Monday, 8 April 2013

Death Parties and Compassion

This is not the blogpost I had planned or scheduled for today. That can come later. This is also not the usual tone of this blog.

Something happened yesterday that has been preying on my mind, troubling me.

Yesterday Maggie Thatcher died.
Britains's first female Prime Minister, she led the country under a Conservative government from the late 1970's to the early 1990's. Nicknamed "The Iron Lady", her time in office was surrounded with controversy amidst claims that she divided Britain. I was born during this time period; I was one of the "milk children" for those of you who understand the reference. To this day her name is met with respect or loathing depending on whom you are speaking to.

My personal views on her policies, her administration and her leadership are neither here nor there.

What has deeply shocked me is the level of vitriol that has spewed from mouths, computers and mobile devices since the news of her death broke early yesterday afternoon. Twitter and Facebook have been awash with hatred and poison. Ding dong the witch is dead gleefully echoing down the corridors of the Internet over and over again.
It makes for uncomfortable reading.

This was a 87 year old woman who died of a stroke. She had been suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia. She is survived by children and grandchildren. She was loved by her family.

She was a wife, mother and grandmother.

More than that, she was a human being.

There are reports of street parties in Brixton, Bristol and Glasgow. In Liverpool and Derry. Of students cheering at a national conference as the whispers spread. Of firework celebrations and people offering to dance on her grave. Of death parties degenerating into riots.
Broken Britain indeed.
This terrifies me. That people are capable of such vicious pleasure at the death of another human being.
I believe that life should be honoured, treasured and marked as the unexplained miracle it is. That an understanding and respect of our mutual, shared humanity should be the cornerstone of every culture, of every society, of every civilisation.

I believe that families should be treated with courtesy and dignity during times of grief.

I have to believe this.

If I don't, if I start rejoicing in the death of another individual, no matter who they are or what they have done, for good or ill, then I start to deny my own humanity. If I devalue another's life in this way then my own life is devalued. If life is devalued it is worthless.

Why should I receive compassion if I do not give it to another?

To see people act this way; to chant and sing and dance and drink champagne and make banners celebrating the end of another human's life makes me ashamed to be human.

We are supposed to be an evolved species, capable of emotion, capable of compassion and that sets us apart from animals.

I saw precious little evidence of that yesterday.

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