Thursday, December 06, 2012

on iconic images

We remember the photo of the North Vietnamese POW, an instant before being shot in the head.

We remember the photos of the jet hitting the 2nd WTC tower.

We remember the photo of John and Jackie arriving at the Dallas airport that sunny Friday morning.

Photographs of impending tragedy have an understandable fascination because we know what is about to happen, and our helplessness to prevent it raises an emotion equal parts horror, frustration, and, let's face it, schadenfreude (oh, those sophisticated Germans).

It is happening again, with the photo of the subway guy trying to escape from the onrushing train.  In that blink-of-an-eye (or 'augenblick', again the Germans with the perfect word for 'moment') image, there is the possibility that he'll make it.  That we know he didn't is what turns the image into a perpetually-haunting one.

We observe, we know what is about to happen, and we cannot stop it.

The point here, is that I am nominating this photo as best metaphor for Humanity, in the face of the now-inevitable 2 degrees Celsius average global warming, from carbon that has already been burned.

The train is coming. and, unfortunately, the engineer is actually accelerating, not slowing down.

In this case, weirdly, all of Us (and our children) are both the Engineer and the Scrambler.


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