'Tragedy' and grief on parade
0 comment Wednesday, October 1, 2014 |
In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings, there has been an ongoing discussion at Lawrence Auster's VFR about the misuse of the word "tragedy" to describe the event. At Chronicles magazine, Thomas Fleming also touches on that point briefly in his commentary on the shootings and the strange reactions which ensued. (I was also struck by that strangeness, and commented on it at the time.)
Tragedies make sense of the human world, while these pointless murders seem to reveal a world that makes no sense. In calling them tragedies, we are essentially saying that human existence is pointless.
This is not just a "semantic point." It is all too true that most Americans are like most people everywhere in all periods of history: They speak without thinking. But unreflective peasants relied on proverbs and clichés that were deeply rooted in historical experience. Our clichés and mental tics are almost always bits of propaganda invented by liberals ignorant of human nature and human history. In our mythology, children are smarter than adults, racial minorities smarter than whites, women stronger and braver than men. We believe that we really do care about people killing each other in Nigeria, even though we do nothing about the murders taking place on the other side of town, and we insist on calling every pointless misfortune a tragedy. We can only talk this way because we have tossed away our moral compasses.
It was within hours of the shooting that the professional counselors began arriving, as predictably as ambulance-chasing lawyers at an accident scene. As a people we are grown so dependent on "professionals" we cannot even mourn the death of a friend with grief counselors or, as I heard on NPR, "grievance counselors." (Someone should start a blog to record the constant gaffes in usage, syntax, and pronunciation on NPR. I would do it here, but the errors of Renee Montaigne alone would probably exhaust our band width.)
it seems from the accounts of journalists, VT students and Blacksburg residents showed solidarity by taking part in mass rallies where they wore the school colors and chanted the school�s football cheers. There is nothing wrong per se with any of this, but it strikes me as odd to see mass murders commemorated by pep rallies. What a strange people we have become. I am happy to learn I am not the only crank. Scott Richert sent me a link to Relapsed Catholic Blog on which one "Kathy" declares:
"Please don�t indulge in godless modern paganism and set up homely, self-indulgent makeshift memorials with cheap flowers and teddy bears. Don�t hold hands and sing bad pop songs.
Go to church. That�s what it�s for. For centuries, people smarter than you and with more finely honed aesthetics worked on rituals that actually do what they�re supposed to do.
Those people who hung around outside the Palace after Princess Diana�s death looked like fools and you will too if you cave to the lure of cheap grace and post-modern superficiality. Those British mourners displayed as much cringe-inducing, pan- generational learned helplessness as Katrina survivors, but their laziness and ignorance was spiritual.
Worse, you will still feel as empty as you did before, maybe more so, and wonder why.
Don�t make America look stupid and shallow to the whole world by Disneyfying your grief."
And I have to second the quote above from 'Kathy' at the Relapsed Catholic blog: I too have been dismayed at the growth of that strange ritual, which does seem rather heathenish, of constructing makeshift shrines to commemorate some 'tragedy'. The first time I saw it on such a large scale was during the apparent British breakdown after Diana's death in 1997. The public display of keening and garment-rending was unsettling, especially given the prevailing notion of the British as the most self-composed and stoic people; the old "stiff upper lip" which is no doubt a thing of the past. Liberalism seems to undermine the national culture and even the character of a people, destroying traditional virtues and national ideals and replacing them with a cheap counterfeit "compassion" which is all outward sentimental show. Hence the candlelight vigils, the maudlin rituals, the 'shrines' with piles of moldering stuffed toys out in the rain, and the wilting flowers. And above all, the passivity which insists that these events which occasion so much wailing and weeping are acts of an irresistible fate; there is no way to avoid them or prevent them except by lamenting 'violence' and the 'gun culture.'
And Dr. Fleming goes on to discuss the gun question here:
In principle I believe, as I have always believed, that an armed citizenry is the only solid basis for political liberty. However, the more I see of my fellow citizens in action, the more I am beginning to see the point of gun control. Few of them seem to have any part of the old American character, and still fewer have any understanding of republican government. Most of us, left and right alike, are consumers and subjects, but not citizens. ''
More important than protection from drive-by shooting or classroom killers is protection from the lethal sentimentality that has infected public discourse. Shun the counselors and avoid the neopagan ceremonials that are occasions for wallowing in unhappiness. And, whether you believe or not, seek solace in the Church, which has been treating the effects of sin and misery for 2000 years.''
Fleming makes many good points, and on reflection, I think I agree with his reservations about arming our fellow citizens. As he says, "Few of them seem to have any part of the old American character", but on the other hand, I would rather take my chances on my fellow citizens, however befuddled their notions are, than to give up the right to bear arms.
And to return to the new 'custom' of the piling up of toys and flowers as a 'memorial', why not do something useful to express one's respect for the dead, such as donating, not dead flowers and cheap toys, but the equivalent amount of money to a charitable fund, or a fund for the families of the deceased? The mountains of flowers and toys surely aren't much use to anyone after they sit out in the elements for several days. I remember in the days after Diana's death, seeing the huge mound of flowers, the icon-like pictures of Diana, and the jumble of stuffed toys. It reminded me, on first consideration, of those shrines to various Hindu gods in India, with piles of garlands and with garish images. Later, I simply thought it would only represent a costly clean-up job and ultimately a lot of money wasted, which could have been put to some useful purpose. It seemed to be a narcissistic thing, a way for the celebrity-struck to claim a connection to their idol. So much of the mourning by strangers in cases like that is a conspicuous kind of public grief, just as much of liberal behavior is a public acting-out of 'compassion' and morality; a way of sanctimonious preening -- which of course is encouraged in the presence of the ghoulish media.
I have noticed that whenever there is an occasion for grief involving young people, such as a fatal accident or a killing, the local news crews are Johnny-on-the-spot, filming the students' group hugs and tears. It seems like exploitation and sensationalism; in my own experience of grief, the last thing the mourners would want would be television cameras and voyeurs feeding on the raw emotion present. But in our media-driven age, nothing is sacred. Everything is ripe for exploitation, even the deep human emotions like grief and sorrow.
Dr. Fleming recommends seeking solace in the Church, but even many of the churches are now part of this heathenish culture of conspicuous public emotion; the TV crews are usually ensconced in the church at the funerals of victims of some ugly accident or crime, and the man (or woman) in the pulpit seems sometimes to be playing to the TV audience. Even the churches need to return to traditional standards of decorum and restraint in these situations.

Labels: , ,