Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Little system-serving kindness on this unloving island

Having limited knowledge of Caroline Flack, her life or latter state of mind, I feel little inclination to comment on the particular circumstances of her sad passing.   

But it does prompt some more reflective observations on the questionable context within which such matters are aired, and the selective notions of 'love and kindness' it helps sustain.      

It needs to be said, at the outset, that the idealised TV 'place' behind this story is certainly no Love Island. 

It's the latest variant of a deeply-exploitative, fantasy-as-reality genre. And the superficiality of such branded 'locations' reflects a deeper and wider set of truths about what we're conditioned to understand as our 'base desires' for physical and emotional gratification. It's a microcosm of the sad, lonely and often tragic process that passes for escape, happiness and love.

But this actual country, the place where so much discussion of this story is being conducted, is no island of love either. 

It's also a place of peddled illusions and false hopes, offering little means of true emotional well-being or meaningful escape, a place built on a system that's actually incapable of projecting, nurturing or cultivating authentic ideas of compassion, empathy or love. 

Indeed, this is a system that stands for the very antitheses of these virtues, a system predicated on competition, acquisition, consumer status, greed, vanity, envy, low-esteem and the actual promotion of unhappiness; a system that relentlessly pushes market ideals of enterprise, fame and material success as capitalistic versions of - never-to-be-realised - fulfillment, harmony and contentment. 

Between the fantasy and the real, no wonder so many vulnerable souls succumb to the pressure, the rejection, the deception, the dejection, and the final act of tragic self-abandonment. 

But we're concerned not only here with lost celebrities. We're talking of all those more anonymous souls lost to this unkindly place and unloving system.

In the last six years alone, at least 69 people (a figure very likely to be far higher) have been lost in suicide tragedies over fear of having their paltry, Dickensian-level benefits removed. 

Millions more live in perpetual poverty and fear of premature death.  

A recent UN report has cast damning light on the UK's "draconian sanctions regime" and poverty-driven deaths of its 'own people', including evidence of what likely led to such multiple suicides. 

Those kind of tragedies and anxieties receive no such headline or celebrity attention. 

Their loss, the pain for their families and friends, falls under the much less loving rubric of 'political decisions' and 'government policies', Orwellian language used to make respectable, even 'kindly', the wanton wickedness crafted and executed to persecute and kill poor people on this island. 

Where's the public sadness or outrage over this level of human desperation, absence of care and preventable loss? Where's the revulsion over the corporate media's failure to spotlight the extent of this human tragedy? And where's the media's self-examination of its own deeply complicit part in it?

When the poor and unknown fall into poverty and depression, their lives cut brutally short, they are rendered effectively meaningless, the 'natural fallout' of an all-prevailing market system.

When a celebrity 'product' of that same market system comes crashing down - after being propelled up by that very system - we see outpourings of media grief and concern, all wrapped in the worst forms of hypocritical projection.

How readily media notables rush to be part of the great 'be kind' meme when a celebrity passes away.

And with this comes the familiar 'mainstream' media agonising: what can we do to stop this social media menace, this trolling, this hounding of such exposed and vulnerable people? 

Yet, while social media is certainly part of the issue, consider the vastly greater influence and impact of the 'mainstream' media in such matters.  

Of course, the Sun, Daily Mail and other shameless rags have their scabrous prints all over such cases. Hopefully, they'll be shown more of the 'Liverpool response'.

But what of the seemingly 'respectable' media?

From its distinctly unkind part in taking down 'dangerous political celebrity' Jeremy Corbyn, to its craven silence over the UK's distinctly criminal part in bombing the 'unpeople' of Yemen, the BBC and other 'mainstream' media is responsible for far more damaging forms of intimidation, silence and all round service to state villainy.  

For outlets like the Guardian and BBC, willingness to cover and expose the true system-based misery inflicted on the people of this island, and so many others beyond it, should be the real test of how we measure media adherence to principles of love and kindness.

How, thus, might we judge the Guardian over its 'burned at the stake' treatment of admirable journalist Julian Assange? Where's the compassion, support and pledge here to 'be kind' to this persecuted, suffering and fragile man?  

Might we ever, in this regard, see a BBC journalist given prominent space to lament the killing of an unknown Palestinian, breaking down as they urge Israel, our own state and others to 'be kinder' over the treatment of a brutalised people? 

Many might even just be content that they meet their basic remit of being fair and impartial. 

This latest 'mainstream' castigating of social media is merely a continuation of the whole 'fake news' blame game, a convenient deflection of its own sins and complicity.  

Yet, there's one sense in which all such human losses are more 'commonly regarded' - or even disregarded. 

Subjected to the media's own corporate-establishment narratives, we're conditioned into thinking that, from the poorest to the more famous, such people are all just inevitable, collateral victims, the weak and unfortunate who, for whatever reason, just couldn't manage to survive and deal with the 'real world' of competitive, zero-sum capitalist society. 

All subsequent responses are predicated on our fundamental acceptance of the unkind and unloving 'reality' of the prevailing order itself. In short, the brutality of the system is unconsciously assumed, taken for granted, understood as an intrinsic, 'common-sense' part of our daily existence. 

Grasping for rationalisations or kinder ways of seeing, we resort to varied speculations over the poor mental state of the victim, their susceptibilities to hostile treatment, and their inabilities to cope, while paying little or no such critical attention to the pathology of the very system that drives people to such states of fear and despair. 

While 'failing aspects' of the system may be identified, prompting calls for 'remedial treatment' - let's all be a little more careful and kinder on social media - the real systemic issues remain conveniently unseen or overlooked.

And so, following 'decent intervals' and more gushing tributes, the whole false process and emotional exploitation resumes, fantasy-fueled Love Island and other fetishised formats helping to keep us distanced and distracted from what's happening on this real island of loveless capitalism. 

So, yes indeed, be more actively kind and loving: by bearing true witness to this unkind and unloving system, the propaganda and false memes holding it up, and in truly caring support of all the lost, silent and suffering souls laid waste by its ruthless depravity.                        

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