Thursday, September 30, 2010

None Sense

Every now and again I read something in the newspaper (OK I am inherently cheap so I am far more likely to have read it in a paper's on-line edition than I am to have plunked down $1.00 for the print edition) that leaves me numb. Having not lived life 'neath a bubble or at Biosphere or some such place, it takes a lot to shake me. Violence is not likely to do it. Sadly, neither is depravity. At some point unfortunately all of us see too much. The ability to be shocked is blunted.

Still, every now and again something happens that is so utterly senseless that it galls me. It does not shock me. It simply disappoints me to my core. An individual (or individuals) who is presumed to know better appears to set in motion a chain of events that tends to emphatically and entirely rebut that presumption.

Last week, according to a statement released by the young man's parents yesterday afternoon, an 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman drove his car to the George Washington Bridge, exited the vehicle and then took his own life by jumping off of the Bridge and into the river below. Imagine for a moment - if you are (as I am) a parent - the gravity of what occurred yesterday. A mother and father confirmed to the media that, indeed, their son for whom the entire world appeared to be there for the taking opted instead to take his own life.

It is impossible to ignore the proximity between the suicide of one 18 year-old Rutgers freshman and the arrests of two other 18 year-old RU freshmen. Why? Because the pair, who matriculated to Rutgers from the same high school, were arrested and charged for having installed a hidden video camera in the dorm room that one of them shared with the young man who killed himself so that they could, "broadcast a live feed of a fellow student’s 'sexual encounter' on the Internet." The encounter in question, which these two videophiles did indeed capture and transmit live to countless other persons on campus, was between the roommate and another male. For good measure, the one aspiring filmmaker who was the roommate of the boy who was the unknowing star of RU's version of The Truman Show is alleged to have attempted to broadcast a second such encounter two days later. Foolishly it seems the boy who took his own life believed that he was doing what he was doing in the privacy of his own room.

I do not know either of the two RU students who have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of invasion of privacy. Under New Jersey’s invasion-of-privacy laws, it is a fourth degree crime to collect or view images depicting nudity or sexual contact involving another individual without that person’s consent. It is a third degree crime to transmit or distribute the images. I know not why they did what they did. I wonder if they do. And even if they do, I wonder if whether in their pre-production meeting(s) either looked at the other and asked aloud, "What is the worst thing that could happen?" I suspect that either they did not or if they did neither had a full understanding of the notion of "worst case scenario".

I did not know the young man who appears to have reacted to an utterly incomprehensible sea change in his world by doing the worst possible thing he could have done. I would be willing, again, to wager that at no time prior to taking that first irreversible step off of the bridge did he ask himself aloud, "What is the worst thing that could happen?". I suspect that if he did, he too lacked a full understanding of the concept of a "worst case scenario". It is the concept that shall confront his parents every day they live without him for the rest of their lives. It is the fear that lurks in the shadows for all of us who are parents. The fear that I, the parent, shall outlive you, the child.

A senseless act begat a senseless act, which in turn begat a tragedy the ripple effect of which threatens to destroy the lives of not only three young people but those who love each of them. It is the senseless of human behavior that makes me want to climb to my rooftop and scream to the top of my lungs.

It is the repeated, endemic failure to see further into the distance than beyond either one's shadow or one's reflection, which failure enables or causes (you choose the word) to treat those people around us as something less than human. We ascribe no value to them and maximum value to us. Our actions therefore have no consequences. Consequences are bad things that happen to others and not to us. Ignorance may be bliss but senselessness is our new religion.

'Cause I have wandered through this world
And, as each moment has unfurled, I've been waiting
To awaken from these dreams.
People go just where they will;
I never noticed them until I got this feeling
That it's later than it seems . . .

Today is a day that has gotten late far too goddamn fast. Far too goddamn fast.

-AK

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