Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why we are all at least “implicitly” guilty in regards to the death of Jacintha Saldanha.

In my opinion we are implicitly guilty in regards to the death of Jacintha Saldanha because we are the ones who collectively created the culture, context, environment, atmosphere, conditions (whatever you want to call it) that fostered the event of the prank call, the magnitude of the reaction and the severity of the humiliation (be that real or only perceived).

(For those unaware, Jacintha was one of the nurses involved in caring for Katherine Middleton during a recent hospital stay. She was also the victim of a prank phone call and responsible for forwarding the pranksters call through to nurses caring for Kate on the ward).
You and I are not explicitly responsible for the recent and tragic death of Jacintha Saldanha. Obviously embarrassed for falling for the pranksters trick call, perhaps fearful of losing her job, likely distort and humiliated that her error had gone viral, that she was the brunt of a globally televised joke; Jacintha tragically chose to end her life. Neither you nor I are responsible for this. It was Jacintha’s choice. We don’t know what else was happening in her life, this may have been “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, it was still Jacintha’s choice. Truth be told however, when news broke in regards to the death of Jacintha, it wasn’t too hard to appreciate that the story unfolded as it tragically did.

Implicitly though, we (I think) are all somewhat guilty in regards to the death of Jacintha. Nothing ever happens devoid of a context, an environment, a culture. Why was a prank call made? Why did radio dj’s in Australia call a hospital in England? Why did a nurse expecting to spend a shift aiding the ill, suddenly find herself the brunt of laughter and mocking all around the world (or at least feeling like she was)? I think because we’ve created the kind of conditions that lead to this being, in the words of the Matrix’s Agent Smith, an "inevitability."
1: We buy into and perpetuate a cult of celebrity to one degree or another.

Whether you have any interest in Will and Kate as celebrities or not we’ve still managed to create a cult of celebrity. We have television programs, tabloids and blogs etc dedicated to tracking the lives of celebrities – and they come in every shape and form. We have the rich, the famous, the important, the trendy, the haves. We’ve those with “status” and those without. God’s intention in Christ Jesus however is the undoing of status, that there would be neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female but rather an appreciation of the dignity, value and worth of all humanity, and that all would be found as one in Christ. Truth be told however, we even have celebrities in the church scene.
2: We buy into and perpetuate entertainment at the expense of others, even the humiliation of others.

We laugh at prank calls, designed to deceive, wind up, make fun of and even manipulate the emotions of others for our entertainment. Things like in this case, radio stations prank calls, Wind Your Wife Up, Punked and so on. At times it seems harmless enough, but we all know what it’s like to be humiliated, it’s unbelievably shameful. So often mocking results at the expense of someone’s innocence, someone is entirely unaware of what is going on and they are exploited. We too easily sit in the seat of mockers knowing all too well how much we despise being mocked and made fun of.
3: We’re quick to pass on the misfortune of others and/or we’re quick to read, take note of, dwell on, and essentially consume the misfortune of others.

Rather than focusing on that which is true, noble, just, pure, lovely or worth of a good report; the virtuous and the praise worthy, we’re consumed with passing on or hearing about the misfortune of others. More often it is the negative report that is dwelt on rather than the positive. More often the headlines are attacking rather than building and encouraging. Media perpetuates this and social media perpetuates this.

Sin is to miss the mark, to fall short of representing God as the image bearers we were created to be. It manifests itself in the choices we make as individuals for sure but it is also systemic. Collectively we create cultures, systems and environments contrary to the ways of God. We live within these systems attempting to resist their pull, living “in the world” but hopefully “not of the world.” At times we are all victims within these systems. At other times we are perpetrators of these systems; we contribute to them being what they are. I would say we’ve all contributed to a “sinful system” in which as I stated the events of the last few days unfolded with a sense of inevitability.

The cult of celebrity we’ve created meant a lady sick in pregnancy couldn’t be left in privacy, even in hospital. A prank was made, because it entertains us, we consume it. It was at the expense of another’s innocence and their humiliation. We laughed. We showed others. We passed it around the world. It was deemed worthy to make headline news all over the world. Because of a cult of celebrity, because of our desire to laugh and pass things on, an innocent and incredibly localised mistake (that could be dealt with locally) became a globalized mistake. I’d imagine it’s pretty hard to have the world laughing at you.    

Now the degree to which you might feel like you have or haven’t contributed to this kind of culture is something you’d have to work out for yourself. I think we’re all guilty to one degree or another, but truthfully it’s not my place to judge and maybe my claims are too all encompassing. You’ll have to work it out for yourself.

Ever watched Punked? Ever listened to Wind Your Wife Up on the Rock (or whatever it is)? Ever listened to Guido Hatzis? Ever laughed at someone’s misfortune? Passed it on? Ever tuned into E Television? Ever got your photo taken with someone “famous” or their signature and proudly displayed it to the world? Ever wished you were famous and not “ordinary”?

Grace and peace to your family Jacintha Saldanha, your friends and loved ones and all you leave behind this Christmas season.

Caveat: The following is written notwithstanding all sorts of details in regards to the death of Jacintha that are unknown. The photo is from Google images and to the best of my knowledge is Jacintha.



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