[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 23 February, 2004, 08:05 GMT
'Mourning sickness is a religion'
Flowers for Diana Princess of Wales
The report said Diana's death was the epitome of 'recreational grief'
Britons are feeding their own egos by indulging in "recreational grief" for murdered children and dead celebrities they have never met, claims a report.

Think-tank Civitas said wearing charity ribbons, holding silences and joining protest marches all indicated the country was in emotional crisis.

The author said "mourning sickness" was a substitute for religion.

Rather than "piling up damp teddies and rotting flowers" people should go out and do some real good, he urged.

In his report, Conspicuous Compassion, author Patrick West said people were trying to feel better about themselves by taking part in "manufactured emotion".


Describing extravagant public displays of grief for strangers as 'grief-lite' Mr West said these activities were, "undertaken as an enjoyable event, much like going to a football match or the last night of the proms".

"Mourning sickness is a religion for the lonely crowd that no longer subscribes to orthodox churches. Its flowers and teddies are its rites, its collective minutes' silences its liturgy and mass.

This obsession with mourning those we have never met devalues true national commemorations like Remembrance Sunday
James, Coventry

"But these new bonds are phoney, ephemeral and cynical," he said.

"We saw this at its most ghoulish after the demise of Diana. In truth, mourners were not crying for her, but for themselves," he wrote.

Years later, he claimed, "Diana had served her purpose. The public had moved on. These recreational grievers were now emoting about Jill Dando, Linda McCartney or the Soham girls."

His 80-page pamphlet said that while the Soham murders were "unquestionably tragic", it was "almost as distressing to see sections of the public jumping on the grief bandwagon".

He said the traditional minute's silence has suffered "compassion inflation" and become meaningless.

"They are getting longer and we are having more of them, because we want to be seen to care."

"When a group called Hedgeline calls for a two-minute silence to remember all the 'victims' whose neighbours have grown towering hedges, we truly have reached the stage where this gesture has been emptied of meaning," he added.

Anti-war protestors
Marchers should have questioned their motives, said the author

Moving on to the wearing of charity ribbons, the report said the act served to "celebrate the culture of victimhood" and was an egotistical gesture to announce "I care".

The trend had not been accompanied by a tangible increase in charity donations, it added, and there was now an "unspoken competition" to see who could wear their Remembrance Day poppy earliest, "particularly among politicians".

And on going on demonstrations, the report said it was "too often an exercise in attention-seeking".

"Next time you profess that you "care" about something, consider your motives and the consequences of your words and actions. Sometimes, the only person you really care about is you," said the report.

Civitas, also known as the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, was launched in 2000 as an independent registered charity.

The grief of millions
01 Mar 98  |  Diana
Thousands express online condolences
20 Aug 02  |  Technology

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific