When Intelligence Loses Some Of Its Dazzle

The recent spate of tornadoes across the Southeast reminded me of this old Youtube video where a camera mounted on the back of a train engine captured video of a tornado hitting the cars behind it.

It’s a great video, terribly exciting and titillating, until one realizes what exactly is in that tanker plowing into the back of the engine.  From the commentary on the site:

The tornado then moved across the Chicago and Northwestern railroad where it blew 12 railroad freight cars off the track. The train was moving at the time the tornado hit it…so as the main engine stopped…the remaining cars on the track continued along it and slammed into the front part of the train. This caused a few more cars to derail…including one containing hazardous materials that caused the evacuation of the town of Lawrence.

Now, this particular incident by no means equals the destructive force of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami-plus-nuclear disaster of last month (and this month, and probably the next many, many months to come) but it’s still a fascinating example of how some of our less intelligent human choices occasionally magnify the destructive impact of a natural disaster.

I lived in a small town in southeast Iowa for close to twenty years.  The tracks ran right through the center of town and it was known that hazardous materials (including spent nuclear waste for godsakes) were sometimes transported on the trains passing less than thirty feet away from the houses full of sleeping, eating, cooing, gurgling, laughing, fighting, loving, worrying, working, struggling, hoping, dreaming, flesh and blood human beings lining either side.

I’ve never understood the practice.  Frankly, in a nation that worships intelligence the way ours does, it always seemed…well… a trifle slow to me.  However, I’ve no doubt that those who make the decision to do it (over and over again for years and years) and their loved ones live nowhere near any of the tracks involved, and that, while they feel genuinely horrified when these kinds of accidents occur, they simply don’t allow it to get them down for long.  (So at least that’s intelligent and healthy of them, oui?)  

Sometimes I think we could live with a tad less IQ among those who are running the circus, and a bit more in the way of common sense and simple humanity.

copyright Dia Osborn 2011

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