Thursday, 15 October 2020

Tragedy Can Be Banal

One member of my family chose to study English literature at Oxford. Another member of my family, even though she loved the Oxonian in our family very deeply, rejected his advice to apply to Oxford and chose instead to apply to study English literature at Cambridge. Her reason for doing so was that the Cambridge course included a tragedy paper. 

This week, when it was revealed that the Premier of New South Wales - a very competent, well-respected woman whose private life has always been assumed to barely exist - had had a secret love affair with a person who perhaps, if one wanted to be exceptionally kind, one might describe as a rapscallion, I finally understood why Cambridge, with its attempt to make sense of tragedy, was the wisest choice.

Tragedies, I realised, are accounts of us at our most human, flawed and foolish, when we'd been aiming for grandeur. 

Gladys Berejiklian, the NSW premier in question, has been humiliated in open court. My heart goes out to her. One misjudgment in the midst of so much order and a carefully constructed life explodes. Regardless of whether she retains her position as premier, she has lost her dignity. 



  1. Sound judgment in the matter of the other--or, as some say, the appropriate--sex is something one can expect a fair percentage of the race to fail at now and then. I'm happy to blame the person who habitually drives drunk and wrecks cars; the person who now and then, sober, bends some metal I will not judge the same way.

    And then we have the double standard. Boris Johnson is prime minister of the United Kingdom, Donald Trump the president of the United States, Mitterand had a long run as premier. It is fair to say that neither Johnson nor Trump had much dignity to lose: still, their affairs didn't hinder their political progress.

    1. Could it be that the difficulty arises when we are disappointed by the slippage between what we'd believed and the reality? Trump everyone always knew was vulgar, it was part of the package. Johnson everyone knew was a philanderer but most understood that he had a solid marriage, as philanderers often do - and I think that now that that marriage has been destroyed many do judge him differently and at the very least think he has been a fool and lost the one person who he was actually happy with and who was genuinely his intellectual equal and made a good partner in politics (quite a lot of imagination goes into that last statement I have to admit, but also a small bit of information). As to Mitterand, France is a whole different thing, surely? Anglo rules don't apply?

    2. I'm not sure what the Anglo rules would be, when I consider such American presidents as JFK, LBJ, and Clinton, or such hopefuls as Adlai Stevenson and Daniel Webster. No doubt better students of British politics can flesh out a list I could only begin with Lloyd George and Charles James Fox. The French seem to differ less in behavior than in want of embarrassment or prurience concerning the behavior.

    3. Having been a child of a divorce, I feel pretty relaxed about anything people do before they have children and pretty worried about people splitting up to please themselves if it affects children. Which, although the adults may not realise it - and despite their often hoping that it will be better for their offspring - it usually does - and it usually isn't.