Thursday, 18 April 2013

Mass Hysteria!!!

08:30:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , 6 comments
Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
Mayor: All right, all right! I get the point!

The dogs or cats argument strikes me as being emblematic of the wave of disgruntlement which seems to seep in between every attempt at kindness, making liars of us all.  This dialectic argument, which presupposes that there's a truth which can be ascertained by reasoning, asks us to pick a favourite.  It requires us to fight our corner.  It creates an 'us' and 'them'. 

From Monday's explosions in Boston to Wednesday's funeral in London, dualism is a viral trope in the stories we tell.  And the news is a modern form of storytelling, as psychotherapist Adam Phillips pointed out in the Radio 4 programme, Making News, " bulletins were like the equivalent of...I think probably rather nostalgic images of people sitting around listening to epic poems or national myths, in the sense that they are having a profound shared experience and this bonds them."  So which type of story are we bonding over?

Assuming that we partake of 'rolling news' on a regular basis, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the most popular stories we share are tragedies, horrors, and thrillers.  A quick peek at the top five fiction books on Amazon today reveals two thrillers and three romance novels.  This tells me that when we have a choice (possibly in response to the factual stories we are fed), we opt for harmony over discord. 

What struck me about the reporting of the Boston explosions was the almost immediate revelations about the victims' identities.  We knew that one of those who had died was an eight year old boy who had just congratulated his father on completing the race.  I don't believe we were given much information about the nine people who were killed in roadside bombs in Iraq on Monday.  Possibly this is because people are killed by bombs on a regular basis in Iraq whereas guns are usually the source of murder in the US and therefore the novelty value of the weapon in that location made the victims' identities more interesting.  More likely, we are not fed information about the individuals killed in Iraq because to humanise is to blur the line between 'us' and 'them'. 

Thatcher's funeral, on the other hand, left me feeling sorry for her family as they said goodbye to a loved one amid spectacle and fury.  It seemed a harrowing ordeal when compared to a small, private ceremony.  In the end, the close observation of her grieving relations humanised them in my eyes.  Despite the BBC's disgraceful whitewashing, it is hard not to be moved by the sight of humans gathering to bury someone they have loved.  This was a story of an everyday event, something to which we can all relate.  In this sense, the coverage of her funeral was a collision of historical saga, romance, humour and mythology.  It reminded us of the temporary nature of our lives and the ceremonies we share.

Much as I'd rather not disagree with Dr Venkman, dogs and cats living together does not equal mass hysteria.  In many ways it equals an enhanced life rather than a divided one.  Both animals have their positive attributes but two indisputable facts links us all; cats, dogs and humans.  We desire love and our shit stinks.  But that's OK because love is a renewable resource and shit keeps us grounded.  Let's hear it for love and shit.


Ashley R Lister said...

There are serious consequences for disagreeing with Dr Venkman.

Deconstruction criticism, as opined by Derrida, dictates that we need binary opposition to form a cohesive whole. Without the extreme right, there can be no extreme left. Without an acceptance of the dumb love of dogs there can be no piquant awareness for the shrewd indifference of cats.

A life without these balancing forces would be disastrous and indicative of mass hysteria.

Ash :-)

Colin Davies said...

To love and shit.

Lisa McFleeca said...

You quoted Ghostbusters. If you were a man, I'd marry you. In fact give it 14 years and I reckon Patrick might! Absolutely love the post, will have a proper read of it later. x

vicky ellis said...

Ash, I think the point I'm struggling to make is that while binary opposites exist, and deconstruction is an incredibly useful tool, I think that there's a tendency to over-divide (if you don't mind the term). Divisions are created when they need not exist.

Perhaps it is an inevitable feature of entropy. Personally, I favour the breaking apart of ideas, to see how they work, followed by the reconstitution and cohesion of the parts. Perhaps a little more emphasis on the uniting of seemingly disparate ideas, which is, in a way, the core narrative in romance novels.

Lisa. Ghostbusters is the greatest film ever made. Its scripts are the foundations of my personal philosophy.

Standard said...

The Guardian ran a story this week about how the News is hazardous to your health. Since I've sold my TV I cherry-pick what interests me off the web - much better. As a result I have had no interaction at all with Thatcher (apart from the Daily Mash) and have tried very hard not to be a carrion bird over Boston.

Here's to love and shit - think I could find you a link to a video somewhere with the same sentiment!

Colin Davies said...

But Vicky, if we didn't have the stereotypical divide, the Ghostbusters line won't be funny.

Dogs and Cats living together as one of the major signs of a pending apocalypse is just fantastic.

I recall these kind of opposite opinion to conflict as folly being explored in Daniel Defoe's Gulliver's Travels with the long running dispute between the folks of Lilliput and the good people of Blefuscu over which end of a boiled egg should be broken.

I think Polarized opinions over inane stuff is funny. When it effects peoples actual actions, that's when I find it concerning.

To love and shit. :)