just that. No harm done. Some sniffles here and there. The ramifications, on a practical level, are much less than saying: "We shouldn't give money to the tsunmai victims"... which is the shorter message that comes across in Holcberg's article. Yes, it's more complicated than that and he puts in caveats, but again, we are going into this discussion much deeper than most people would. (As the focusing on blaming it on the liberals meme above attests.)

    By Blogger SNAFU Principle, at 12:42 AM  

  • I believe he is admitting that the side of himself that slows down at accidents was satisfied by this event. All men harbor animal instincts and worse. I would say this guy is pretty honest about his. People flocking to ground zero after the attack were often satisfying their baser urges as well. It is nothing new, and it keeps the world's misery index in business.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:19 AM  

  • Oh please. As has been said, why do conservatives have to use ever single possible opportunity to bash the liberal/left? Since when is the sentiment of the Times article congruent with liberal ideology?

    Perhaps you could put a plaster on your leg to stop knee-jerking.

    By Blogger Nic White, at 8:51 AM  

  • I don't think that the opinions of the author are indicitive of the left in general (though I'm willing to bet that if one were to research his opinions on other issues, they would be much more left than right). As I said in an earlier comment, with very few exceptions there has be a great outpouring of support and generosity on both sides.

    And I don't think Parris' article illuminates a left vs. right issue. It's an example of oh-so-fashionable nihilism and disdain for The Forces of Civilization (TM). Parris watches the world react to this disaster as if it were a football game, and he's rooting for civilization to lose. Sure, he makes some noises about 'yes I know this is tragic,' but only because he knows he has to or else the outrage would be really palpable. It's as if he's denying the reality of the disaster; he may as well have just seen it in a movie theater.

    Regarding the David Holcberg article, it seems pretty obvious to me that he's wrong, but in an entirely different way. He's making a cogent (if flawed) argument about the role of government, and being the Ayn Rand worshiper that the he is, he's faithfully applying it to the tsunami situation. The fact that his arguments are consistant with orthodox Libertarianism is one of the reasons I'll always consider myself a moderate with libertarian leanings, rather than a Libertarian proper.

    Additionally, Holcberg's article is online at a site, which, in comparison with The Sunday Times, is obscure.

    By Blogger TW Andrews, at 9:38 AM  

  •       Me, I'd hesitate on that challenge.  But not because the world would be dull afterwards.

          I'd hesitate because to implement this 'no-natural-disasters-ever' scenario would require extensive changing of the basic structure of reality.  I'm not smart enough to predict what would happen afterwards, and not (quite) arrogant enough to play God.

          But Parris, is not worried about possible bad consequences, but possible good ones.  He's a budding Margaret Short.

    THE SAUDS MUST BE DESTROYED!

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