Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Lapse in Maintenance

"What rapidly became clear after the theft was that the museum's security system had failed catastrophically."

That's the line from the Guardian's coverage of a daring, and sad, art heist last night. What strikes me, even more than the loss of our cultural heritage -- though that is thoroughly depressing in and of itself -- is the sense that we're not taking care of the things that are most precious to us, instead allowing supposed security systems and fail-safes to lapse into insecurity and failure.

What is up with our systems of checks and balances? Is this the logical evolution of the Bush administration's eroding of said Cs and Bs? Not really: Even that low point of governance appears a mere symptom of a larger, more intransigent ailment of mankind: laziness. I'd venture to say it's greed, which, indeed, motivates the omission of proper oversight: an oversight of oversight! Except that so many of the recent disasters we've faced (the man-induced ones, not nature's) seem to be the result of people just not doing their jobs, jobs that demand discipline, attention to details, a system of checks to ensure that life goes on without catastrophic incident.

I mean: oil derricks go unchecked and explode (to say nothing of a recent history of needless spills and explosions). Planes go unchecked and crash. Trains derail on unchecked tracks. And now this. It's a "serious attack on humanity." Well, yes, but humanity seems to prefer shortcuts and inaction when it comes to ensuring our culture, environment, our very existence is protected. Humanity could care less: it's attacking itself! Or, more to the point: We're attacking ourselves!

Is it because our attention spans have waned and we don't want to -- or can't -- take the time to ensure everything is in proper working order? Is it that we feel we are above the quotidian tasks of checking and rechecking systems to ensure safe operations? Is it that we just don't care enough? It's someone else's problem? I'm disconnected from the results of my oversight? What is going on?

Catastrophic failure of our security systems, whether protecting invaluable artwork, delicate environments or precious lives, should be exceptional. Nowadays is anyone surprised by such lapses?

1 comment:

  1. While I can't argue with the hypothesis that laziness is a major factor in the present decline of society (to the extent that it exists!), I think we are also becoming less risk averse, esp. in the so-called 'West.' While the laziness may be attributed to a sense of cultural lassitude resultant from a 'no future' outlook, the willingness to take more (and more dangerous) risks might have something to do with over-population and population density. Though this is a gross over-simplification, nature does have a way of self-correcting and we are not immune to such processes. It is also worth noting that folks who see no future and no hope are also less risk averse. I don't like to be pessimistic (though I frequently feel forced to be), but indicators do seem to point toward a period of little growth and development for our poor, benighted species. We are besotted with bread (white, with margarine) and circuses and like an audience at a magic show, seem to be quite willing to be distracted while the trick is executed before our very eyes.