My daughter called yesterday to report a disturbing experience that I know is repeated all over the country these days. There was a serious accident on the highway and a flaming car was angled down the embankment. An ambulance was sitting nearby. Firefighters were busy trying to put out the flames. And a dozen passing motorists had stopped as closely as possible to take pictures!
So many thoughts came to mind as I listened to her outrage. The presence of a parked ambulance indicates to me that the person in the car probably could not be extricated. Would you want to find out later that you stopped to record the burning death of a friend or loved one? The firefighters and police have enough to do at an accident scene without contending with a dozen people parking and not only getting in the way, but potentially causing another accident. We have had two relatives injured by ambulances and one by a vehicle passing by their accident. Could you live with the knowledge that your curiosity had caused an accident and injured or killed someone?
However, the bigger question in my mind is “where is the line?” Do we have any limits as a society? Do we have any social, ethical, or moral norms anymore? Or does fifteen seconds of YouTube fame trump whatever tact and decorum we might have exhibited a few generations ago? I often play the “chicken/egg” conundrum in my head. Has the ability to record and instantly share everything made us more likely to do so? Or have there always been “drama queens/kings” who thrive on crisis and chaos and just reported their observations more discreetly because they didn’t have other options? I’m reminded of the old days when we had a “party line” phone and Mom cautioned me not to listen to the conversations of neighbors!
I think the answer is complicated. People have been attracted to mayhem and tragic accidents since creation. We have talked about them, written about them, and made epic films about them. But now we have phones and the internet and social media and instant fame on YouTube and other websites. We have the ability to send our photos and videos to local news stations in minutes. Some of the photos are helpful. Some are informative and serve as a warning to others. But some are just self-gratifying, thrill-seeking, nonsense! And it is a sad fact that technology is in the hands of everyone, including people who have no morals, no character, and no intelligence. They have always been in our midst; now they just have a louder voice and a bigger audience.
Yes, my daughter’s experience was unsettling, but I suspect it is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m afraid there are photos and videos of many more tragic and disturbing events out there that I’m just thankful I will never see!
(And to balance out this rather sad commentary, I offer you photos of last night’s garden visitor.)