Friday, May 12, 2006

Sinking Ships

In school, I've been talking a great deal about disasters and how part of them become part of our cultural inheritance, some fade into obscurity and some get made into movies. A question that I posed to students was "Why are we so fascinated by disaster?". Among the more insightful discussions I conducted was one about how disasters fascinate us because we can watch all this destruction from a distance and feel guiltily safe at the same time.

Last night, we went to watch Poseidon. Packrat was hesitant to watch it because he didn't particularly like disaster flicks and could not find it in him to be moved by the human interest angle of it. But we did anyway, because he owed me one bad movie since I had to watch MI:3 with him and was bored to tears.

But I didn't enjoy it either. It wasn't as grand as the Titanic and there was far too much water. I don't usually have a thing against water. I used to be a little water baby when I was young, with hair green from the chlorine and called Fatimah bte Ng because of my skin colour (yes, that was racist but I was too young to protest or know what racist meant at that time). Anyway, what struck me about the massive numbers of people dying and drowning was that this was one disaster that made me squirm and wish I never saw it, from far, let alone have any part in it.

One of the reasons I think is because it had to do with drowning. Drowning must be worst way to die, you struggle, your lungs burst on you and there really is nothing romantic about a watery grave. The other reason I think is because disaster has been brought so close to home so many times in the last couple of years that it's not something we can safely watch from a distance and be reassured that it won't happen to us.

Once again, in class, we talk about how Singapore is affected by world events and the naive, bubble, nation sanctioned view that my students possess goes along the lines of Singapore has always emerged victorious and we have always been lucky for not being affected. Part of that thanks, according to their little world view , goes to our wonderful government. Yup, we sure do a great job spinning our stability and security, so much so that our students think we are immune to everything.

I, on the other hand, having taught all this stuff, reading into it and having the benefit of that bubble bursting on me a long time ago, feel strangely disconcerted and uneasy when looking at tragedy and disaster now. The tsunami hit too close to home, I still remember the horror I felt when I watched the planes plough into the Twin Towers- I remember we caught it live in Australia and I remember wondering if the world was indeed going to war. I have dreams about that sometimes and the panic that engulfs me as I search for safety in futility stays with me when I wake.

So, no, unlike the intellectual discussions and conclusions about the fascination of disaster, I take no comfort in watching it from afar. Possibly because I don't think of it as that far away and us as being that safe.

And oh, another more superficial outcome of me having watched the movie, no matter how much Packrat wants to go on one of those Scandinavian, Alaskan cruises, no husky sleigh is going to be able to drag me in that direction. I'm sure I wouldn't want to fly too, if I watched one of the remakes of those Airport movies that I used to love so much when I was young. I thought George Kennedy was super cool!

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 11:47

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