A “disgruntled worker” killed his former boss today in the Empire State Building, after which he was killed by the NYPD (who also shot several innocent bystanders). And Tony Scott killed himself earlier this week, either for no reason at all or because he’d been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
Both events caused an uproar, conversations about what tragedies they were, how it didn’t have to end that way.
My sole reaction on Twitter today was that I’m surprised these sorts of things don’t happen more frequently.
I want to be clear: I have no plans to harm myself or anyone else.
But I can very easily understand how it can get to that point. And it shocks me that there are people — if my Twitter feed is any indication — who think suicide or murder are solely indications of mental illness or an inability to function as a “normal” human being.
I find such a characterization of reality to be laughably inaccurate.
You want to push a person to his or her limits? Okay. Drain the economy and increase the already-vast disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Put limits on food stamps and slash Medicaid and housing assistance and unemployment. Cut job training funds and make it nearly impossible for people to go back to school. Cripple the unions and pass laws controlling adults’ bodies. Make it difficult for anyone, even highly skilled people, to get jobs once jobs are lost or outsourced or downsized or whatever.
What do you think people do when they run out of options?
A certain political segment will tell you there is a safety net in place that prevents emotions from reaching a boiling point.
That political segment is full of shit.
They also will tell you that it is the downtrodden who are dragging this country down, that the “makers” are morally superior to the “takers.”
What they don’t mention is how many millions of the so-called takers would sell a kidney if only to be given a chance at one-tenth of the success of the average CEO. But no one offers an arm or a leg up these days, at least not as far as I can tell. You’re more likely to be spat upon by the so-called 1% than given any sort of kind word. And if you call them out for it, you’re told you’re jealous of people who worked harder, that you’re lazy, that you must’ve done something to deserve your lot in life.
Again, full of shit.
It’s no wonder why people break, why the long-term unemployed kill themselves more often than those with jobs, why “disgruntled” workers pop up from time to time to settle a score. And if you can’t understand why someone would take that path or make that decision, then you’ve never felt the walls of desperation closing in on you to the point where self-destruction was the only way to go out with what little dignity remained.
Again: I am not planning on hurting anyone or myself.
But I know in talking to other long-term unemployed people that I’m not the only one who completely understands why someone would make that choice. It’s not one I’m making, but I get it.
I know that there’s a cultural mandate that “things get better,” and if we give up before that happens then we’re weak. But what happens when someone gets tired of waiting for the payoff that seems impossibly far away?
Instead of shaking our collective head at the tragedy of suicide and murder-by-disgruntlement, maybe we should collectively step back and ask ourselves what we can do to help alleviate some of the hopelessness that many people feel today in this economy and political climate. Maybe we can give a tiny bit more without having to be begged, either via anonymous donations or by targeting specific charities. Maybe instead of grousing about workloads and jobs (which much of my Twitter feed does, to the point where I occasionally mute people), we can feel gratitude for what we have and offer kindnesses (no matter how small) to those who need it so very badly.
Because while you might see a tragedy or a travesty or people whose lives were cut too short, I see people who ran out of options and had already lost so very much that it no longer mattered whether they lived or died. If you could prevent just one person from feeling that way, wouldn’t you want to?