Saturday, 10 March 2012

Toxic Sentimentality

The League (not so long ago) read the phrase Toxic sentimentality and immediately felt those two words sum up the mania there is today for the glut of memorials, anniversaries and collective empathy. The world is becoming swaddled in doonas of sympathy. 

It seems the public lurch from one occasion to the next groping for a Hallmark card or coloured ribbon to show they 'care'. Life has become a succession of memorials. Of course some anniversaries are universal, Christmas, Easter or any number of religious dates and these carry (in the Western world, at least), more than a modicum of retail experiences to help colour the event. They are touted as a spending experience and to share the love we are encouraged to participate, opening our hearts along with our wallets.

But there is another wave sweeping our collective conscience and this toxic sentimentality is the anniversary. The Bali bombing, the bushfires, the train disaster, the floods, the cyclone - any natural or manmade disaster is given a calendar day.

The League poses these questions;

How long do we mourn the event? Should we always beat our chest in public? Do we need a flag to rally around? Do we need a sentimental feeling that will make us feel good about ourselves? There is much written about following a cause, and today as the Government takes care of our every woe with legislation and solves every problem - sometimes before we knew we had one - we therefore feel we need to own something. Something we, as an 'individual' can control, expand upon, rally around. An experience or anniversary that will bind us, and who doesn't want to be seen to belong, to wear the ribbon. We are herding animals after all.

And what of empathy? This can be, (when applied to a group) a powerful peer pressure point. How bad do you look if you are deemed to be uncaring -unfeeling. Better to shed a tear and buy a button, a pen, a bandana, a bumper sticker. 'The world can be a better place if we all care' is a mantra that is chanted, but to get there via toxic sentimentality is the cheats way. Why 'celebrate' a war that was almost 100 year ago. Anzac Day has been hijacked by the Cat Fanciers Club in a misguided effort to show they 'care'. Has the message, (if there was one) been lost? Are those marching for those that died or to wear their collective hearts on their sleeves? If those cat fanciers, boy scouts and school children want to remember, maybe they should do it in private. One wonders would the motivation be as high? The League is not suggesting we brush our heroes under the carpet, but they receive their moment -their medal, their handshake or pat on the back and it might be, at that moment, a time to move on. By scratching the wound we never heal, a poor simile I know and full of pathos, but it fits this essay.

If we live for every anniversary where people suffered, we might end up living in the past, marching from one historical moment to the next and maybe forget to get on with the job of living. Sure people suffered and died, that is the nature of the human experience, but shouldn't we be grateful for life, not keep mourning the dead. 

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