News from Around the Parish

The Right Reverend Barack Obama delivered his sermon ‘Moral Courage: What it is and How to recognize it’ at the Robben Island Human Rights Museum, South Africa, last week.

Afterwards, he presented a gold watch to ‘Grandfather’ Nelson Mandela, for his long and faithful service as caretaker at the museum. His wife, Graca Machel, accepted it on Mr. Mandala’s behalf as he was feeling unwell.

During his visit the Right Reverend blessed a $7 billion new US-led project to increase access to electricity in Africa. He vowed to assist Africa in bringing “light where there is currently darkness.”

Later, in Soweto, the Right Reverend unveiled a ‘plan to have future African leaders groomed’ in America!—the Washington Fellowship for Young Entrepreneurs.

“This won’t be the most expensive programme we have, but I actually believe it will end (up) being one of the most important. It’s important to me personally because it is a great way for me to show confidence in all of you,” he said.

But first, the Reverend pointed out, they had to ‘root out’ corruption because that is a very ‘bad thing‘ and a barrier to ‘investment’.

Such was the enthusiasm of the people of Soweto in welcoming the Right Reverend that the police felt obliged to intervene. But no harm done, all joined hands and the visitation was declared a success!

Joseph Allbright and Marcia Kunstel. Ex-official: Cia Helped Jail Mandela. Chicago Tribune. June 10, 1990.

Pope Gregory Creates the Penitent Woman thus

The Libellus responsionum: a papal letter said to have been written by Pope Gregory to Augustine of Canterbury.

The Libellus responsionum: a papal letter said to have been written by Pope Gregory to Augustine of Canterbury.

Pope Gregory I in 591:

She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected, according to Mark. And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices?

It is clear my brothers that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts. What she therefore displayed more scandalously, she was now offering to God in a more praiseworthy manner.

She turned the mass of her crimes to virtues, in order to serve God entirely in penance, for as much as she had wrongly held God in contempt.

These words mark the beginning of Church doctrine on Mary Magdalene. It stayed in place until 1969 and it shaped relations between men and women during that time.

This Easter, we’re going to look at the actual, real life Mary Magdalene and her role in the crucifixtion and resurrection of the actual, real life Jesus.

How to refuse stigma and shaming

Stigma is a sign one is given to wear. Shame is an emotion one is made to feel. For people labelled as ‘disabled’ these two qualities tend to go together.

To feel shame is to experience oneself as a bad or inferior person. It is experienced privately but it is constituted by internalized public perceptions of the stigmatized person, i.e., by the action of ‘shaming’. Those who impose shame on others elevate their feelings about themselves (pridefulness).

For the stigmatized and shamed, this is a dangerous business. To shame is to shun, to marginalize. For social animals marginalization increases the chances of suffering illness, injury and death because it loosens or severs the limbic connections that keep us healthy and well. For example, horses are punished, by the lead mare, by being cast out to the perimeter of the herd. This is as true for humans as it is for horses.

It’s not just the disabled who suffer, of course. The poor are stigmatized and shamed too; more so in some countries than others. In both cases, the disabled and the poor are made to feel responsible for their own condition. ‘They brought it upon themselves’.

The big question, of course, is what to do about it, how to free oneself of stigma and shame? Jody McIntyre, featured in the video above, confined to a wheelchair by cerebral palsy, is a living example of how this might be done.

In December 2012, while participating in a demonstration against the public spending cuts in England, he was forcibly removed from his wheelchair by police—to great public consternation. He was then subjected to a particularly hostile interview by the BBC, but handled himself very well. He deals with the stigma of being ‘disabled’ by refusing it. It takes enormous courage to do that.

The BBC interview lasts for 8 minutes but is well worth watching for what it reveals about stigma—and the BBC.

Death by Shame: A comment on the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha

Jacintha Saldanha was found dead this morning. It is believed she died by her own hand.

Ms Saldanha was a nurse at the King Edward VII hospital in London, where the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) stayed recently.

It was she who answered the hoax phone call early on Tuesday morning (around 05:30) from Mel Greig and Michael Christian, employees of a Sydney radio station, posing as the Queen and Prince Charles enquiring as to the health of the Duchess.

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Mel Greig and Michael Christian

Ms Saldanha passed them onto another nurse who revealed confidential information to these imposters.

For more details see: Duchess of Cambridge hoax call nurse found dead. BBC News, 7 December, 2012.

It was a foolish call and an embarrassing, if understandable, error of judgment on the part of these nurses. On all night. At that time of the morning ones senses are dulled. It could have happened to anyone. And they were, after all, nurses, not receptionists. It would have been equally embarrassing if the call had been genuine and Ms Saldanha had told them to get lost.

At least let us try to learn something from this tragedy. What emotions was Ms Saldanha likely to have experienced?

Drawing on Aaron Ben-Ze’ev’s The Subtlety of Emotions, very briefly, it seems likely that she experienced these:

Embarrassment: We feel embarrassment when we are the centre of attention and know that we are being judged. Embarrassment requires the gaze of others; we cannot be embarrassed alone. It is especially acute when we are perceived to have behaved inappropriately.

News media brought to public attention Ms Saldanha’s indiscretion and she must have felt that she had the gaze of the entire UK focused on her. That the Royal Family are held in such high esteem (although not, of course, by everyone) must have made it worse. The Duchess of Cambridge was not any old patient.

Regret: This emotion is a form of sadness over an alternative action not taken. In this case, she could have questioned the callers, but did not. Since this option was all too available, her feelings of regret would have been intense. ‘If only …’

Embarrassment and regret can be painful, but they are short-term emotions and can be alleviated with the aid of social support.

Guilt: Guilt arises if one’s actions have damaged another person or persons, in this case, the Duchess of Cambridge and her royal retinue. As Ben-Ze’ev shows, guilt is associated with fear of the anger of the damaged party. We can feel guilty for something we did not do and are not perceived by others to be responsible. Ms Saldantha merely answered the phone. She did not disclose any personal information.

Shame: Whereas regret and guilt arise from a perception that we have acted wrongly, shame entails a belief that our very person or character is bad. With shame, we hide away. With guilt, we attempt to atone. But what are our options with shame? Well, they are limited. Suicide is certainly one of them. It is the ultimate way of escaping that all-seeing gaze of public opinion, of removing oneself from the shaming situation. On the face of it, this seems the most likely explanation of Ms Saldantha’s death.

Emotions are fluid and complex, but I think the above are the ingredients of an explanation.

Another person might have responded differently in the circumstances. He or she might have sold the story to the tabloid press and left nursing. We each negotiate these emotions in different ways.

But anyone with any knowledge of emotions would know that this kind of stunt always has the potential to cause extreme and seemingly inescapable distress. Shame can be deadly. It is not to be trifled with.

I believe that Ms Saldantha immigrated to the UK from southern India. She is likely to have felt these pressures all the more acutely. She stayed in nurses’ quarters and went home to her husband and two children when not working. She is likely to have experienced these pressures alone. It would have been a hammer blow.

These two fools, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, need reminding that outside the realm of mindless chatter, speech is action and words have consequences.

Honor and Emotion

Honor and Emotion | in-mind.org.

Here is a useful and accessible article on honour and emotion. Thanks to Amanda D for bring this to our attention.

This paper discusses honor and its effects on emotion. The paper is divided into two parts. In the first part, the definition of honor is discussed. This section answers the questions ‘what is honor,’ and ‘are there different types of honor?’ Later, there is an overview on the ways in which honor influences emotional experiences and expressions. Throughout the paper, conclusions are reached based on honor and emotion research in Mediterranean, Northern European, North American and Middle-Eastern cultures.