‘Recollections may vary’ and change when time changes the lens as an individual considers their own life story.
When looking back I’m staggered by the way the story I tell myself about how I have lived and what has made my ‘me’ changes every year as I do. Retrospect’s wisdom has a fatal sticky end. I imagine we live just long enough, if we’re lucky, to get to the end of the book, write some form of epilogue and plan the sequel.
Roland Barthes (in ‘Death of the Author) explains the author of any story, be it their own, another’s, fiction, or a historical/factual event, writes from their own head in a particular moment and through a particular lens, and has little if any influence on how their story’s read and interpreted. We look through now’s personal fine lenses which reform what we imagine has been – making personal narratives and history nothing but a dream or at best, a story read differently by every reader.
As a society now – as an earth even – reflects on the moment and finds itself reconsidering the past in new terms, this is a good thing. It is evident we could have created a happier ‘now’. Oprah’s show, as much as the past year’s news stories, leaves most with a sense it is time for a review of what is.
The Queen sagely refers to variation in recalled sensation and makes no specific reference to the racism, silencing and negligence alluded to. She doesn’t remind the reader of the story. The words uttered in the case of questions of the baby’s physical characteristics might well have been retained in memory together with the residue of lived and sensed experience, the hearer/reader/subject affected for life. And it’s out there. Made now. Whatever it was, it is now an object made of words and a lived experience.
Now that Meghan and Harry have said, out loud, what goes on behind closed doors at Bucks Towers, all are aware that all are aware. The goose is out. The Emperor has no new clothes. In fact we all must admit what we have known all along; he is naked.
Whether anyone believes the stories that undressed the Emperor, or not, almost doesn’t matter and the Queen’s message reflects that.
Now the Queen promises a private family review, one which an optimist might hope will lead to a revision to the system of governance through which the Monarchy’s values, rights and responsibilities are reflected and effected.
What, also, does Piers Morgan add to the fetid pot?
It appears he has been ‘silenced’ or ‘cancelled’ for holding an ‘unfashionable view’. That is not what happened at all. Rather, he neglected to take the responsibilities that come with the right to free speech seriously.
The nation does not benefit from hearing how Piers Morgan feels about Meghan. He had a perfect opportunity to invite discussion of well-being and suicidal thoughts; to consider how it might be to be voiceless; to consider how it might be to be subject to racism; if Meghan had been a person Piers Morgan personally approved of all those topics and more, the monarchy itself perhaps, could have been open to debate, allowing an audience who may feel mentally ill, subject to racism or silenced, a voice.
Silly man. Rights come with responsibilities and in my view Piers Morgan failed his audience badly.
It is hoped that feelings, once expressed, enable an empathy and resonance between those in the exchange. This resonance might fuel the reshaping of attitudes to suit the new context; thus behaviour, polices and practices change in response to a re-examination of values governing all, including the responsibilities of those lucky enough to be free to exercise their rights.
The Oprah show raises three issues:
- What does it mean to be mentally unwell. How might new awareness of those who are mentally unwell and having suicidal thoughts inspire new practices and attitudes to well-being?
- What does it mean to live with others who are racist? How might new awareness of the experience of those who experience racism first-hand inspire new practises and change attitudes?
- What does it feel like to have a voice and be heard and what does the inverse feel like? What is the purpose of supporting free speech? How do responsibilities for others, associated with freedom of expression, influence the way in which feelings, attitudes and values are expressed? Why, and under which system of values, might freedom of expression and discussion be subject to legislative governance?
Sadly the week’s news turned to the even darker and perhaps even more immediately personal and emotive issue for men and women alike in accounts of the acting out of the abject in the heinous circumstance and manner of Sarah Everard’s murder. Again, a failure is evident – a member of the very service that represents protection – far too large a matter to dismiss or sum up here. A fourth call thus comes immediately, in the same week as Oprah’s show, from this awful event. All men are asked to ‘call out’ any form of demeaning speech or harassing behaviour other men indulge in. It’s a start.
