By June of 1914 there had been two major peacetime sea disaster that has taken place between April 15th, 1912 to May 29th, 1914. 1,517 people died on the Titanic and 1,012 died on the Empress of Ireland disaster, totally 2,529 people who had perished in the deadliest maritime disaster in peacetime. Like today we are constantly being bombarded with death and destruction each and every day of our lives through all types of media. One hundred years ago people relied on their newspapers to get their information. Shipping was the way to move large number of people and goods across the planet just like our modern day aircraft is today including the automobile and trucking. The mode of transportation may have changed over the years but horrific accidents caused by mechanical problems, human error, still go on today killing thousand of people per year. Here is an article below which described by one writer the same plight we have today.

 

Tragedies on the scale of the Titanic and Empress of Ireland catastrophes necessitate a readjustment of the attitude of the average newspaper reader to the daily drama of death which is served up regularly with his breakfast familiarity, with the constant chronicles of minor fatalities by land and sea may have so drugged his sympathies as to prevent the account of, a mining or railway accident from arousing more than a transient pity, and even this emotion may be quickly supplanted by interest to the heroic or other features of the affair. But when more than a thousand fellow creatures are hurled suddenly into eternity, the terrible reality of hasty and violent death pierces the unconscious callousness of even the most hardened reader of the casualty columns, and shocks him to an unwonted compassion for the victims and the grief-stricken survivors. The magnitude of the calamity causes him to visualize the scene, instead of, as in lesser fatalities, perusing the narrative with the impersonal detachment born of a sense of remoteness and security. And it is, perhaps, well that the sensibilities should occasion ally be thus horrified out of the apathy into which they are apt to be lulled by the extraordinary measure of personal safety and protection afforded by modern civilization against a violent demise.

 

Stupor of the sympathies may easily be engendered by entire seclusion from contact with battle, murder, and sudden death. That acute and engaging essayist, Mr. A. Benson, recently declared that the initial impulse of a man's imagination, when he sees another human being in trouble and suffering, is to say: "How thankful I am that I am not in that position," and he argued that the interest aroused by opening a dally paper, and seeing the account of some disaster,' lies partly in the realization of one's own immunity. 'One is quite at liberty to consider this a base and ungenerous feeling, and to wish it were otherwise; but, if one desires to look facts In the face, it must be boldly confessed that human beings like what is called 'news,' even if the narration consists of a tale of tragic adventure; and we must not blind ourselves to the fact that the emotion aroused In an ordinary reader; at 'the account of some Incident Involving death and suffering to human beings' is' a pleasurable excitement rather than a sense of help less pain and misery.' Is this extreme indictment true? Only, surely, in the case of the class of ghoulish reader who turns first of all to the death: notices in the newspaper, and is disappointed if no familiar name figures in the' list. Certainly, records of fatalities may be read with the interest which any full-blooded person feels in the fate of fellow-creatures, and even with a certain degree of apparent callousness to suffering, due to lack of imagination and to unfamiliarity with the men and women involved; but it is a libel on human nature to assert that the majority de rive any real pleasure from the perusal of tragic narratives. Mr. Benson, presses his argument a trifle too far when he contends that people under, such circumstances do not drop the paper from their hands and feel that they cannot bear to read the record; they rather anxiously scan the columns, and the more salient and picturesque the details are the better are they pleased. This is not a cold blooded enjoyment of horrors; it is rather an evidence of the fact that there is an enjoyment in the exercise of the emotions.' At any rate, even on the part of the least imaginative, there can be no, trace of enjoyment mingled with the almost unbearable sense of grief and pity aroused by the record of the recent horror in the St Lawrence. Whatever tendency there may be to insensibility to the suffering connoted by the tragedies daily enacted at home and abroad, the most effective corrective of such hardness is immediate association with an occurrence of the kind. Nobody who in violent circumstances has lost some one near or dear to him can ever again glance with merely idle curiosity at the account of a fatal accident. The reality of a cruel death has been' brought home to him. He sees immediately behind the scenes the mangled body which was dear to someone, the stricken hearts, and the devastated home. Similarly, the imminence of peril induces a more, lively compassion for others who thrive fared less fortunately the earth tremor in Adelaide the other night, for instance, taught the alarmed community more of the miseries endured by dwellers in volcanic regions than It- could have gleaned from reams of graphic descriptions of Messina disasters. The Imagination is stimulated by the nearness of danger, just as it is awakened by distant catastrophe, if it be of a character as impressive as the Empress of Ireland wreck although, in reality, the scale of a tragic event has nothing to do with the degree of pity it should excite. The violent deaths which pass practically unnoticed in the course of a year easily outnumber the lives lost in the St Lawrence. The circumstance of so many people being drowned at once unduly magnifies tie horror of the occurrence, for each of the victims bad only his own death to die, in common with every one of the hapless persons involved In the innumerable minor fatalities which occur from day to day. Never the less, it is fitting that mournful mischance’s like this marine collision should be utilized to impress lessons of compassion upon the unthinking many who ordinarily evade the grim realities of existence, so long as their own comfort is not endangered. Not morbid dwelling upon the sorrows of the world, but cultivation of the noble emotion, of pity, should be the aim.

 

Source: ADELAIDE: SATURDAY, JUNE 27, 1914

IMAGINATION AND DISASTER