Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Chronicle of a death unforetold

I haven't written about Christchurch, because there is something about blogging in times of strife that makes perfectly normal amateur writers become self-obsessed and needy. As soon as something happens to some other people, bloggers pump up the bombast. They tell their long-suffering readers in detail of the how they heard the news of the disaster and how they reacted: "as soon as I got the text I knew that something must be terribly wrong" or "I don't usually watch television in the daytime - it is all so trashy; but something - I don't know what - made me turn on the news. I'll never forget what I saw that day." What follows is paragraphs of drivel about how the author feels about the suffering of others, or how the author imagines how he would feel if he were in a similar situation to those suffering, or what the author thinks the suffering people must be thinking about.

But then I read the Herald on Sunday:

A British backpacker wrote forebodingly of his earthquake fears a few hours before he was killed in Christchurch.

Ex-soldier Greg Tobin had been on a round-the-world trip with two friends when he was crushed in the quake.

In a Facebook post on Monday, he wrote: "Just felt the scariest earthquake of my life so far, compared with the little ones I've felt in the UK, that actually scared the s**t out of me! Haha awesome.
Hello daftness my old friend, as someone nearly sang. Parents, show this to your small children and ask them if it makes sense. Does "haha awesome" equate to writing forebodingly of fears? I think not.

Worser still was the work of the Herald's billboard people, which announced this story as the lead, despite it appearing briefly and deeply within the paper. The billboard's take on the story was
Soldier Foretells His Own Death
What I mean to say is: how bad can it get? We have a city in ruins, we have many dead, we have more than enough true stories of suffering. And yet, the HoS cannot resist embellishing, it cannot ease up on the tragic irony, it cannot help but wallow in the spooky. Look, see, he posted on his Facebook page about earthquakes. It was an omen.

No it wasn't. It was just one of those things. He came to Christchurch and felt an aftershock. It happens. Then there was an earthquake. Sadly, that happened. Sadly, he was killed. Sadly, so were many others. There was nothing foroboding, there were no omens. It just happened. One moment Christchurh was a city getting on with its life, putting itself back together after the last earthquake and coping with the aftershocks. The next moment, the city fell down. People died; Mr Tobin was one of them. Part of the sadness is that there was no meaning. Had Mr Tobin had been killed when he was a solidier, killed by an enemy, a meaning could have been found for his death. Had Mr Tobin sought out danger, deliberately taken risks by going to a place where another meaning could have been found.

But there was none. There was no meaning in the death of Don Cowey, a good architect and a good man. There was no meaning in the death of Murray Wood, a good businessman and a good man. What matters about these people and many others is not that they died tragic deaths but that they lived good lives. The papers should say more about the living and less about the dying.


Boganette said...

Well said.

Mr Wainscotting said...

I concur with Boganette.

Amanda said...

Chur. I too am getting tired of the mawkish "finding meaning in meaningless death". It's death. It's horrible. It's happened. Celebrate their lives, but the media attention needs to be on the people who are ALIVE and needing help right now. Desperately.

Vincent Warner said...

Completely agree with this very concise post, awesome post haha.

David Grice aka Gravey said...

In fact, Christ Chur(h).


But I agree too. The initial outpouring was necessary. But now there is such a danger of the traditional and social media trying to find non-existent stories.

There is something in all this as well about how often we leave things unsaid. Perhaps the greatest tragedy in death is that we did not live well enough. That we did not love enough. That we did not tell those we love just how very much they mean to us.

Russell said...

As if to illustrate the shitness of NZ media, and how it jades our views of the news they're 'reporting', the TVNZ update on TV1 headlines just a second ago were:

CHC earthquake story
CHC earthquake story
CHC earthquake story
Charlie sheen's kids

Please, shoot the messenger.