Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bridge Collapse

I know it has been a couple weeks since the accident in Minneapolis/ St. Paul, but I finally have the time to write down what's been turning around in my head. So here goes:

Before all of the bodies were pulled out of the hypothermically cold water, before the smoke from buring cars were put out, and before the victims' families were notified, people were already blaming each other. Libertarians were talking about how a for-profit road system would have never allowed this. Conservatives were defensively screeching about how Bush wasn't to blame, that it was the state government's responsibility to maintain the interstate. Even liberals, who I happen to agree with, did there "I told you so" dance about our crumbling info-structure. This, honestly, made me a little sick to my stomach. The fact of the matter is, we aren't sure what caused the bridge to collapse. It could be that the river eroded the base more than expected, or that more cars than what initially planned for drove over it. It's possible that some construction worker cut a little too deeply, or a in not the entirely right place the night before. It's very possible that ignoring the infostructure did contribute to this tragedy.


This was an accident. Even if we had the best funded road system in the world, and a team of engineers inspected every bridge every month, accidents do happen. They aren't perfectly controllable, and at some point, we cannot control everything. And, to start talking about who was at fault, before the search was at over seemed to me to be cold. We, everyone in the blogsphere, should have been expressing condolences, not pointing fingers at everyone else. Eventually, we should have the discussion and debate about taxes and inforstructure, but during the initial shock is NOT the time.

There were another group of people talking that filled me with rage. In any disaster, there are those who pop up with the stories of "I should have been there too", and then claim a guardian angel, god, whatever stopped them. I always want to go "Where was the victim's guardian angel? Why weren't they important enought to save, you selfish moron?" I always get some unsatisfying answer to the effect of "god's mysteries" and what-not, which is wholly unsatisfying to me.

My friend J, for instance, was supposed to be on that bridge. Every day, at that time, he would be driving home from school. That day, his friend A was in town, and they choose to stay in and drink as opposed to him going to class. That decision probably kept him from the bottom of the Mississippi.

Did god tell him to go drinking? Did god spare his life, the life of someone who doesn't even believe in god? OR, was it just dumb fucking luck?

All of these things, the blaming, the thanking god, everything, comes from the fact that we think that we can, or someone is, in control of everything. Which is not true, life is full of things that make no rhyme or reason. It is not ordered, it is not controllable, it is chaotic, and there are many small, seemingly pointless decisions that do effect where I life is going, and that have effected where our life is now. We cannot see all the consequences of all our decisions, and we can't stop every bad thing from happening, any more than we can stop every good thing from happening. All we can do is try to minimize the harm in the world, which is important in and of itself.

So, I call for sympathy before we call for blame.


At 1:32 AM, Anonymous Ricardo Bueno said...

There's someone always playing the "Blame Game." And frankly it's old getting old.

Why do people do it? Play the blame game? It's somehow engraved in human nature. For the media it's headlines. For others, it's fulfilling an agenda of some sort.

Like what's happening in my industry. Everyone is pointing the finger and blaming someone else. Quite playing games and give it to the public straight. That's what I say.

I for one am with you; sympathize with the problem and work towards a solution!

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Teddy said...

Laying aside the tragedy (not an engineer, not in the area, not going to bother debating the moot), I think our need to blame somebody also leads to our belief in god. When faced with hardship completely out of our control, oftentimes meteorological or geological, we need somebody or something to ask for a reprieve, for a break. Humans really don't like feeling helpless.



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