Monday, August 17, 2009

Record breaking

Sometimes I think the competitive spirit has gotten out of hand. It seems we have a record for everything and there's a palpable excitement when a record is about to be broken.

I get really annoyed each year when United Way pledge time comes around. There's intense pressure to exceed the previous year's donation. It's especially annoying when the drive comes after a round of layoffs. Not only do they want the employees to top the previous record, but they want us to do it with fewer people. God forgive us if we fall short by a thousand dollars! We can't feel good about giving unless we give more than we ever have before.

This summer the temperature in Seattle soared into the 100's. Everyone was hot and miserable but they could take some comfort in the knowledge that they broke a record. A few years ago Florida and the Gulf Coast were being hammered with hurricanes. Property was damaged, lives were lost - but wait, there is a silver lining! We broke a record for the most hurricanes/deadliest hurricane/most-creatively-named hurricane ever! I think the worst example came during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami as people breathlessly waited to hear how high the body count would go. It's as if we can't classify something as a disaster until we've ranked how it compares to similar events.

I guess I'm feeling a little burned out on all the record breaking. I do feel it's important to keep records, I just don't think we should be so hung up on setting new ones. I especially find it distasteful when it comes to natural disasters. People who lost their homes don't care if the earthquake was less intense than an earthquake fifty years ago. There comes a point where bad is bad and we shouldn't have to quantify it.

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