One of the best qualities of being human is empathy. We feel empathy for the people affected by the earthquake and tsunamis in Japan, but, other than write a check, we are unable to actually do anything to help out over there. Jamy Ian Swiss has a great presentation about empathy and its place in effective advertising and, of all things, good magic.
The “situation in Japan” is terrifying and confusing, especially because of the nutty bias against all things nuclear. Digression: I had an episode this past weekend listening to a reporter from CNN actually say “There’s nothing happening now, but some believe there could be a meltdown!” Last night, as I was torturing myself with Rachel Maddow, she was (condescendingly… go figure!) ‘splaining how nuclear reactors work – “…instead of an explosion, the rods create heat, which creates steam…” Because, as we all know, nukes are only capable of those two things.
Instead of being able to DO something – Instead of being in a position to help, we scare ourselves with stories that big bad radiation is coming and that we need to stock up on iodine or iodide or kelp or kelp iodine or… SOMETHING… ANYTHING… from Whole Foods. It can only be from Whole Foods because, well, it’s Whole Foods. After discovering that, OH, SLUG ME IN THE CUNT! WHOLE FOODS HAS BEEN SOLD OUT OF KELP IODINE SINCE SATURDAY AFTERNOON!!!!, we too, can now be (big sigh of relief) victims of the earthquake and tsunami. We can take part. We can suffer, too. “Hey, Japanese people! Lookie here… I’m in peril, too! See, I can’t get kelp iodine!!!” It’s also a way to inject some order into a weird, random event. Instead of not knowing what is going to happen. Instead of uncomfortably drifting in the wind of wait and see, we now have a task: GET ME SOME FUCKING IODINE!! STAT!!!!
It happened after 9/11 – An actress on a t.v. show hired private security guards because “they hate our media”. For weeks after the attacks, a Jewish community center down the street from where we were living at the time, used pylons to block off a lane of traffic in front of their building because they felt they were a possible target. People wouldn’t go to work in tall buildings across the country because, not only did they work in the tallest building in their city, there was a reason for terrorists to fly planes into their business, too. The movie studios “got tough” about identity and made actors miss auditions. Everyone began playing “If I were a terrorist…” You can tell when there’s a game of “If I Were A Terrorist” being played: Someone says “A terrorist could just…”
My most excellent acting teacher, Howard Fine (not the stooge, no) used to harangue us with “comfort is a false god: don’t pray to it!” (I suggest adding “don’t pray to anything” for good measure, but…) It’s a great thing to remember when we are made aware of random events. I say “made aware” because random events are happening so often that referring to them as random may be a mistake. We have literally awesome technology that allows us to be aware of things that are happening anywhere and everywhere in the world. There are always nutty, horrible, unexplainable and scary events going down. It’s a great tool, but we often forget that there was 24 hour news before 24 hour news channels. Plus, because we are now used to receiving immediate and accurate information, as Tom Petty once told me: The waiting is the hardest part. If there is no resolution within my attention span, I’m going to create some resolution, by gum!
Me and my SAG member buddies are especially self-centered. Not necessarily a bad thing. Along with chiseled abs for guys and, um, chiseled abs for the ladies, being aware of feelings is one of the main job requirements. We have to self-examine and figure out where we are emotionally, not only because it’s good for the “art” but because everyone around us lies. (Great job… Fat? You? No… That was your best work… We are behind you 100%… The guys at network are talking another season… etc.) Also, since we’re never working, we create these little tiger blood dramas for ourselves to star in. Convincing yourself that you can only eat a type of chicken sold at one store keeps oneself distracted from the fact that you haven’t been on a set in 10 months. This is all yet another episode to convince me that things were easier when religion and the religious were clearly defined. The downside to fewer people believing in that stuff is figuring out who is doing something because of “faith”.
Unfortunately for the cynics, people are basically good. Even without a man in the sky. Thanks to humans, life is better now than it’s ever been.
The sky will fall when it falls. Every generation believes they’re the last generation of humans to walk the earth. It’s sexy. “Hey, my generation destroyed humanity! How rad is that?!”
(rad, get it?)