Magazine article The Spectator

The Right and the Wrong Grief

Magazine article The Spectator

The Right and the Wrong Grief

Article excerpt

We were often told, during the early Thatcher years, that we were two nations. Two nations, economically, that is. Since the early hours of Sunday, however, it looks as if we might be two nations emotionally.

One nation, it seems, is convulsed with a grief one of whose manifestations is resentment against the House of Windsor in general and Prince Charles in particular, and rage against `the establishment which excluded her'. The other nation, perhaps smaller and certainly keeping quiet at the moment -- indeed hardly daring to speak its true feelings - grieves too. But it grieves solely for a beautiful young woman whose life had seen much unhappiness and who met a hideous death perhaps as a result of her fatal attraction for, in more ways than one, the fast set. The second nation does not think this tragedy tells us anything about the morality of deploying land-mines, about Aids treatment or about whether we should hug our children more.

For about three days, the first nation held sway. But by the middle of the week there were signs that the second nation was asserting itself, and perhaps becoming larger. Journalists on national newspapers privately pointed out that readers were starting to write in and telephone, asking whether it wasn't all getting out of hand, or as some put it, 'Have you all gone mad?' Another complaint was that the media had exploited her - and much of it had adversely criticised her - in life, and now was canonising her in death.

Simon Jenkins, on Wednesday, was the first to note this changing, or different, mood, in a Times column which was generally sympathetic to the first nation. He deserves praise for his pluck in coming out with it at such a time: 'Many to whom I have spoken, and thousands who telephoned the BBC, found the response excessive. They felt they were being corralled by the media into a certain sort of grief. Many were distressed to be denied music for much of the day on Radio Three, music which most people find consoling and which Classic FM did offer. Those who control the conduits of state sadness can easily become heady on the project. They nationalise grief and make it totalitarian. In doing so, they risk diluting it.'

An important phrase there was 'a certain kind of grief. It is not grief after such a tragedy which is questionable, it is the form of some of the grieving. The Princess's death is being exploited by people who are making a political or ideological point. Militant feminists are using it to make a point against what they would have us believe is still a patriarchal society in which women are forced to put up with unsatisfactory husbands. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.