the risk factor

A lot of times I don’t react to cultural events so much as general reactions to the events — which means I often don’t feel like I’m a culture watcher so much as a watcher of the culture watchers.

I was ruminating on Steve Irwin’s death in another forum, and since I’m finally finally FINALLY cleaning up my FINALLY FINISHED BLOODANGEL-SEQUEL manuscript, which means I’ve also been neglecting this blog a bit (should return to normal rates of posting next week), I thought I’d just post those ruminations here as well.

….I suspect in other areas of his life he was as ho-hum as the rest of us — I don’t think the problem was seeking out risk, but becoming overly comfortable with the risks he was taking — animals became too much his comfort zone, as the incident with his kid clearly showed (because who would knowingly expose your own kid to danger)?

And clearly he took risks, although I suspect they were a great deal more controlled than people seem to think (and were deliberately led to think while watching his show), especially since animals, animal attacks trigger off deep visceral responses in a way that, say, construction site accidents don’t. And clearly he died in a weird, freakish, isolated incident kind of way (since stingrays are actually shy marine animals, and there’s only one other stingray-related death reported in all of Aussie history, and even the way it killed him — not through a venomous bite but by stabbing him in the heart — was so weird). And sure, he put himself in a situation for such a freak thing to happen, but so do the denizens of Los Angeles everytime they get into a car or on a motorcycle and hit the freeways; it’s just such a ho-hum kind of risk that we don’t even think about it (and consider flying to be somehow more dangerous).

I can’t help wondering that by saying, in effect, “it was only a matter of time before his workplace did him in” is our attempt to distance ourselves from the possibility of “rotton luck” taking a big tragic chunk out of our own lives. (And I write this as someone who, despite a sheltered privileged life, actually was unlucky in one of the worst ways possible a few years ago, which probably colors my view on this.) There are a lot of people out there who work with dangerous animals in some form or another — I went on safari in Africa once and am thinking about my conversations with some of the park rangers and guides and trackers there, who deal with free-ranging lions and hippos and elephants as a matter of course (not to mention repeated bouts of malaria)– and they easily manage to survive a long career. Meanwhile some dude happens to be serving up cheeseburgers and french fries in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets killed in a robbery gone bad.

Sigh. I’m not even sure what I’m really trying to get at here. Just that I think it’s enough to say, What a stupid tragic accident that shouldn’t have happened and deepest sympathies for the loved ones, instead of rushing to put a moral point on it when the actual information we have access to in order to make those judgements is based on, as always, very little (and spun as dramatically as possible to score ratings and newsstand sales).

Genuine outrage is so much better spent elsewhere.

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