The Financial Express

Of accidents and tragedies: View of people

| Updated: January 22, 2023 21:02:20

Of accidents and tragedies: View of people

Most of us are prone to confuse accidents with tragedies. When a great fire occurs, killing around two hundred people and injuring scores, it cannot be confined to an accident. The proper term ought to be 'a tragedy'. This is how the media narrates a terrible fire incident. This is now an accepted term. Thus a launch sinking, a plane crash, or a terrible road accident also attains the level of tragedies. Interestingly, the general and the mundane people continue to stick to the term 'accident'. It's because this very word gives a vivid picture of an accidents' occurrence. After all, 'tragedy' carries a philosophical undertone. It has deep layers of meanings. In this context, one might be reminded of the classical Greek tragedies by Euripides, Sophocles and others. These tragedies highlight the human follies committed without one being aware; but man has to pay heavily for their wrongs. The dramatists bring up here the role of fate or destiny. Humans are like flies at the hands of fate. Thus the character Oedipus reaches his doom for his involuntary misdeed. The Greek players call this turn of events a 'tragedy' or 'tragic fall'.

In the later times, 'tragedy' began to be applied to all horrific mishaps, which involve sad, especially those involving deaths and destructions, chapters of life. Thus the wartime genocides, famine and displacement from ones' own countries are tragic events. Yet 'accidents' have not taken leave from human lives. The day-to-day life in the modern world is witness to scores of types of accidents. The most frequent of them are the accidents related to cars, aircraft, ships etc. Besides, fire incidents, different types of fall, deranged killers' shooting spree, robbery, drowning, snake-bite etc occupy prominent places in the list of causes of accidents. Tragedies take a long time before they occur finally. Their progress is often invisible. Accidents do not give time to the acquaintances to prevent people from going for a risk-laden mission. In fact, warning from wise people helps a lot in deterring them from jobs with potential danger.

Those interventions work sometimes for the careful people. Sometimes they do not. In Bangladesh, veritably a countrywide death trap, fatal road accidents are day-to-day occurrences. They are followed by mishaps related to fire outbreak, onslaught of deadly diseases catching people unawares, water vessel capsizes, assassins' attack and a lot of other causes of unnatural deaths. The backdrops of accidents in Bangladesh are benign and unsuspecting. Mostly, the bus or minibus travellers on the city roads or highways fall victim to accidents. In the urban areas, a large number of people die from being hit fatally by speeding vehicles. A sad part of the roads and highway victims is numerous bridal parties and their revelling members travelling by microbuses die after the vehicles are smashed by the bigger ones. They include trucks and large buses. A most distressing part of these accidents is the travellers are least aware of the approaching danger which will kill and injure many of them. The term 'accident', disasters without warning, apply perfectly to these mishaps. Accidents embroiling bridal or picnic parties could be taken as burning proofs corroborating their unpredictability.

Few can foretell the deaths and injuries from road accidents in Bangladesh. The highway accidents, despite the warnings against excessive speed of the buses and heavy vehicles, continue to occur without pause. These accidents, due to their impact, leave few chances of escaping unhurt. Back in Dhaka, the city-dwellers are made to face the scourge of reckless driving on a terrible scale. The bus drivers nonchalantly speeding their vehicles over small cars and rickshaws, and even pedestrians crossing roads are a regular feature. Lately, the motorbikes have emerged as the new menace. They hardly abide by the traffic laws. Instead, the motorcyclists speed through the streets in accordance with their wish. This competition of who can drive speedier than others rules the city streets. As a consequence, what the general people and the authorities see are a lone child thrown out from the lap of its mother, and crushed under the wheels of a heavy vehicle. Road accidents like it are beyond the furthest imagination of the people elsewhere in the Western countries.

Road accidents, or all accidents for that matter, are different from tragedies. Tragedies take a long time before getting a shape. Its appeal is also different. Accidents work in a lightning speed. But some accidents or mishaps carry the elements of tragedies. More than one hundred people died in the great fire in Nimtoli in 2010.  Because of its vastness, the educated people and the media began calling it a tragedy, or a tragic incident.  The country has witnessed many such deadly tragedies. As earthquakes like those that shook Pakistan, Gujarat in India, Nepal in the recent years can be called tragedies. The deadly Indian Ocean Tsunami killing 2,27, 898 in Indonesia, Myanmar and a vast strip of East Africa is also called a tragedy. The 9.1 magnitude undersea earthquake caught people in a dozen countries unawares. The greatest tsunami ever to strike humanity was a highly calamitous one. Given its destructive power and the following losses of lives, the tsunami immediately earned the sobriquet of the Indian Ocean Tragedy.

Small tsunamis are occurring throughout the oceans every year. But they are not tragedies. In this respect we can say, towering figures like emperors, kings and statesmen have been brought down by their peoples following popular uprisings and revolutions. Those are mostly led by newly emerged political firebrands. Thus the fall of the old guard is normally called a tragedy. The fall of these figures is called tragic. Unlike this phenomenon, the 'accidents' involve all kinds of killings, deaths or injuries and destructions by chance. In tune with this principle, accidents mean different types mishaps and undesirable incidents. But a divorce, a romantic break-up or a nation's imposing sanctions on another could also be called tragic.


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