Calling out the Trivialization of Death before it’s too late!

Explosions, massacres, sectarian and political conflicts, WAR …

Men, women and children, being mowed down without a thought of remorse…

Counting dead and wounded people on a daily basis…

No stories, no names, just numbers…

Forgotten…

Do we (most of us living in Southern Western Asia i.e. the Middle East) have a dysfunctional view of death?

Many used to (and still) ignore death. However, there is a major problem when death is not only ignored but trivialized! Local television channels take us from tragedy to happiness all inside an hour; as if human suffering was no big thing and grief just a momentary bump on the road.

Remember the story of Jonah in the Bible? It seems strange that a preacher would be angry that his listeners repented of their sin (4:1-2). But that is exactly Jonah’s reaction to the Ninevites’ repentance. He knew that the merciful God would spare them if they repented, and he wanted them destroyed for several reasons – enemies of Israel; satisfaction of his own sense of justice; legitimization of his prediction of their city’s destruction … Jonah ran away right into the belly of a great fish when God asked him to go preach to the evil Ninevites. Is Jonah a trivializer? He did take the potential death of the Ninevites lightly. He trivialized their death.

When people were killed in the southern suburbs of Beirut, many Lebanese were either partying or offering Baklava. When people were killed in Tripoli, many thought they deserve it. Every day people die in Syria and Iraq. Human rights’ organizations lost the count. UN officials ‘condemn’ and… Nothing!

Many much too quickly accept the deaths of ‘others’ – ‘different religion, sectarian community, political affiliation, social class, ethnic identity’.  They make their death trivial. But what they don’t seem to understand, is that death concerns us all, it hurts deeply and stays with us. Pain following tragic death does not disappear and its memory stays alive for decades and centuries. A perfect example? The Sunni-Shia schism and the commemoration of Imam Hussein and his companions’ massacre.

Yes, death can be handled and joy be experienced again. According to major Christian traditions, death is a defeated enemy, through the Resurrection of Jesus-Christ, but the metaphysical question surrounding death is somehow disappearing.

 “On television, death is presented as a thrilling spectacle tailor-made for alleviating the general boredom of life. In the last analysis, of course, the covert aim of this reduction of death to the status of an object is just the same as with the bourgeois taboo on the subject. Death is to be deprived of its character as a place where the metaphysical breaks through. Death is rendered banal, so as to quell the unsettling question which arises from it … The repression of death is so much easier when death has been naturalized. Death must become so object-like, so ordinary, so public that no remnant of the metaphysical question is left within it.” Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life. Joseph Ratzinger. pp. 69-72.

Indeed, the horrors of massacres and torture are treated as a curiosity, reduced to punch lines, along with love, sex, religion, education, human and civil rights. How sacred is life when murderers and haters are promoted on TV? There used to be a time when genocides had shock value – ‘NEVER AGAIN’ following Jewish extermination by Nazis??

Do Lebanese have a sense of what is important? I honestly think many don’t – quoting Gary Hardcastle, co-editor of ‘Bullshit and Philosophy’: “Our culture, or at least our nation, is becoming more trivial, less concerned with what matters, by the hour”.

Trivialization of death is an old belief, found in different cultures and civilizations, and those who wage battle against it have a hard time doing so. In 1983 ‘Trivializing America: The Triumph of Mediocrity’, Norman Corwin stated: “It’s easier to think loosely about unimportant matters. People tend to think about football, the news, the weather and their budgets before they think of the important things”.

And it’s easier to tear down than to build up.

If the norm is to always search for the next stimulus and not to sit back and think/rethink about important matters, if the trend is to reduce life-and-death questions to “bumper stickers”, to cheapen complexities, to “muffle social criticism”, our societies won’t only be “stagnant” and “confused”, “irrational” and “scandalously uninformed”, but more… doomed!

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Image sent by Omar Msaddi.

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  1. Je ne sais plus quoi dire. J’en ai marre de présenter mes condoléances, et de voir les feuilletons turcs en intermittence avec les nouvelles horrifiques d’explosions hebdomadaires, et d’entendre les politiciens soit se jeter mutuellement le blâme, soit se dorer au soleil sans bouger les pouces. La violence est banalisée et c’est certainement la fin de nos sociétés.

  2. Those who laugh don’t know that and are not aware of what’s coming next.
    We are all Lebanese!
    Shame!

  3. Aweosme article and a very interesting coincidence that you used Jonah to demonstrate this, because Lebanon is in a much closer condition to Nineveh than most people realise.
    An important thing to remember with this connection, is that if the people repented (said sorry and turned away from old ways) of their ways, their city would be saved. And the kings and rulers of that city belived the message Jonah bought, becasue of what they had witnessed in their city, they knew the word to be true. They repented, fasted, prayed, turned from their old ways and their city was healed.
    The hearts of the people wanted peace.
    This is Lebanon and the journey the nation has been on since the civil war. Lebanon hit a crucial mark when it united to remove the occupation in 2005 and the nation was blessed. Never has the Syrian regime listened to Lebanon, but this time they did…. I wonder if anyone noticed this miracle or if they, in pride, said in their hearts ‘It is my strength that did this”.?
    Again, Lebanon is faced with the same fork in the road. To turn from violence or to run to it. What will the people do? What is in their hearts? Peace or violence?
    I believe there are more people who desire Peace than there are desiring violence.
    What I do know, as sure as I am confident in my personal faith, is that God is looking at the hearts of the Lebanese people – not just their actions and words. What is in their heart is what they will experience in the coming times. There will be opportunity to support peace or violence. People are free to choose their destiny.
    It is very important that people encourage each other away from dark intentions and thinking, and have hope that the history of this nation is about to change, but first must come the test to see who will live to see the new Lebanon, for why heal a nation and leave poison to destroy it? No. Healing will come and it will come in fullness for those who want it.
    Think for a moment, the ammount of tears which was shed during the civil war? Imagine, how many people called out for a miracle. How many felt God had abandoned them. Yes these feeling are legitimate and now He wants to show Lebanon that He witnessed everything and not a single tear fell without His knowledge. Not a single drop of blood was spilt without His desire for justice. Not a single person perished, without His heart breaking. Now He wants to show Lebanon who He really is.
    It is time, who is ready to see what they never thought they would live to see?
    N.B I do not make mention of God to being any form of division or insensativity to this post or issue. I write what has been revealed to me concerning the nation of Lebanon, over a 9 year period of fasting and praying for divine intervention and healing for this nation. Additionally, I believe the writer of this blog and those involved, be supporters or writers, are among those who will lead change in Lebanon and assist others to chose the good path which will produce and abundance of miraculous events, right in the midst of chaos and darkness. People will recognise the strength found in these Leaders of the community and come to them for support and they will find shelter, peace, hope and learn how to manage it. It is a skill and teachers are needed and they are being raised up, for such a time as this. It is destiny.

  4. Bonsoir Docteure!
    Je vous félicite pour cet article et pour votre blog, ainsi que pour la page Facebook de Red Lips High Heels.
    Nous sommes certes en enfer… Je ne vois pas d’issue. Et vous avez tout à fait raison pour la ‘banalisation de la mort’, tout comme celle de la violence.

  5. Dr. You have highlighted a very important issue…whether contrived for or not media outlets are indeed trivializing “death”! & people are going with the flow since they don’t hv a grip on virtues and morals…
    Looking forward to reading more of your articles…

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