Saturday, December 8, 2012

"Vulgarized culture" behind royal prank and nurse suicide

And it would be wrong, if tempting, to directly heap blame on them for Saldanha’s apparent suicide. It’s a vulgarized contemporary culture that allows for it, encourages it, this era’s version of the whoopee cushion, the rubber vomit, the kick-me sign on somebody’s back. (from "Dimanno: Nurse in royal prank wall was victim of a cruel culture," Toronto Star, December 7, 2012, below)
We have, in effect, democratized the bully, in our headlong rush to obsess with the latest technology, to observe, to criticize, to ridicule, to defame and even to libel with impunity from every twitter address, facebook address, U-tube site. We have turned these tech-mirrors on our darker and less sensitive and more powerless qualities, in the words of Bill Clinton, on reflecting on his dalliance with Monika..."because we (I) can"....
Just because we can, does not make it right.
And just because our headlines are also filled with the worst of human behaviours, including:
  • the potential threat of sarin gas from the dictator still clinging to power in Syria,
  • the bombing of people leaving their Sunday services in Nigerian churches,
  • the filled refugeee camps in Turkey, and in Somalia and elsewhere where hundreds of thousands are dying every day, through no fault of their own
  • the training of terrorists at both the street level and at the higher levels of some sympathetic governments (Pakistan? for example)
  • the serious risks of human "side effects" from publicly available drugs from profiteering pharmaceutical companies
  • the flaunted hubris and preening of politicians willing to play chicken with their own and the world's economy, for their own political aggrandizement (especially in the United States)
  • the misrepresentation of truth and reality by those elected to tell their electors only the truth, once again, for their own political advantage...
does not mean that those attitudes and behaviours merit our emulation.
This culture is super-saturated with unabashed and unapologetic "ego" gone amuk, as a mask for some of the most profound and ubiquitous neurosis...It was Vice-president Joe Biden who, several months ago, told an interviewer, when discussing prejudice, "It has become much more sophisticated in the last few decades!"
So has hatred, and contempt and insensitivity for "the other"...and apparently in all, or nearly all, cultures.
And we have only our unleashed appetites for instant gratification and our need for the slightest morsel of power-over to thank, as if we have bought into the theory that "hard power" is the only thing we have to get the attention of those we seek to impress...for ratings ( in entertainment) for political advantage, for religious supremacy, for corporate dividends, for academic advantage when competing for grad-school admissions, and for imposing our will on another, for the sheer thrill of the drama....
As someone once said, sadly, "Do it to them before they do it to you!" is a compelling mantra for a successful tragic!
And once unleashed, our appetite and opportunities for aggression can and are easily rationalized by such mantra's as "the competitive spirit" and "the need and desire to be number one" and "my religion is the right religion" and "we seek world domination for Islam." If everyone is doing it, then it is so easy to jump into the melee and not worry about the consequences of which there are many...including a mother lost to her children and a wife lost to her husband on a world stage for which neither she, nor we, were prepared.
Not so long ago, we used to hear the question, "Who would want to enter politics when the press will expose every last secret in their goal to destroy good people?" Now, we are all both potential politicians and also "the media" given to destroying whomever it takes to satisfy our need for power, demonstrating only our extreme neurosis.

DiManno: Nurse in royal prank call was victim of a cruel culture

By Rossi MiManno, Toronto Star, December 7, 2012
The unwitting and the witless — and nobody’s laughing now.
In truth, it was never remotely funny, that moronic prank pulled by a couple of jester Australian radio disc jockeys on a London hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness.
The real sickness here is what passes for humour these days: The snark, the mean poke, the gotcha gouge, the juvenile punking. We are, it seems, endlessly captivated by the embarrassment inflicted on others, the shamier the better.
I’ve never claimed to understand the appeal of nitwit radio, though the phenomenon of bozo broadcasting is hardly limited to popular morning buffoons on the squawk box. Such lowbrow “entertainment” is found all over the dial, on the tube, in newspapers and, absent any restrictions of taste or self-censorship, in cyberspace.
We’ve seen the harm that thoughtless tweaking can cause, especially among teenagers ill-equipped to handle such humiliations. Now it appears an unsuspecting nurse at the King Edward VII Hospital in central London is the latest victim of a practical joke gone dreadfully wrong.
Jacintha Saldanha was found dead in her home Friday morning, three days after she was drawn into a stupid piece of tomfoolery by the man-and-woman guerrilla DJs with 2DayFM, Mel Greig and Michael Christian.
They’re sorry.
They’re pathetic.
Not just because Saldanha’s death is a suspected suicide. Before it became tragic the stunt was already bratty and wince-inducing. It felt slimy, all that tittering at the expense of a hospital patient who’s entitled to her privacy, even if Kate is a member of the Royal family, and a poor nurse with no radar for trickery.
Saldanha, 46-year-old married mother of two, was the individual on night duty who took the hoax call from the disc jockeys who were doing a poor over-the-phone impersonation of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, ringing up to inquire about Kate’s condition. The duchess, as the world found out simultaneously with her hospitalization, is pregnant, still in her first trimester, her unborn child destined to be third in line to the throne after Charles and Prince William. That the young royals have conceived was cheerful news.
Seizing on an oft-employed tactic, Mel and Michael got on the blower, trying to winkle out further details. To their admitted shock, they were successful.
On the audiotape that was posted on the radio station’s website, they can be heard snickering as they’re connected with a second nurse. Christian titters, whispering that if they get away with the monkeyshine, it would be the “easiest prank call ever.”
The subsequent conversation, with a nurse in direct attendance on the duchess, apparently revealed Kate “hasn’t had any retching with me and she’s been sleeping on and off.”
Of course the instigators didn’t mean for such a horrific outcome. They’d already apologized after the prank hit world headlines, though one, at least, was tweeting about it gleefully.
And it would be wrong, if tempting, to directly heap blame on them for Saldanha’s apparent suicide. It’s a vulgarized contemporary culture that allows for it, encourages it, this era’s version of the whoopee cushion, the rubber vomit, the kick-me sign on somebody’s back.
Little is known about the woman whose death, Scotland Yard told the Star, is not being treated as “suspicious.” Paramedics had been unable to revive her. But she’d been on staff at the King Edward VII for more than four years, was highly regarded and well-liked by colleagues and, in the brief words she spoke to the caller who said she wanted to speak with “Kate . . . my granddaughter,” sounded kind.
The woman may have had other emotional issues — speculating is dangerous — or she might have been simply overwhelmed by the role inadvertently played in this pantomime. Never originally identified by name, she would presumably have been known to the rest of hospital staff. Perhaps she’d been mercilessly teased about it.
Hospital officials insist she’d not been disciplined or even rebuked. The palace, as well, has stated there had been no complaint lodged with the hospital about the incident.
Dr. Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nurses in London, said it is “deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession.”
On Friday, the hospital confirmed that it was Saldanha who first answered the phone and transferred the call.
“We can confirm that Jacintha was recently a victim of a hoax call to the hospital,” said chief executive John Lofthouse. “The hospital had been supporting her through this very difficult time.”
One hopes so, although it would be no surprise if everyone involved is now running for the cover of deniability.
Everybody regrets. The radio station extends its “deepest sympathies” to Saldanha’s family and “all that have been affected by this situation around the world.” The DJs are temporarily off the air. And Saldanha’s family issued a brief statement calling for privacy so they can grieve. “We as a family are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha.”
No, it’s not to laugh, this callow prank. It is to weep.

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