A call goes out, to ALL who can, and especially to those who have a public voice or influence those in power, as well as those already in power, to take full responsibility for enabling all to:
- Express themselves freely;
- Take part fully and safely in society;
- To live within a system of values, reflected in practices which honour that, regardless of accident of birth, all are born with equal rights and thus must be enabled, through an existent system, to access rights and take on attenuating responsibilities.
This means that all must be offered an education system that works rather than one consumed by league table data and performance in tests which deaden the imagination and make thinking an enemy of success.
Rising rates of mental ill-health in school, further and higher education settings are alarming. Other data supports the growing view that grass roots, ground up, innovation is long overdue. It has arrived in the form of #PositiveEducation which, ironically, promises to make the individual’s flourishing education’s central aim. Funny that. Similar to suddenly remembering plastic bags were not always free.
#PositiveEducation – whole-person education – from birth – namely an education which affords all well-being and the ability to be well, to strive, thrive and take part in life in a way which affords their own specific (unique and not standardised or idealised) potential opportunity to flourish and ultimately, under Maslow’s needs’ hierarchy, be of benefit to the individual, their community and the wider whole through enlightened realisation.
This doesn’t suggest that everyone has an equal shot at being Einstein but it does propose that each individual has the capacity, with apt support through childhood, to develop resilience, and, once adult: have enough self awareness and the inner resources to take responsibility for – and get through – ordinary ups and downs; feel reasonably ok about who they are, form meaningful relationships and feel a sense of value represented in whatever it is they bring to the table.
They can be their own best self.
Lofty but why not set a high bar? We hadn’t imagined how dreadful a dystopia we might create – and here it is. It is time to invest in a utopian target – and we might – just possibly hit a ‘good enough’ goal.
And what about ‘the media’ – social- media included?
There are ways and means of owning one’s truth without blaming the characters in the news – and those in main-stream media are called on to role-model respectful responsible communication that others might mirror on social media.
Piers Morgan might have taken responsibility for his own strong feelings in response to the Oprah show. Just as Meghan might have said*, ‘when Kate said that – I felt this and cried’ – rather than ‘Kate made me cry’, Piers morgan might have said: ‘when she said that, I felt this, and thought that; and I found myself disbelieving her; maybe you did too. I don’t know. That’s not the point’. (He might have added ‘Since I personally think she was lying perhaps she is lucky I am not the person she had to confide in’). He could have continued, ‘I feel I will never know what’s really true and what’s not true in this story. But I do know it must be awful to be in despair and disbelieved. If any viewers need help, here’s the helpline number. (whatever it is) And you people out there, if some one confides in you and tells you they are or have been subject to mental ill health, bullying or abuse of any kind, you must act as if you believe them, even if you don’t – ok? The usual website carries details of all agencies that can help in cases of dis-ease … Samaritans et al, …and this is who to inform about racism or unfairness at work’.
But he didn’t say that.
Piers Morgan instead, said what he felt like saying – and the performance demonstrates precisely how with enhanced rights come enhanced responsibilities. Just as the Queen can’t roll over in bed and say, ‘bugger it. I really don’t like that new PM. I’m not going to invest him’ – Piers Morgan can’t say, ‘That Oprah show has really pissed me off so I’m chucking my teddies about willy nilly and I don’t care who I trample on.’
He thought. perhaps, he was underling the point that he was prepared to risk all for his freedom to express himself – in the manner he chose – and he felt he had made that clear afterwards, explaining that he would resign rather than make an apology for his conduct.
He would not modify his language or behaviour.
He makes no apology – for expressing his own personal feelings lividly in a manner which might trigger over-reactions – or for breaching the contractual agreements that belong to the role of mediator between the story in the news and the audience. Not to mention ITV or the advertisers, which I just did and he is careful not to. The Piers Morgan Show is now a Piers Morgan free zone.
It is evident from this, that:
We need to talk more, discuss more and listen more attentively.
Freedom of speech is not banned but from now on,
Freedom from responsibility is.
Each is called to –
Tune in – and be aware of triggers. Become a witness.
See in new ways – re-spect self and others
Act – with awareness or as if empathic – be the change and so
Realise – bring into being – a present presence.
Be the change you want to see.
And attend The #PositiveEducation Day – 20 March –
Talks and workshops – online – more here: