Viewpoint from Peter Glanville for 27th January 2012
Deacon for St Peters Church in Gorleston
“Because you’re worth it…..!”
I’m writing this column as the tragedy of the Costa Cruise Shipwreck unfolds, continuing to make headlines. It is shifting down the TV
and radio bulletins however, as more “newsworthy” stories are offered by editors and journalists, anxious to feed our insatiable appetite for perhaps information, perhaps enlightenment and perhaps for downright titillation!
I worked in the BBC for much of my life, and it was only after a decade or so, that I began to question my sensitivity to disasters, wars, threats and their accompanying sorrows.
“Any dead?” the journalists say in their check calls to the emergency agencies. They know the “strength” of a story depends on how many killed or injured. Just look at the way the Costa Ship story has been covered. The language is extravagant. Words like “chaos, panic, terrifying and horrific” pepper the bulletins – Was it not amazing then, that less than one per cent of the passengers and crew were killed or are missing? The concentration is on the blame for the loss of some thirty to forty souls among more than four thousand people on board. So are we more appalled by the fatalities, or amazed and heartened by the rescue?
Then there’s the categorisation in international stories, of those who suffer and die. Their nationality takes high priority. The number of “Brits” - killed or injured - headlines the article. Hold on a second, does that mean that dead “Non-Brits” don’t count? That the injuries and tragedies that strike foreign families are in some way less painful when they are not - “one of us”? A form of xenophobia of the bereaved?
But the Costa shipwreck should focus our thinking. What cons
titutes “the value of life”? Both those saved and those who perished leave a profound and permanent effect on their families, friends, and hopefully all of us. The unique value of each individual life is of paramount importance in a caring and cared for society. It is a valuation we make ourselves as we consider death and dying. Sadly, the real value of a spouse, family member or friend often becomes truly apparent when they are no longer there.
But what happens if we undervalue ourselves or enter a state of utter despair and loss of all self esteem. If we could see outside ourselves for a while, perhaps we could see what others see in us or perhaps more preciously, our potential.
So true “life value” is immeasurable in terms of worldly parameters – the apparent financial value of a life may preoccupy the lawyers and insurers in our compensation culture. But the “life value of” a victim in a knife attack is horrifyingly irrelevant to the attacker. For the bereaved family however, it’s immeasurable - beyond financial compensation.
In our own assessments, if the life values of individuals appear miniscule, what should we do? Write them off- or do something about it?
Perhaps next week could be life evaluation week. Can we enhance the lives of those we love and know? Can we change the life of a stranger dying from starvation? Can we make someone smile? Can we offer friendship to the lonely? Can we love our neighbour?
Most importantly - can we stand back and revalue our own lives – perhaps give them the triple A rating so beloved by economists?
Come on ……. You know you’re worth it!