“Imagine a lone Ford Focus tipped-over in a pile of snow by the road. Imagine pulling over, rescuing the deserted traveler from hours of waiting for costly rescue services. The comradery between strangers, shoveling the snow and hailing a freight truck or tractor to pull the car out. The kudos. The cheers. The knowledge that you could be very well be next.
And don’t you forget it. Aside from the kindness of strangers, it’s just you and that little [camera] versus the hell that is the other people on the road.”
My research on the Russian meteor led me to the above article, which illustrates how trauma (and the threat of it) holds people together in what Lacan would call social (symbolic) orders. But what if the institutions (“Big Others”) that we have created to cope with the traumatic real turn out creating more trauma themselves? For instance, leaders of the Catholic Church, including its present pope, for decades covered up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children — abuse by clerics whom these children had been told to revere as their spiritual leaders. As late as 2010, Pope Benedict tried to downplay the scandal, saying, “ ‘We cannot remain silent about the context of these times in which these events have come to light,’ … citing the growth of child pornography ‘that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society’”
This Wikipedia article lists numerous effects of this “normal” treatment of children, including “depression, anxiety, eating disorders, poor self-esteem, somatization, sleep disturbances, and dissociative and anxiety disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder.” The article further notes, contrary to Pope Benedict’s claims, that “[b]y 1968 44 out of 50 U.S. states had enacted mandatory laws that required physicians to report cases of suspicious child abuse,” and legal protections have increased since then.
Sometimes, as in the case of Russian drivers, we must depend on “the kindness of strangers.”