A Nation Of Sissies

Image: Memorials

We are fast becoming a nation of sissies! It isn’t enough that bad things happen, we now have to celebrate, commemorate and venerate every last detail of any bad thing no matter how big or small that bad thing was — just so long as the media can film it!

Where is the courage and fortitude folk used to have in the face of heartbreak or misfortune? Where is the stiff upper lip shown by previous generations through comparable pains?

Strangers who feel compelled to lay flowers at the site of someone’s death — a someone they never knew — are filling a void in their lives that has nothing to do with the tragedy, the dead person or the media sensationalism.

We need to get a grip and get a hold of ourselves!

Our Tragedies Have Become Tragic

Another year practically over and we’ve endured more tragic events to observe in time to come. As it is we have no more recovered from the Princess Diana memorial season and almost immediately we were headlong into the heart wrenching remembrance services for the 9/11 victims and their families.

Just for the record, I have never understood the near hysterical mourning this country dissolved into when the ex HRH, and by all accounts an exile from all good society, was killed in a road accident. Not that I ever wished her harm nor did I feel that she deserved to die for her lack of good judgement, it’s just that the woman was an unexploded bomb … tabloid fodder … glossy magazine gold! Our beloved Aunty, she was not!

It’s just that the woman was an unexploded bomb … tabloid fodder … glossy magazine gold!

Anyway, preceding the aforementioned events, in turn, next year we will no doubt add to the roll of catastrophes to observe, the Asian Tsunami in December, the London bombing in July, Hurricane Katrina in August and god forbid any events yet to occur in the remaining few months of this year.
And as well as merely remembering, we’re now expected to stop for one, two or three minute silences whenever the organisation running the sympathy-show dictates. We are also expected to demonstrate our original grief and pain and display it in abundance for the misery-hungry press as the anniversary roles round.

I do not mean the likes of Holocaust Remembrance Day or the celebration of VE day. It is an education to recall what happened then and why. Nor am I grumbling about individual grief – to lose a loved one, your livelihood or your home in any circumstance is an unthinkable misfortune. You are entitled to mourn privately and in your own time.

I am talking of tragic events that have affected comparatively few, yet somehow escalate to universal magnitude.

We’re quickly becoming a nation of the professionally depressed. We love to lay our store-bought flowers in tribute to total strangers, mourn a celebrity’s passing as though he or she was a valued family member, and mark the spot where someone died as hallowed ground.

And despite that we haven’t suffered the tragedy first hand; we convince ourselves that we’re entitled to express the same level of grief as the affected.

No one just dies any more. No one simply suffers a disaster. We now need counselling and monetary recompense (and lots of it) to fill the gap. We feel justified in selling our story despite that the tabloids have already beaten every sordid detail to death (and invented a few where necessary). We require a visit from a dignitary, celebrity or politician to soothe our grief. Although just what good a movie star or a politician can do for the recently bereaved or the newly homeless is beyond me…Maybe people just get a kick out of seeing a faint-hearted actor amongst genuine rubble for a change.

Hold your row, stop making a fuss and get on with it

Tragedies (manmade or otherwise) are a way of life. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to the good …

As my husband’s grandmother used to say in such circumstances, “Hold your row, stop making a fuss and get on with it�?. And that was her attitude even after suffering through W.W.II, raising three children during rationing and surviving two husbands. No flowers laid by strangers, no plaque to commemorate the spot she passed and no honourable silence on the anniversary of her death. Yet we managed.

6 replies
  1. Karl Bedingfield
    Karl Bedingfield says:

    I blame it all on the media! I remember all the outpouring of grief over the death of Diana. Ely Catherdral became the unappointed focal point for the people of Ely to lay down their flowers of sympathy. I can’t really explain what happened to the nation when Diana died, I remember viewing the flowers at the catherdral and feeling somewhat sad. I have no idea why!

    I do understand the relatively new phenomenon to Great Britain of families that have lost loved ones leaving descansos.

    The website ‘Roadside Memorials‘ explain that descanos are constructed as memorials to people killed in automobile accidents, descansos are maintained by family and friends of the deceased. The descansos not only represents the death of a loved one, but also the life and memories of the victim.

