17 February 2020

"We're all responsible ..."

"Well", I indignantly thought, "how can I be responsible? I'd never even heard of the woman until now".

For some 36 hours, the first, and the most obsessive news item, had been the suicide of a woman who had for years (I now know) been involved in programmes such as Strickly and, most recently, Love Island. Her suicide appeared to be a national tragedy; the outpourings of love towards the defuncta had been universal and, it seemed to me, extreme. I suppose this was the Meejah village mourning one of its own; and, for people who had in fact known her, the grief was natural enough.

But I rather got the impression that among the grief-smitten were some who had not themselves known her ... except, of course, via the (spurious but seductive) intimacy of the screen ... but who needed to feel that they had known her. It reminded me of the occasion at Lancing when one of the students was found drowned in her parents' swimming pool; a 'shrine' appeared at the back of the Chapel with messages attached. One of these was from a youth who wrote that he had never actually met her, but now felt as though he had known her. People do like to crave admission to and to feel part of a popular tragedy. As we learned temp. Dianae Spencer.

But I had never even heard of the Love Island woman. Yet here was some cutie telling me that we are all ... which includes me ... responsible for her tragedy. What rubbish ... .

Perhaps not totally rubbish; after all, in society there is a great network whereby, with varying degrees of immediacy, we are all mutually co-involved. No man, indeed, is an island. My wife wondered when a homilist had last reminded his hearers that suicide is a sin. She has a point. Perhaps we clergy should preach more and more often about specific sins ... not, of course, that we will reap any more comforting a harvest than accusations of being sin-obsessed and insensitive. (I used to denounce Abortion ... but not more than two or three times a year, lest  my hearers might come to think I was preoccupied with just one issue. I'm not convinced I was wrong; if one gets that sort of reputation it blunts the message anyway.)

So ... should I have watched an episode of Love Island and then, if it seemed to me that it encouraged promiscuity, denounced it?

One of the themes of 'PreLent' ... of these Gesima Sundays  ... is that we are corporately involved . Which is why we profess our corporate sinfulness on account of which we are corporately (so the ancient Mass texts remind us) afflicted by the Almighty. Septuagesima  (what Byzantine habits would probably name Adam Sunday) spoke of the origin of Sin; Sexagesima (consider the readings and homilies in the Divine Office) was Noe (Noah) Sunday -- reminding us of the corporate punishmen inflicted upon a corporately sinful society. (Quinquagesima, of course, will be Abraham Sunday.)

Coresponsibility, then. Fair enough. So be it.

But there is still a bit of me which says: too assertive a declaration that we are "all responsible" for everything may blunt the awareness we ought to feel of a special responsibility for the things which are a lot closer home. I mean tragedies which happen to those we know, to those who are part of a more immediate community; to family members. There is a very real risk that what everybody is responsible for becomes in reality something for which nobody is really responsible, except as an easy emotional trip.

Are we capable of the fine distinctions which may be needed?!


Nicolas Bellord said...

What is the nature of the Love Island programme? Does it not encourage promiscuity amongst its participants and voyeurism amongst those who watch it? Is this not the third suicide amongst its participants? What does that suggest?

william arthurs said...

I suspect there is a Nostalgic School of Sermonising in which the only grist permitted is a harking back to past decades when we were bound together as a Christian nation by the shared experience of telly watching. Over half the population saw the Morecambe & Wise Christmas Special in 1976 -- you know, the one where Angela Rippon danced. The following Sunday, the vicar mentioned Angela Rippon's legs in his sermon. What about MY legs? I thought to myself, irritably. They are as good as hers?

It gets better though. The Crown's first series began in November 2016. I went to a carol service in mid-December. In his sermon, the vicar mentioned that he had been watching this programme. Jesus Christ was then likened to Lord Mountbatten. How and why? "Because they both died for us." There must also have been some television programme about the Space Race, because Jesus was next likened to Neil Armstrong. "Armstrong went to the Moon, and brought back some Moon-rock so we on Earth could see what the Moon was like. And similarly Jesus went to God, and brought back a little bit of God so we could see what God was like. Now I admit that the parallel is neither exact, nor even, indeed, a very good one, but all the same..." Funny how I can recall his exact words.

Pelerin said...

