Disaster video

It’s always a strange experience to see videos of disaster unfolding — most recently from the tsunami disaster, but also from fires, explosions, crime scenes. What strikes me most is how clueless, complacent, and curious the people seem to be (at least to the forewarned viewer).

Clueless, of course, because they don’t have a clue what’s coming, and we do. “Run!”, you want to shout, but they will be too clueless to hear. Complacent, because people generally are — we don’t think disaster is about to strike, in general, and usually assume the best. Curious, because our human reaction to strange new events is often to get closer to learn more about them, or at least stay put and stare, and 99% of the time that’s a fine idea. In such videos, you see people chatting pleasantly and interestedly about the exciting events (“My, it’s getting smoky in here, isn’t it? What’s up with that?”) just as some of them are passing the point of no return.

Thought experiment: imagine that you’re on a subway platform in a big city, and you hear some shouting near one end, and then some banging sounds (firecrackers?). Do you a) move closer and get a better view, b) hang around and talk to people about what’s happening?, or c) turn in the other direction and head for the exit?

Joyce and I long ago agreed that the right answer was (c), and that the being to emulate in this case was our cat. Whenever things start getting loud, strange, and puzzling, she does not stop to figure out what it’s all about, but instead bolts for safety, immediately. Granted, she’s a jumpy animal, and so she does this about five times a day, but you can’t argue with her survival to the ripe old cat age of 12 – she must be doing something right. (OK, so she’s an indoor cat, and has two humans looking out for her constantly, and has never in fact once been in any significant physical danger at all. But if she _were_ …)

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