    Descansos, from the Spanish word meaning rest or relief, were used to mark the place where a coffin was temporarily set down by weary pallbearers traveling on foot to a cemetery. The descansos were created to remind people to pray for the deceased. Early American settlers used descansos to mark the sites where pioneers died in Indian ambushes.

    One very moving message from the Roadside Memorials website explained perfectly why the bereathed build these descanos:

    ‘To most people who drive by this site, Philip is now no more than a roadside sign, hanging on the tree, where he was killed as a passenger in an automobile accident, but to his parents, siblings and children, this roadside sign is a reminder of the all too few treasured moments we spent with this young man. He will be missed until the day we are ALL reunited in HEAVEN…no closure till then!’ – Philip Allan Lyell, May 2, 1961 – August 3, 1997

    If you wish to be moved to tears I suggest you read some of the heartbreaking memorials on the Roadside Memorials website.

  2. Jarvis
    Jarvis says:

    “The death of one is a tragedy, the death of a million is just a statistic” – Marilyn Manson.

    Our nation just loves any event, we go over the top for anything. I saw this morning a 5l Jerry can of unleaded on Ebay for £50.00

    As Regards Diana…First the Dodo died, then dodi died, then Di died, then Dando died…and Dido must be worried sick!

  3. Til Utting-Brown
    Til Utting-Brown says:

    So, no longer can we feel compassion for people we do not know!!
    Blimey, little wonder the world is such a mess and millions on further continents die daily. What a shame they do not live next door.

  4. Lester Pete
    Lester Pete says:

    There is heap big difference between showing compassion and making every place, time, and thing on the planet a memorial.

    When everyday becomes a moment of silence, those moments lose their special place and are watered down to the point of becoming worthless. This has less to do with being callous or cold hearted and more to do with the nature of the human condition.

    And as human beings, we also tend to keep most vivid, the memories most recent. So now the likes of Princess Di are remembered for their untimely deaths while their humanitarian deeds become largely forgotten.

    Personally, I would rather my children have fond memories of me as a loving father rather than being the victim in a fatal corldess bungee jumping accident.

  5. Mary McGuire
    Mary McGuire says:

    I can see where you’re coming from, all that stuff about life being sacrosanct people cut down in their prime etc is very materialistic and you find yourself asking if there is no spirituality to anyone these days BUT… At the same time, life IS a gift and nobody likes to think of their loved ones dying prematurely or more to the point, horribly. Occasions of remembrance give those who have lost loved ones the opportunity to remember them, talk about them and forgive them for leaving early. It gives the rest of us a chance to show our support and also, in the case of war dead, take a few moments out to be thankful for the sacrifices made by those who’ve died or, in the case of disaster victims, to pray for them perhaps, at the least to appreciate how lucky we are to be alive. In tht also gives us a chance to reflect on the fact that the human race is too old for behaviour like this

    Disasters happen but I don’t remember death tolls of over 40,000 occurring regularly in my life time, certainly not twice in a year. Likewise, when it comes to September 11th and the July bombings, it takes an impressively brainwashed and godless person to perpetrate such an act in the name of a religion. Does it do us any harm to take a few moments out to remember those who died, support those who grieve for them and reflect on the fact that the human race is too old for this kind of behaviour and should have grown out of it years ago?

    Lady Di is controversial but there is no doubt that her death did unite a significant part of the nation in grief – it wasn’t necessarily grief for her, as you rightly say – although a lot of it was – but even so it was grief that clearly needed to be expressed and the experience appears to have been cathartic for many. Since that day, large numbers of people have put aside their differences and united in a similar way, on several occasions, to remember this country or the world’s dead. It’s an innocuous aim, it brings people together who might otherwise never meet and might even be hostile to one another to offer each other support and perform an act of remembrance together.

    Yes, there are pseudo, tabloid trimmings but I’m happy to put up with those when the core event, at present, is still genuine. Can anything which unites disparate groups of people in a positive act, even if it only lasts for a few moments, be a bad thing? Should it be discouraged? I’d say no.

  6. Anne de Bondt
    Anne de Bondt says:

    If the media hoop-la was 1/10 as sincere in its purpose as your defence of public mourning is, I would agree with you Mary. However, in this day and age, death and tragedy sells papers, it sells flowers, it sells…. hell, it just sells! And we buy it!

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