Crafting Gentleness

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cold weather, cold hearts?: Iris Robinson and ordinary cruelties

I've been feeling very uncomfortable about the mockery of Iris Robinson. For those of you who don't know anything about her, she has been a member of the Northern Irish assembly, and is married to the Northern Irish first minister, Peter Robinson. Recently she has been in the news on account of an affair she had with a 19 year old son of a deceased friend. Before the revelations she was best known for her very public homophobic stance on homosexuality, drawing the attention of the international media for her bibilically sustained vitriol in that regard.

As much as I'm certainly not a fan of hers or of her opinions, I'm still feeling uncomfortable. When the news of the affair broke within the Robinson household, Mrs. Robinson (yes, I know) attempted suicide. This was quite a while ago, back in March 2009. A couple of weeks ago she resigned her position apparently due to long-term depression. Right now Iris is reportedly undergoing 'acute psychiatric treatment'.

If Iris was someone I knew personally, I would be being particularly careful about how I talk to her, and how I talk about her to others. I would be making a concerted attempt to not make the situation worse.

Apparently that doesn't seem to make sense to many people in Northern Ireland at the moment. Iris Robinson has become something of a punching bag in the last week. Distasteful jokes are flooding the system, a parody of Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs. Robinson may be a credible contender for the top of the Northern Irish charts, and Facebook is awash with groups emerging from the feeding frenzy. The international press are having a ball.

I'm going to come right out and say it - I think the badgering of Iris Robinson is irresponsible, possibly harmful, and very possibly in the spirit of what she herself was criticized for in her condemnation of homosexuality - spiteful, targeted villification.

I saw something similar happen with George Bush - apparently classifying another human being as a 'stupid chimp' can be excused in some circumstances. Why so? Human history is littered with humour that denigrates and demeans, but how is that helpful?

If Iris Robinson were to kill herself, and I hope she has enough support so that she doesn't, anyone who has fed the frenzy would play some part in the outcome. Our treatment of her is becoming inhumane, cold, and cruel.

I watched this week on Facebook as one person after another laughed with glee as some poor man in a video clip slipped and feel on ice on the streets of Dublin. That's not slapstick, that misfortune.

Laughing at other people's misfortune is something we could do without.


  • I agree with you. I am seeing more people on my facebook friends list joining the 'Mrs Robinson for no.1' group every day.
    Other people posting the video of the poor man slipping and smashing his head on the pavement and thinking it is hilarious.

    There is a distinct lack of empathy and compassion when people can find joy and rejoice in the suffering of others.

    To be honest it saddens me a bit. I am not sure what these people attacking Iris wish to achieve from their campaign, but the woman is obviously psychologically not in a good place and I think it is irresponsible.

    Repeatedly kicking someone when they are down is without honor, nevermind humor.

    By Blogger The invisible man, at Tuesday, 12 January, 2010  

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