Monday, March 17, 2008

Community needs

The story of Shannon Matthews has brought up some questions for me. Taking aside the issues of stranger vs family danger I was perplexed by the public meeting yesterday for members of the "community".

It seemed that some members of the community are unhappy at the Police's handling of the case and are demanding to know when Shannon will be home. I heard one dreadful woman saying she won't be satisfied until she sees Shannon on the doorstep and there is a party.

I don't know what has been happening to the little girl in the past three weeks and wouldn't even begin to speculate but how dare these people demand to see her and say that they won't be happy until their demands are met? Who says that it would be in the best interests of the child to be paraded in front of a bunch of assorted neighbours and press? Frankly if the mother is reassured that her daughter is safe no-one else's opinion matters in the slightest.

Since the death of Princess Diana there has been a creeping sense of public grief and hysteria at every news story. How many of these community members who demanded to know the truth in Dewsbury knew the family? And cared about them before Shannon went missing? We lay thousands of bunches of flowers at the roadside for people we never knew who were stupid enough to run out in front of a car, we hold 2/3/5 minutes silence for victims of different disasters or acts of terrorism, we leave messages on internet forums and set up facebook groups calling for whatever the missing child this week is to be returned home or saying RIP to the latest murder victim that we never knew. Whenever a kid at a school dies there are trained counsellers available for the 1100 kids at the school - 1075 of whom had no idea who the dead child was.

And in our grief do we do anything useful? Do we tell the police that we know who shot the 11 year-old at the bottom of our street or does the wreath assuage our guilt. And when we're holding 5 minutes silences do we think about the thousands dying of malaria every day? Do we donate to charities?

I don't want to see a return to the days of the stiff upper-lip when no-one showed emotion however I'm sceptical that the situation we have at the moment is anything other than sheer self-indulgence.

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