“Tragedy is underdeveloped comedy, not fully born” says the poet Patrick Kavanagh. Yes. Yet in the best comedies, tragedy can remain as tragedy as we laugh through the tears.
Some tragedy is too dark for the rational to bear and so also too dark for comedy to emerge. We know it exists. We see the shadow. But we cannot measure, weigh, or innumerate its truth, because then we must own the particular forms of the dark futures of family and friends. Comedy is of the mind, tragedy of the heart – the broken moral heart. Comedy has the remedies.
Climate change is such a tragedy – a tragedy to end all tragedies. A friend may book a holiday flight, while also campaigning against plastic straws. She is a hypocrite and mass murderer and yet we don’t say those words – or register her utterly shocking presence. She is a friend, who happens to walk from the undefined object that casts the shadow. And for ourselves, we are the same – easy in the normality of mass murder.
It seems we have a collective broken moral heart. “Climate change? – no big deal – other species will go on if humanity doesn’t.” says neo wisdom. The conversation will not register that as we speak, we cause mass murder of both human and other species and that also as we speak, we could collectively end it. That’s OK, people say – just accept the nemesis. “Anthropogenic is too grand a word – it’s more hubris, when what we need is humility.” That will also arrive in conversation. It helps us to change nothing. Yes – though our species is but part of a par-blind understanding of the wonder of all the rest.
Anthropogenic is not too grand, it is simply true. The awesome, devil-like, future-removing power of oil tools must become as terrible to our eyes as they truly are. They are not in the shadows but in our hands. Not only that third runway at Heathrow, but aviation as an idea – as an infernal instrument – should scorch our palms and sear all conversation.
Of course, aviation is only a part. I use it as a metaphor for the rest – that levitation above terrains and durable cultures – industrial agriculture, centralised distribution, consumerism, the family car, suburbia… Vapour trails tease out into cirrus clouds, seemingly innocent as the first carded wool of an early Summer day.
And that is how we converse in our self-centred and vicious households and holidays. “Gorgeous weather!” “Yes, we are blessed.

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2 Responses to Tragedy

  1. Michelle says:

    The paradox is that you have to fight against it up until the moment it collapses. And no fight is innocent. Or is that just one more lame excuse?
    Who knows what we’ll have to defend ourselves against after it collapses.
    Great, unsparing writing as ever.


  2. bryncocyn says:

    Yes. I fail utterly in conversation. I am courteous. I regulate my anger – thinking anger is blind & unproductive and yet to my presented truths, friends simply present their own and we end amicably set in our particular ways – mine the way of a dishevelled and comic doomster – one character part of a community that makes the play. And so I mumble and curse into a page. How do you manage?


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