On Tragedy

An excerpt from the fictional tales of The Pessimist’s Playbook.

How do I deal with global tragedy? Perspective. I zoom out, scanning the pages of history until I realize life has always been this way, if not much worse.

For instance, the country of my birth once enslaved several million people for over a century. That’s messed up by any measure. It took all-out war and over a half-million dead to finally end the practice. And even then, the problem was far from fixed, with discriminatory policies lasting another century.

I can also think of the government-backed genocidal practices against natives including wars and forced relocation. All this after having had their populations ravaged by diseases received from foreign profiteers.

I can scan the globe, thinking about massive world wars initiated by nationalistic warmongers. I can think about genocidal madman that attempted fix their problems through mass-murder. I can think of explosions that incinerated cities and the people within them. I can think of the mass starvation of millions brought about by faulty economic policy.

Going further back I can envision invading hordes murdering and gratifying themselves within the populations they conquered. Even the Earth itself has its hands bloodied with natural disasters that destroyed cities and devastated people.

While an initial pang of surprise crosses my mind, global tragedies are quickly lost to me in the sea of historic bloodshed. It’s par for the course you see. If anything, humanity is getting much worse at killing one another.

I also realize that many tend to forget the sadness associated with tragedy, only remembering their anger. They seek not to prevent further tragedy but to punish — and so the cycle continues. Events are never isolated but part of a cycle of abuse perpetrated ad infinitum.

So again, this is how I put tragedy into perspective. For my tastes, I would rather see an end to the repetition, suppressing any anger or disgust I might feel. As quick as I can, I move on, realizing hate only results in more hate. A cycle of abuse only ends through overwhelming positivity.

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