Mourning Sickness

This piece from the UK Telegraph considers the modern phenomenon of mass recreational grieving for celebrities and it’s offshoot activity: the wearing of a variety of multihued “cause” ribbons to indicate one’s enthusiasm to be identified as the sort of person who cares enough to wear a cause ribbon.

The grab relates to a just-published discussion paper, ‘Conspicuous Compassion: why sometimes it really is cruel to be kind, ‘ by Patrick West. on behalf of the UK think-tank Civitas – the Institute for the Study of Civil Society.

West claims that the spread of ribbon-wearing has not been accompanied by a growth in charitable giving. Between 1995-99, as ribbons flourished, donations to good causes dropped 31 per cent. He also asserts that “cynical and selfish motives lie at the root of all recent public displays of grief. To today’s collective ‘carers’, the fate of the homeless, starving Africans or dead celebrities is not actually of principal importance. What really drives their behaviour is the need to be seen to care. And they want to be seen displaying compassion because they want to be loved themselves.”

Challenging stuff. I’m sure that Australians would never embrace that sort of thing.

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Gianna
2022 years ago

but doesn’t the purchase price of the ribbon go directly to the charity? so it must increase the amount of charitable spending?

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

It does theoretically Gianna. I haven’t seen West’s book – so I don’t know what his case looks like – but my own experience with the Red Ribbon collection here on World AIDS Day is that the take has been declining every year. Ribbons can of course be worn more than once. Not every occasion of ribbon wearing equates to a donation moment. It might also be that one ribbon-based gold coin donation now amounts to the total commitment that a donor might make. Meanwhile overheads increase exponentially and the market for the donation buck becomes increasingly more competitive. This, in turn, can lead can lead to OADS – Over-Assailed Donor Syndrome.

Jim
Jim
2022 years ago

Geoff,
I heard an interview on Radio National about this book this morning.
It sounds particularly relevant to Australian society today – we demand “compassion” from the government but not from ourselves;we’re content with ostentatious displays of virtue.
Moral vanity as PP Mc Guiness calls it.
What does the New Testament say about the right hand not knowing what the left is doing?
Don’t s’pose you know if the book is available in Australia?

sarkydan
sarkydan
2022 years ago

This is facinating stuff. I think it feeds into the arguement that everything we do is entirely selfish and that there is no true altruism. eg. if we give it is because we want to receive or to be ‘seen’ giving or for an ego boost thinking that we are generous,caring people. I don’t know if I believe this though. It’s such a downer to have such a pessimistic view of humanity.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Don’t s’pose you know if the book is available in Australia?”

I’m afraid I don’t Jim. It’s only just been published in the UK and given that it’s only 80 pages and in a fairly esoteric non-fiction category, it’s doubtful that it will be here in any quantity. You could check out the Civitas website http://www.civitas.org.uk.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

The near disappearance of what was once an accepted part of Australian life, i.e. active involvement in helping others or doing something which provided no benefit for yourself, is sad. I’m not for a moment suggesting there was some sort of golden altruistic age; but we have lost something that now sometimes appears beyond the comprehension of many.
It’s perhaps not quite as dead as the dodo, but it does seem to have reached the stage of many of our small fauna — still able to be kept alive in small artificial situations, but unlikely to ever again thrive.
Most of what we now have is streets ahead of what obtained in the past. Perhaps advances in some areas meant it was inevitable that we lost positive features in others. Inevitable or not, however, we can’t bring back the dodo, despite what hopes Jurassic Park may have raised.