Shootings, Rain, Landslides and Death

We resemble lambs playing in the meadow while the butcher already makes his selection of one or the other of them with his eyes; for we do not know, in our good days, what disaster is being prepared for us now by fate—illness, persecution, impoverishment (SCHOPENHAUER, 2015)

Pandora, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

We can sum up the last few days in Rio de Janeiro in one word: disasters. I could spend a long time discussing the guilt controversy—some accuse the mayor and population of throwing trash on the streets, which contributes to the destruction caused by rains, while others say that raining is a natural phenomenon and nobody is to blame. I could also do the same about the eighty bullets fired by army soldiers at a car that killed a musician in the west side of town. But I won't, because it's pretty obvious who's at fault in both cases.

In the case of the rain, the responsibility falls with city hall and the mayor who didn't utilize all the resources that were available in order to prevent flooding and mudslides. Sure, it is possible that even if the mayor had used all the money available to him we'd still have rain related tragedy. So, in part, nature is at fault. But we need to remember that the climate is changing because of men: industrial activity produces greenhouse gases, deforestation, continuing use of polluting agents, etc. So, in part, human action is at fault.

When it comes to the case of the shots fired against a musician and his family, the fault falls squarely at the lap of a failed military that has become inflated by the loutish discourse coming from people like the current president of the republic. That is what makes Justice Minister Sergio Moro's proposal so unappealing to poor people. The focus of the proposal is the idea that police forces have a right to shoot first and ask questions later. But the majority of the population is black, brown and poor, and most live in the periphery of cities, which is exactly where the police and army tend to mistreat people. It's quite logical for them to reject a proposal that gives legal support to this kind of barbarism.

Having said that, now I'm going to write about suffering as the background of all life.

Life is suffering that extends during some time. It contains positive experiences here and there, but they are fleeting. We should also put boredom in the same basket as pain in our definition of suffering, although if we don't do it the result is about the same. Life is boredom, physical and mental pain, containing just enough positive experiences which are fleeting. This rule applies even to those who live in the happiest nations in the world, which are most likely the Nordic social-democracies.

But they are the exception. In fact, if we look at first world countries, they're all exceptions, from the most well functioning—Norway, probably—to the most dysfunctional—the United States, most likely. Most people in the world do not inhabit first world countries, let alone the best nations in this category. For the rest of the world, life is poor, hard, full of false hopes, and in some specific places extremely violent—like Latin America, the Middle East, and some African countries.

We can have a relatively good life and still disaster can hit. It can come in the form of a giant rock that crushes the taxicab we're in during a rainstorm. Or in the form of 80 bullets fired by the army of your own country. It also can be our building collapsing due to structural damages caused by heavy rainfall. Suffering, pain, death, disaster. Does life go on? No, it doesn't. Whoever says life goes on is either a liar or has such a poor capacity for reflection that reality just doesn't register. Life is not beautiful.

Those who praise God, know this: the sound of despair made by the lonely, the depressed, the sick, and the victims of catastrophes and also the victims of human violence must sound like sweet melody in God's ears. After all, the sound of pain and death is what God hears the most. The Lord has to get excited by the screams of terror made by those buried in landslides due to rain, and also made by those hurt by bullets. He feeds on our tears.

Those who do not believe in God, know this: life is a phenomenon that cannibalizes itself in order to survive. There is nothing admirable about nature. It is tragic. A sideshow of horror and killings is needed  in order for countless animal life forms capable of feeling pain to survive. Suffering and death were life's rule way before the homo sapiens appear, only other animals didn't have a way to articulate this due to their limitations.

There is still debate over what remained inside the jar of evils in Hesiod's myth of Pandora. Normally, the Greek word Elpis is translated as "hope". But some have argued that Elpis in Hesiod actually means foreknowledge. Knowledge of the future would force men to live knowing all the disasters that would happen in their lives, including when and how they would die. That would make men's lives even worse than they already are. Therefore, hope would be the product of the last evil remaining inside Pandora's jar.

By not seeing the future, we remain ignorant of the evil that will come tomorrow, which allows for hope.

By Fernando Olszewski

(This post was first published April 13th, 2019 @ Exilado Metafísico)


SCHOPENHAUER, Arthur. Parerga and Paralipomena. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Translated by Adrian Del Caro.