Monday, February 23, 2004

Farewell to the stiff upper lip...
Britons are feeding their own egos by indulging in "recreational grief" for murdered children and dead celebrities they have never met, claims a report.
I couldn't agree more. Whether you call it 'mourning sickness' or 'emotional inflation', it is a very real problem in Britain today. We just cannot bypass any opportunity to emote at each other. Mourning becomes so trite and banal that we are losing the ability to distinguish real grief from the sick sentimentalism orchestrated by the gutter press. The author of the report (Patrick West) is quite right to point out that this is nothing less than a substitute for religion. I couldn't describe the problem better than the blurb for West's book Conspicuous Compassion:—
Patrick West argues that wearing coloured ribbons, strapping red noses onto the front of your car, signing internet petitions, and carrying banners saying 'Not In My Name' are part of a culture of ostentatious caring which is about feeling good, not doing good. The three Cs of modern life — compassion, caring and crying in public — show not how altruistic we have become, but how selfish. West attributes these hollow expressions of public caring to the decline of those institutions which formerly provided a framework for and gave a sense of meaning to people's lives: the family, the church, the nation and the neighbourhood.
Read the press release here. I'm not sure if West argues this, but I think that all of this can in some way or other be tracked back to the fact that we live in a society that is riddled with guilt. These ridiculous displays of public emotion are a means of assuaging our guilty consciences and feeling better about ourselves.

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