I agree. While it was obviously a tragedy for her family and friends many of us had never heard of this unfortunate lady until the excessive coverage in the Media.

GOR said...

Some time ago there was a splendid article (in The Telegraph, I think) about what the writer termed “The Grief Caravan”. He noted the propensity of people to want to share in the experience with flowers, dolls, teddy bears, etc. They wax eloquent about the deceased and the tragedy it was for man- or womankind that he or she passed on so soon.

But the sentiments are built on sand and are fleeting. As soon as the next ‘celebrity’ dies the caravan moves on there and the process is repeated. And so it continues ad nauseum.

Truly there is little appreciation for life today, and Who provides and sustains it. Instead of the avalanche of ‘memorials’ placed at the site of the demise, people should be encouraged to pray for his/her soul and priests and hierarchy should be assiduous in reminding them so. “The paths of glory lead but to the grave”.

Anita Moore said...

Years ago, I had a client tell me that she figured on killing herself at some undetermined point in the future. I told her that if she murdered herself, she would go to hell; that there really is a hell; and that its sufferings far exceed those of this life and are without end. She seemed stunned. I doubt if anybody ever told her that before. She said she would not kill herself after all. I hope she meant it.

The point is, yes, in an age of “do whatever is right for you,” when suicide and euthanasia are sold as solutions to problems, people absolutely need to hear that suicide is self-murder and earns damnation. You might be the first person ever to tell them that.

DeHereticoComburendo said...

It seems to be a modern phenomenon (or does it hark back to the witch-hunts of earlier centuries?) that when something like this happens - the early death of some 'beautiful soul', we collectively must find someone to blame. It just has to be someone's fault. So we're told that it's all our fault; or it's the fault of the haters on social media. It's the TV company who failed in their duty of care. It's the fault of the DPP who were going to prosecute her for allegedly attacking her boyfriend. Princess Diana's death was down to the horrible Royal Family, especially the Queen (who's now everybody's heroine). And when all else fails, let's have a public inquiry (Hillsborough, Grenfell, Bloody Sunday, etc, even if decades have passed since the event). Modern civilisation really can be incredibly fatuous. It sells newspapers I guess.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Aren't we still supposed to be mourning the death of Saint Kobe Bryant?

Well, that's what ABS gets for not watching TV.

Isn't it interesting how the secular state (TV is always part of the establishment) has it Holy Days we are supposed to honor - Martin Luther King Day - how the secular state has its own sacred songs we are supposed to memorise so we can stand and all sing together - Star Spangled Banner - how the secular state has its own Commandments - Thou shalt not call anyone a sodomite, Honor our military, Thou shalt not be a white and defend your racial heritage - etc etc.

The fewer men know who these sad people are the better off the world would be.

Over 150,000 souls die daily and we let the media tell us who we should mourn?

Lord have mercy...

Dad29 said...

One of the themes of 'PreLent' ... of these Gesima Sundays ... is that we are corporately involved .

Perhaps this is the rationale behind declaring that capitalism is a "sinful structure" with the obvious implication that being involved as a worker of any grade in such is 'sinful'?


Grant Milburn said...

Could it be that the "We" used by the media is an exclusive we (= I and they = Indonesian "kami"), rather than an inclusive we (= I and you = Indonesian "kita") ? English is ambiguous in this respect. Certainly after several years in Jakarta, whenever English language media addresses me with "we", I always want to ask "Do you mean kami or kita?" or "I think you mean kami not kita. Count me out."

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...


Yeah, capitalism, the essence of which is usury, IS sinful, whether we like it or not: cf. "Barren Metal - A History Of Capitalism As The Conflict Between Labor And Usury", by E Michael Jones, and the articles on usury on the Super Flumina Babylonis website.


PDLeck said...

Decades have not passed since Grenfell. The Hillsborough inquiry happened so long after the event because those responsible have resisted accepting responsibility for so long. Those events are completely different from the death of Caroline Flack. I have no idea why the poor woman felt such despair that she saw suicide as her only solution. I do not take responsibility for her death. However, she had to be in deep despair. No one commits suicide on a whim. But, people who HAD a duty of care in regards to Grenfell, Hillsborough, etc. and they should be held to account when their greed or their failure to discharge their duty properly leads to death and injury.