horror knowing

The Horror of Knowing

I don’t like horror movies.  I suppose I did at one time – I mean I’ve watched quite a few of them, and I enjoyed ‘Scream’ a lot because I got the scary movie conventions they were playing on.  And I don’t know if it’s just age or shifting entertainment tastes or what, but I don’t watch them anymore.  It makes finding something to watch on Netflix harder, but I’m okay with that.  I’m much more interested in series like Peaky Blinders or Luther or Jack Taylor or George Gently.

(By the way, those are all fabulous British shows – whatever else is going on over there, those Brits do know their dramas.)

But maybe the reason I don’t get into horror movies anymore is that it’s kind of disturbing to me to see the characters walking into perilous situations where I know (or can guess) what’s going to happen to them, yet I can’t do anything about it.  I mean, we’ve all been to movies where there are some people who yell at the screen for fun.  Those people are entertaining.  They actually lessen the horror a bit for me, because I’m focused on their reaction rather than the characters’ predicament.

For me, though, I suppose I get enough of that in real life, every day.  If you have kids, and you watch them teeing up to make some of the same mistakes you did, you can probably understand where I’m coming from.  And if you care about politics and think about how to change things and make them better, you probably feel it at times like that, too.

  • You feel it when you see eighteen trillion dollars’ worth of debt on the one hand, and communist creditors on the other; and you’re stuck in the middle with your college-level education in economics that tells you this will not end well.
  • You feel it when you read about the events of the late 1930s, or the early 1910s, or the late 1970s, and wonder how many things on the international stage are really different in their essence now.
  • You feel it when a new massive government program is launched, and you remember all the prior evidence of government incompetence.
  • You feel it when you’re in line for a security search and you remember how many tests this particular security agency has failed.
  • You feel it when you read about another politician caught up in a scandal, and you remember how few of them are actually held fully accountable.
  • You feel it, too, when a big business crony gets caught up in a financial scandal, and you remember how that usually plays out.
  • You feel it when you watch scenes from ‘Enemy of the State’ or ‘The Net’ playing out in your head as you read the news.
  • You feel it every time a massacre occurs in a place in which people have been disarmed, both at home and abroad.
  • You feel it when you read about the child sacrifices of old, or the dark history of slavery, or sailing old people out on ice floes, or tossing wives on their husband’s funeral pyres.
  • You feel it when you realize there are people who believe human nature changes, improves, moves towards perfection.

 

Ignorance isn’t bliss; it’s disaster.  On repeat.

What has been seen cannot be unseen.  We use that phrase a lot to joke about strange images on the internet, but it also works that way in your head, every day, when you care.  What is known cannot be unknown, save a good bop on the head with a blunt instrument, and even then, your mileage may vary.  Also that way lies migraines, so it’s probably not a very good option.

There’s a cartoon I saw that fits pretty well:

history doomed

The thing is, though, we don’t have to stand by helplessly, even if it sometimes feels like we’re doing just that.  How far one’s duty extends is a matter of personal reflection, but I’m pretty sure about this: All the heroes we admire are not the people who stood on the sidelines saying ‘I knew this would happen.’

For me, I’m burdened by everything I learn, everything I witness.  I know I can’t do something about everything that troubles me, but neither can I stand and claim helplessness, as much as I often would like to.  For me, it isn’t enough anymore just to know.  It has also become about learning what I can do.

I can’t yell at the screen anymore.  Because for me, the horror isn’t on a screen.  It’s here, every day.