On social media, and perhaps elsewhere, there has been some questioning of the appropriateness of suspending proceedings at Holyrood in the wake of the incident in London yesterday. Regardless of the merits of this particular case, such questioning raises a valid point. How do we rate these incidents? How do we keep score? What criteria do we use to decide which incidents are worth suspending parliament for and which aren’t?
There will always be somebody who considers any incident serious enough to warrant this kind of response. How do we tell them we regard that incident as relatively trivial?
I’m not saying it was wrong to suspend proceedings at Holyrood. That was a matter for the parliamentary authorities. They had to use their judgement. And there were doubtless practical considerations in this instance. But it is inevitable that, at some point and in some circumstances, that judgement will be called into question.
These things tend to escalate. Once suspending proceedings is introduced as a token of respect, increasing numbers of people will demand that same token as the due response in circumstances they identify as warranting it – genuinely or as a political device. The exceptional gesture becomes first a desirable bauble, then a valued commodity and eventually a general ‘right’.
It also develops into a weapon. Failure or refusal to afford the tribute is used as a stick with which to beat opponents.
It’s akin to the Princess Di effect. Mourning becomes a competitive spectator event. The worth of the deceased is measured by the number and size of the improvised shrines erected in their memory; and the amount of ‘impromptu’ public grieving that is caught by cameras; and the number of times some mawkish message is retweeted.
Afraid to be considered disrespectful, people join in the snowballing process. Unwilling to allow that their favourite dead celebrity is somehow less worthy of celebration than some other dead celebrity, they try to outdo one another in the theatricality of their ceremonials.
Very quickly, it all becomes a bit tacky. Eventually, it gets to be quite obscene.
If you find these articles interesting, please consider a small donation.
All monies received are used in furtherance of the campaign
to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.