Sunday, 1 December 2013

What does "paying tribute" mean?

The press use words and phrases none of the rest of us use. None of us "slam" other people, for instance. Bizarrely at the Denny's chain restaurants in the US a "slam" is a kind of breakfast; derivation uncertain.

So what is "paying tribute"?

According to the press, if we get caught up in some kind of disaster that occurs to our loved ones, i.e. they get murdered, bombed, accidentally mown down or whatever, a nice journalist will require that we "pay tribute" to our dead associates.

Why? Why does no one tell them to simply fuck off?

Why do we think we should make our emotions accessible to the media? Again, as in my last post, I think we are seeing some kind of incipient religious belief growing. When dealing with a sudden death, you "pay tribute" through some local media, the papers, twitter, Facebook, whatever,  You then buy some flowers from Tesco's, and clutching some symbolic possession of the deceased, the more poignant the better, you proceed to the place of death and decorate it.

The funeral, on the other hand, is normally something  low key from the Co-op.

How did these beliefs evolve? At any time before the 70s, the funeral would be the focus for everything. Now that we're not Christian, or the churches are more concerned with global warming or third world poverty than the cure of their parishioners, people are forced to construct ritual for themselves.

There is nothing more poignant than the death of a child. I thank my personal deity that my children have reached their late teens alive, and long may they continue. There are many places in the world where infant mortality is high, and interestingly, religious belief is high too.

I know, believe me, that correlation is not proof of causation, but I do think these are causally linked.

Charles Darwin avoided publishing his "On the origin of species" for 10 years because, so it is said, he did not want to undermine his wife's faith after the death of their young daughter. This event wrecked his faith, but strengthened his wife's.

In the Victorian period infant mortality was high, and religion too. If there is one thing, it seems, that will make you religious it's the death of your child.

Yet, since  infant mortality is low in the UK, our mechanisms for coping have atrophied.

The derivation of the phrase "paying tribute" is, of course, very different from its modern usage. Minor kingdoms paid tribute to Rome, during the empire. The Jews paid tribute to Babylon. We all pay tribute to our masters in the EU through VAT. Paying tribute is a sign of enslavement.
Perhaps we should stop.

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