Recently I heard a radio DJ talking about Jade Goody’s death. I have to admit that my usual attitude toward any story involving anyone who has made themselves famous through either a) banal stupidity, b) being on reality tv, or c) being fat and getting thin (or vice versa) is one of blissful ignorance, and I am fairly certain she has done all three. So forgive me if I write something blatantly inaccurate about her, because it will be entirely besides the point I’m trying to make, I swear. As I understand it though, she died rather suddenly of cancer.
The point of the radio discussion was not so much her death itself as the reaction of various people to it. The radio guy in question was incredulously picking on a woman who claimed to feel absolutely devastated for her, “and it wasn’t it terrible what was happening to her, and her leaving two kids behind”, and other extremely irish ways of saying “isn’t this sad”. Radio guy was trying to hammer it into this lady that perhaps instead of crying over a complete stranger she’d read about in the paper wouldn’t it be a better idea to turn her attention to something closer to home. All the woman could say was that she was just very upset by it, and was crying her eyes out over it, and couldn’t think anything else about it only that it was a tragedy.
I sat there listening to this, quite characteristically thinking “That woman is a fucking idiot.”, when suddenly I realised that thought this was probably true, radio guy was wrong. He was trying to persuade this woman that something that she found tragic didn’t matter because it was happening to someone she didn’t know. That she should be ignoring it, and saving her feelings for when they were for the people around her.
I think this brings home how fucking retarded our ludicrous psycho-analysis-obsessed culture is. We spend half our time telling people to express their feelings, and the other half telling them they are being expressed the wrong direction. Who cares if the woman is dehydrating herself daily over a tv personality? If it so happens that something about the situation evokes empathy in her, so fucking what?
Movies and books do it all the time, that’s the entire bloody point. To create something that touches people. What the hell is the difference between that woman crying over Jade Goody, and me crying when I read Jane Eyre? (yes, I did actually do this. Really, really deep down I’m a romantic). Frankly, the difference was that she was feeling something for a real person, albeit a person she’s never met. I’ve felt more real emotion for people that don’t even exist than for a shocking quantity of those I’ve known.
Humans constantly love things that aren’t real. People name their cars, their musical instruments, I know a girl who has a pair of garden shears named Lorraine (though granted that was less affection and more striking fear into the hearts of young men). Hell, I challenge you to find a kid who didn’t anthropomorphise a stuffed toy and love it as much as their own siblings, I certainly did. Why is that more socially acceptable? We should be fucking delighted that people have proper goddamn feelings at all, because if they had none they’d be even more awful than they already are.
If someone is moved by art or poetry we think they are cultured, if they are moved by a human being they don’t know contracting a fatal disease we think they are impractical and foolish. Do we have a limited supply of emotional reactions? Should I be saving mine up for an appropriate time? I guess there is a chance that woman would be finding joy in the beauty of poetry if she wasn’t busy crying over famous people, but frankly I doubt it.
You can’t save up emotions and spend them in a way you consciously choose, the human subconscious is a lot more subtle than that. If you can’t react to something beautiful then you might as well react to something stupid, it’s better than not reacting.
If we don’t want people having dumbass emotional outbursts then we should just put valium in the drinking water, because those are pretty much the only kind.