There’s no doubt that tragedy brings out the best in many people. Our responses as individuals and as a society to catastrophic events demonstrate conclusively our inherent compassion for those who are suffering and our need to respond to their crisis and to contribute to its solution. We’re getting opportunities to demonstrate this side of our human nature more and more frequently as disaster follows tragedy and upheaval follows crisis in a very uncertain world. It’s our way of showing that we feel responsible for our neighbours without self-consciously admitting it, and we do it because caring for each other is a social, inclusive activity which enriches everyone’s life.
Sometimes, though, it all goes horribly wrong.
A few weeks ago I posted some thoughts on the Grenfell Tower disaster and the apparent default response of many people who weren’t victims which was to instantly allocate blame, to search for a conspiracy and to then shout very loudly at the very people who will dedicate a great many sleepless nights to the discovery of cause and the development of cases, if any, against any wrongdoers. There are many other situations or events over the past few years which have led to similar individual or group responses. Right now, a tiny baby lies critically ill in a London hospital. Those of you who followed the story will know who I mean. Who cannot feel empathy with the parents who are fighting so hard on behalf of their child in the hope that a solution can be found? Nobody, of course. Who cannot feel empathy with the doctors and nurses whose entire life is devoted to the needs of the sickest of children at one of the greatest hospitals in the world dedicated to their needs, who every day see one tragedy or another played out? Surely none of us.
But it turns out this isn’t true.
There are plenty of people – thousands if the BBC is correct in its news reporting – who feel it’s appropriate to abuse the very people whose every moment is spent helping these children, and in this instance, this child in particular, by posting abuse and death threats against them on social media. Incredibly – meaning it can’t be credible in in intelligent society which has inherent compassion – thousands of messages of that nature have been received by the hospital staff.
To comment on that behaviour is pointless, so I won’t. The people who posted those messages won’t be thinking it through sufficiently for anything I say to make any impression as they look for the next tragedy to care about.