Monday, 10 December 2012

Inevitable but Unforeseeable

Another week, another tragedy. What was claimed to be a 'harmless prank' on the other side of the world seems to have led to the death of Jacintha Saldanha, a woman doing her job. It may be coincidence, or course, but would the Australian shock-jocks be without responsibility even if it was?

The radio station management is describing the nurse's suicide as an 'unforeseeable tragedy'. I agree that the particular - such as this incident - is unforeseeable. The general, however - inevitable tragedy somewhere along the line - is totally predictable. This woman's mother-in-law was killed in a manner that was unforeseeable but the frenzy that had built up around her, despite all pleas for responsibility, made some kind of tragedy totally and utterly inevitable.

And now it happens again, with nothing learned - or, if any lessons were genuinely learned at the time, they have been pushed aside by self-interest undiluted by anything resembling enlightenment.

If anything positive does come out of this, it might be a pause for thought for a year or so. But I do not for a moment expect that any outbreak of restraint on behalf the lower reaches of the media will last forever.

I cannot claim to have had a blameless youth and will not try. Like most, if not all of us, I am relieved that my errors and misdemeanours were not played out in public - most of the time.


(You knew that was coming, didn't you?)

I don't think I ever objectified anyone in a Sadian manner, as these two did - and a lot of people to be fair. It has become widespread as we have become more isolated from each other.

Let me explain.

What we saw here was the objectification of other human beings for self-gratification. Let us remember what this was about: a young woman, newly pregnant, is suffering from a particularly severe form of morning sickness - so severe that she has had to be taken to hospital for medication and, especially, to have her fluid levels maintained. The latter was done by intravenous dosage - a drip, quite simply.

While we don't think of morning sickness as life-threatening, this young woman's condition was sufficiently serious as to require close monitoring and supervision.

The reaction to that scenario by a normal human being would be sympathy and, by those who have been through pregnancy or have been closely associated with it, a high level of empathy. Any normal, effectively socialised and reasonably well-Adjusted human being would have felt, primarily, a degree of fellow-feeling and would have left the person and their family alone. Maybe, if they were close enough to the people concerned, they would have asked if there was anything they could do and assured them of their willingness to help anytime it was needed. So far, so normal.

To view a woman suffering from body-wracking sickness, losing fluids, in pain and in a hospital where she was receiving close care and attention as an opportunity for self-gratification is not normal, well-adjusted and effectively socialised. It is the behaviour and mental attitude of the Marquis de Sade. I am not talking about the risqué literary character with a taste for a bit of fun involving leather and dungeons. I am talking about the real guy, who objectified his victims and used and abused them for his own gratification, whose behaviour was so bad his own family locked him up before he caused the death of someone from his own class (servants had already died - he was reported to have been enraged by that; the ideal victim does not die like that but remains to provide the master repeat pleasure). When the Revolution came, he was freed because, naively, the Revolutionaries thought he was some kind of radical who challenged the class structure of his day. Within a few months they locked him up again.

This young woman - Kate Middleton, let her have a name - was seen by these people in Australia as an object for their gratification - good audience ratings, that warm fuzzy feeling the terminally narcissistic get when they are the centre of attention. She was not a person, she was a 'royal', a 'legitimate target', to get a rise from. Being a 'royal' meant that it deserved it. In hospital? The very vulnerability made it more attractive - there would be fewer problems of access. And if anyone bleated about its exploitation - well, it would be their fault for allowing it to be exploited.

The behaviour of the two Aussie shock-jocks is not that of normal, socially adjusted people. One expects a degree of narcissism in the media; it would not function without it. Similarly, we expect a degree of aggressiveness in everyday commerce; competition would not exist without it. However, the point of socialisation is to keep these things within bounds, so society can continue to function in a social, co-operative manner. The danger with liberality is that it can be abused, to the detriment of society generally. Occasional occurrences can be tolerated; they don't threaten the fabric of society. So long as they are not rewarded and, intentionally and directly or not, held up as examples for those still learning to follow.

We have seen objectification for self-gratification on both sides of the world. In this country, the form it has recently taken that has raised most eyebrows is exemplified by Jimmy Savile, who constructed an entire career for a perverted gratification. And it is getting clearer every day that he was not alone.

One thing that characterises people who behave in a Sadian psychotic way is the extent of their self-pity when frustrated - when caught, held responsible and denied their outlet. The Marquis de Safe is reported to have alternated between rage and 'piteous weeping' - but the only feelings he ever displayed were for himself. He had no empathy for others. When he was locked up, his writings were full of the rage of a caged beast, frustrated that he was being kept from the torture and abuse that he believed were his entitlement. He viewed all others - even his family - as inferior to himself and nothing more than the means to gratification.

We have:
Lack of remorse
Failure to understand what is wrong in their actions
When caught, mewling self-pity - "It was unforeseeable""I feel so gutted". Catered to by their employers, of course.

Do you really want people exhibiting this sort of psychotic behaviour wandering around, unrestricted? If they effectively get away with this, how long before the next 'unacceptable' incident, which will be expected to be accepted, brushed aside and moved on?

Some people say they feel sorry for them and how a 'harmless prank' went wrong. Well, I don't see it as a harmless prank. But I do feel slightly sorry for them, I concede. I feel sorry for the crippling of their psyche sometime in the past, that led them to think and believe this was acceptable. I would not allow them out unaccompanied.

To me, the death of the nurse was an inevitability, as I indicated previously. The real tragedy is ongoing - a society that, even if only in part, sees this kind of behaviour - Sadian psychoses - as acceptable.