El Nino is cool. El Nino is this rocking, disaster-making delinquent loitering off the coast and lobbing terrible ice storms into Canada. I hope it gets worse, much worse. I'd like to see our region scraped so clean by the next nor'easter that we are forced to abandon North America and move en masse to central Asia.
Before you condemn me as a nasty sociopathic monster who gets his jollies by immersing himself in the stomach-churning spectacle of other people's pain, let me, as the politicians say, be clear: I am a nasty sociopathic monster who gets his jollies by immersing himself in the stomach-churning spectacle of other people's pain.
And pardon me while I observe that you, too, are a nasty sociopathic etc. Or at least, I am not the only one who is tuned to the Weather Channel watching some engorged, raging river devour Sacramento or whatever. Most of us, in the sweet little secret heart of us, are praying for an earthquake to destroy Lima - as long as there is good videotape.
In fact, other people's pain is the basic product provided by the entire entertainment industry. You see? We go to the movies to see gorgeous models being blown to smithereens or getting into romantic entanglements that would leave most of us rocking back and forth in a rubber room, mumbling randomly. Do you watch America's Funniest Home Videos, Leeza, General Hospital, Homicide, ER, Tom and Jerry, the NFL, the news? Then go ahead and admit you are a connoisseur of other people's suffering. Been to a video arcade lately? Even music is about inflicting pain. How else do you explain the popularity of Pearl Jam or, for that matter, opera? Huh? How?
But the hip thing about natural disasters is that they cut us puffed-up, paltry people down to size. Even with our amazing technology, even with our obsessive control over every part of the environment, even with our climate-controlled vehicles and megamalls, we can still get our pathetic little backsides smacked by the world. What I want to see tonight on CNN is, like, the Mall of America slowly collapsing under the weight of 77 feet of snow that fell in a single hour, pureeing hapless consumers into a kind of human soup.
That would show that even while we're shopping at Bloomies, we're still mammals running around on the surface of a planet. Essentially, we're overgrown, egomaniacal squirrels. We're smarter than squirrels, maybe, but not as much smarter as we think we are. We are vulnerable to reality; we exist at the world's whim; we are not in charge, thank God. Get used to it.
So next time you're watching luxury homes lapse into the Pacific or a storm named Tiffany beating the stuffing out of Cape Hatteras, get real and admit that you're actually rooting for the weather. It's a lesson in humility. And it's darn good television.
Crispin Sartwell's most recent book is Obscenity, Anarchy, Reality.