--Castiglia and Castronovo, A "Hive of Subtlety": Aesthetics and the End(s) of Cultural Criticism
With the passing of each tragic event, Americans say they are more angry than afraid, vowing to defy the randomness of violence. Michael Tackett. “Boston Bombings Bring Americans Closer to Living on Edge.” Bloomberg.com, April 18, 2013. See also: “Everything Seemingly Spinning Out of Control.”
Ten years of war have brought details of attacks like these to our towns through news, images, and the soldiers who saw and encountered them. Almost every hospital has a surgeon or nurse or medic with battlefield experience, sometimes several. Many also had trauma personnel who deployed to Haiti after the earthquake, Banda Aceh after the tsunami, and elsewhere. Disaster response has become an area of wide interest and study. Cities and towns have conducted disaster drills, including one in Boston I was involved in that played out the scenario of a dirty-bomb explosion at Logan Airport on an airliner from France. The Massachusetts General Hospital brought in Israeli physicians to help revamp their disaster-response planning. Richard Wolfe at the Beth Israel Deaconess recalled an emergency physician’s presentation of the medical response required after the Aurora, Colorado, movie-theatre shooting of seventy people last summer. From 9/11 to Newtown, we’ve all watched with not only horror but also grave attention the myriad ways in which the sociopathy of killers has combined with the technology of inflicting mass casualty. Atul Gawande. “Why Boston’s Hospitals were Ready.” The New Yorker, April 17, 2013.
It was just something that technology made possible and it became possible for me to do stupid things. I mean, the thing I did, and the damage that I did, not only hadn’t it been done before, but it wasn’t possible to do it before. Anthony Weiner, in Jonathan Van Meter. “Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin’s Post-Scandal Playbook.” The New York Times Magazine, April 10, 2013.
Their arbitrary, providential nature was reinforced by endless newspaper accounts of bizarre deaths from bolts of lightning, bites from pigs, falls from monuments and bedroom windows, slips into pits of new slaked lime and vats of ale-wort, and legendary consumptions of everything from tobacco, tartar emetic, laudanum, arsenic (mistaken for magnesia), rat poison and corrosive sublimates, to hard peas, marbles and dentures. Accidents were thus conceived as individual, mostly private misfortunes, whether they occurred in the home, on the street, or in mills, mines, factories and workshops. Cooter, Roger. 1997. “The moment of the accident: Culture, militarism and modernity in late-Victorian Britain.” In Accidents in History: Injuries, Fatalities and Social Relations. Ed. Roger Cooter and Bill Luckin. Atlanta, GA: Rodopi
We do have records of tornadoes, of floods, of drought conditions, etc., from which we could construct probability tables for any given city or person. But we do not, and for two very good reasons: cost would be high, and we recognize there is only a very small chance of a disaster affecting a particular community or family or person. That is, the disaster consists in occurrence of conditions for which no protective plan had been put into effect, not in the knowledge that conditions exist which might bring severe consequences. Harry Estill Moore. (1956). “Toward a Theory of Disaster.” American Sociological Review 21:6