LOCAL LIONS LOOSED
Assuming that nothing BIG has happened, local big city news – wherever you go is the same, day after day:
(In a big city, murder per se isn’t enough. It’s got to have some twist to it. Maybe a double-murder. Maybe a rich guy murdered. Maybe a cop murdered. Or some combination of murder, rape, robbery, suicide.)
(Not just any fire, it has to be a big fire. The bigger the better.)
(Thieves make off with a billion dollars.)
And if there’s any airtime to fill: a heartwarming story or a clip that might be good for one laugh. Honey, look at this. It’s a giant hamburger! Look, it fills an entire football field!
And now your daily traffic and weather report.
The morning news is playing in the background as I brushed my teeth. A double-murder in Corona.
I’ve lived in New York all my life. I start to wonder whether I’ve ever heard a gun-fired, witnessed a robbery, or witnessed one of those gigantic fires that make it to the news.
Can’t say that I have.
Where is this alternate big city universe, playing every morning and night and sometimes at midday.
I’ve walked its streets just about every day; in the good and the bad neighborhoods.
I know that witnesses always say the same thing:
It sounded like pop, pop, pop.
It sounded like firecrackers.
I thought it was a truck backfiring.
I had seen guns drawn – both times they were aimed at me. And I had a knife put to my throat once. But I never did hear a gun fired, unless it was on a firing range, or in someone’s backyard. A 22 rifle that someone got for Christmas.
This alternate universe, thanks to video cameras being everywhere, becomes more realistic, as we can see – now it is still blurry, but one day it will be high-def video – the crime go down.
Blurry figures struggling in the bodega.
The announcer tells us what exactly is happening and soon it plays on your-tube and my-tube. The alternate big city isn’t tied to eating time any more.
If it’s especially juicy (horrible) the drama gets bumped up to cable news, or watch-me-whenever-you-feel-like-it news.
But I can hear you say – the news has always been filled with horror and mayhem. It sold newspapers, and now it sells web Ads. Or maybe you say, It’s that damned media.
Naw. It ain’t the media. It’s u and me. It can’t be the media because this sort of thing existed before any modern media. You could find posters showing lions eating Christians – or whoever was out-of-favor and how to get the best seats in the daily Roma.
Maybe, today, there are a few people that would rather watch a primer on the middle east. But the big, hungry, chunk of the bell- curve, where the eye-balls are clustered in millions, want a steady diet of death.
They will never be satiated by useful advice, or current events. They sit in their personal video Colosseum, and wait for the gates to be raised. For the wild beasts to be released..
But that is such a depressing view of mankind, you say. Why this thirst to be terrified?
Let me jump back a few eons. Aristotle declared that there were two sorts of plays: comedies, and tragedies. A comedy ends with a wedding. A tragedy ends with the death of the protagonist.
Comedy is not news. At least not usually – but the tube is filled with as much of it as can be manufactured.
Death – that is news. Because – it is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to us.
Ah, thank God that didn’t happen to me. What a terrible tragedy. Fortunately, I wasn’t there at the time. Isn’t it awful what happened to so-and-so. That could have been me.
These mini-tragedies are easy to follow. We may not learn anything from them; these aren’t Shakespeare. But like his plays, they usually end by showing us how tenuous our own mortality is, in the same way that the highway accident slows traffic to a standstill so that we can catch a glimpse of what the end might really be like.
Well – that was indeed a terrible take on mankind. But if I could’ve been there – I could’ve got a picture of the crime-scene and I could’ve made a killing.