I write this article with a deal of trepidation. I fully expect that there will be many amongst the readers of this website who will consider that I have overstepped the mark. And I certainly have to say that my wife was one of those people who warned me that I am likely to cop an earful of abuse.
There is no other way to say this other than in a forthright manner. I don’t want to see another tribute to Phillip Hughes. Or another commemoration of his death. I don’t wish to see a memorial placed on the top of Mount Everest by the Nepalese Cricket Association. I don’t want to hear that Elton John stopped his concert to pay tribute to him. I don’t want to know that the Australian and Indian Cricket teams will unveil a plaque to him at the Sydney Cricket Ground at the start of play of the New Year’s test match.
None of this has anything to do with Phillip Hughes. I did not know him. I am assured that he was a thoroughly decent human being. I am a fanatical cricket lover. I can watch any game of cricket at any time of the day. I am an avowed Phillip Hughes fan. But I believe that if I wish to grieve for him I can do that in my own private space at my own private time. I don’t want the world’s media to be there to assess the depth of my grief. I shed a tear when I heard of Hughes’s death. It was a tragedy of major proportions because it happened on a cricket field. As Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh is quoted as saying “There is a widely held and quite erroneously held belief that cricket is just another game”.
What leads me to this view about not wanting to hear any more about the passing of this very good cricketer on the field of play in an accident that has rarely if ever happened is that soon after the death of Hughes, we also learnt of the death of another thoroughly decent human being who did an enormous amount in the Disability sector, Stella Young. You can read details of Stella and her contribution to society here.
It is inappropriate to draw comparisons of grief. I have coined the term “Grief Porn” to describe the outpouring of emotion over the death of Phillip Hughes when the people grieving did not know the man personally. All our media devoted more time to his funeral than they did to the passing of Gough Whitlam, one of the seminal figures in Australian political history. Our Prime Minister and Opposition leader and other political leaders attended the funeral of Hughes. They did not attend Stella’s funeral. The Prime Minister and New South Wales Premier also attended the funerals of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson following the siege in Sydney. Yet, Stella did not merit an attendance at her funeral.
In the interests of disclosure it must be said that a tribute to Stella’s life was organised with me by Samantha Connor (who also writes for The Stringer). The tribute was to celebrate her life. Anyone who wanted to attend was welcome to do so. There was also a very large public tribute event held at Federation Square in Melbourne to acknowledge Stella’s contribution. That also was not attended by the parliamentarians listed above.
Let me emphasise that if there are people who wish to grieve for Phillip Hughes in a public manner, they are welcome to do so if that is how they deal with grief. I do not begrudge them that opportunity. I just do not wish our media channels to be full of these public displays of grief. I also wonder how these public displays of grief impact on young Sean Abbott, the bowler who bowled the bouncer that struck Phillip Hughes. To say that these public displays will probably revive the memories of that fatal ball would understate the issue. I look, for example, at the Wikipedia article about the bowler and note that he is referred to therein as follows: “Abbott bowled a bouncer that hit Phillip Hughes in the neck. Hughes died two days later at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, as a result of a vertebral artery dissection, leading to subarachnoid haemorrhage”.
I also wonder how all of this impacts on the right of family and friends to grieve the death of someone close to them in a private manner. This is not possible whilst the whole world chooses to display their grief in this public manner. Is this appropriate?
As I have indicated above this is not to minimise the tragedy of the death of this fine young man. I mourn his death just as much as anyone else here. However, it is the public displays that concern me. There are many people who have contributed in ways other than playing their chosen sport who have died in recent times. I referred to the passing of Stella Young. She would not have wanted any of the adulation that has been expressed in recent days. Her views on “Inspiration Porn” are well known. (There are some Facebook posts that have referred to her as an “inspiration” – she would have been almost apoplectic if she had seen that!).
For now I shall sit back and await the abusive emails and Facebook posts that will ensue.