News reports that Nirvana-seeking terrorists may have smuggled three nuclear devices into America and are driving them around in vans waiting for word to detonate have no doubt unsettled many Americans. Repeated government warnings that something very bad may be heading our way adds to the sense of gloom. As a result, some Americans may be succumbing to despair: Maybe this isn’t such a good time to be alive after all, no matter how low the interest rates go and how many Budweisers you can get for $13 (somewhere around 30 in these parts).
That isn’t totally bad. The suspicion that doom is around the corner can lead to deep reflections, which in turn have led countless humans to put their houses in order, patch up wounded relationships, perform acts of mercy, and count the blessings they generally overlook. A few hit songs have sprung from the same mental environment.
At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look around and concluding that, for many of us, things could be a whole lot worse. Indeed, it would be a massive error to forget that all around this world innocent people are being blindsided by hideously bad luck and/or ineradicable stupidity. A few examples make the point.
Consider how most of us would be feeling these days if we were employees of music giant EMI. You go to work, you do your job, and you make your company one of the most successful in the business. Then one day, the suits in the main office hire Mariah Carey. She’s had a few hit albums, and her last sold about 8 million copies. She has a range of a couple of octaves, and doesn’t look bad.
Then the whole sundae begins to melt. Mariah goes around the bend. She starts looking like she’s been on a year-long muscatel binge. Worse yet, her new album sells “only” about 2 million copies. The rest is history, as reported in the British press at mid-week: “EMI spent £38 million buying out its contract with US diva Carey against a background of falling CD sales, few major hits and growing music piracy over the Internet.” To help recover its losses, the company sacked 1,800 employees — one-fifth of its workforce. As the shagged employees cleaned out their cubicles, they must have felt like victims of a very bad joke. Some may have been crying: Why me, Lord?
If it’s any comfort, they should remember that things could have been worse. Much worse. They could have been residents of Cambodia’s Kompong Chhnang province when disaster struck a few shorts weeks ago.
These gentle people were minding their own business when, from out of nowhere, they got a whiff of vile-smelling smoke. Reuters picks up the story: “More than 400 Cambodians were left homeless when a roasted cat caught fire, sending flames shooting through a village of wooden shacks, police said Thursday. The fire, which destroyed 62 houses, was started by a young man who tried to cook a dead cat in central Kompong Chhnang province Tuesday afternoon. No one was killed or injured, said provincial police official So Sam An. ‘Witnesses said a young man killed a cat and put it on a fire to roast. A few minutes later a blaze erupted inside the house,’ So Sam An told Reuters by telephone. ‘The suspect liked to eat cat meat while drinking wine with his friends.'”
To be burned out of one’s house and home by a drunk with a flaming cat seems bad luck of an almost supernatural order. I don’t know how one says “Why Me, Lord?” in that tongue, but there can be no doubt many tongues wagged thusly when the facts of the disaster became known.
Of course, things could have been worse. Again, Reuters fills in the details: “A Florida man was decapitated on Monday by a machete-wielding man during a fight over a woman, St. Petersburg police said. Police responded to a call at a St. Petersburg house to investigate reports of a fight and found Dennis Roache, 34, putting a man’s head on the hood of a car, police spokesman George Kajtsa said.”
Can things get worse than that? Yes they can, and thank goodness for that.
Indeed, we now come back round to our Nirvana-crazed adversaries. As is well known, many of these Suicidists are inspired to the deeds by the promise that they will be attended by a large host of virgins after they blow themselves (to kingdom come). Yet now we learn that the proper interpretation of Holy Writ, according to some scholars at least, is that what awaits these fellows are not virgins — but, instead, white raisins. One can imagine the look of horror when the badly singed bomber opens his eyes in Glory Land and finds himself confronting a bowl of fruit.
“Why me Lord?” he is likely to bellow. One hopes the responding laughter will shake the heavens.
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