For ten years Caesar ruled with an iron hand. Then with a wooden foot, and finally with a piece of string.

~ Spike Milligan ~

Right Royal Radio Tragedy

December 10th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 3 mins, 4 secs

Hounding the Royal Duchess and those around her for kicks.

Being a Royal naturally attracts widespread attention. Unfortunately, it also captures the scrutiny of pranksters and the flaky. That’s what happened when two young Aussie radio DJs prank-called the UK hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated.

Pretending to be members of the Royal Family, radio hosts, Mel Greig and Michael Christian managed to trick a nurse into patching them through to obtain full details of the Duchess Kate’s condition. They did so, and then broadcast the results on their radio show on 2DAY, an Austereo station (even though they didn’t get the consent of the nurses they spoke to).

At that stage, these two DJ’s broke the law. Yet, they were obviously thinking their prank would provide such an entertaining diversion in the afternoon radio spot that it was worth it. But days later, the first nurse they tricked named Jacintha Saldanha, took her own life. Apparently it happened as a result of her profound shame at compromising the privacy of the Royal Family.

What started as a shallow attempt to get a laugh at someone else’s expense has turned into a terrible tragedy. Having caused so much sorrow and public outcry, the situation is now drawing red-hot attention toward Austereo’s practices.

Certainly, the young radio hosts’ prank was a shabby attempt at scoring attention. Not only did it show incredible ignorance, but even before Ms Saldanha’s death, it looked like another illustration of media harrying. Not only in mocking the Royal Family, but also in wasting the time of the health professionals working to provide essential care.

But, if the two DJ’s actions were ill conceived, the actions of the radio station took it to another level. Evidently, the recorded hoax was vetted by the company’s legal people and given the okay by the station. Meaning, the assault on the Duchess of Cambridge’s privacy while she was hospitalised became a promotional teaser for ratings.

Now, with Britain’s Scotland Yard weighing into the fray and legal implications looming, 2DAY may well lose its broadcasting licence.

At this point, you may be wondering what the significance of this sorry saga is in relation to happiness. Why bring it up at all when Britain and Australia’s media are giving it headline attention? The answer lies in intention, and personal qualities.

It’s easy enough to laugh at just about anything. But when stunts are aimed at undermining others and mocking people who are ill, humor becomes something unwholesome. That the Royal Family was targeted is predictable (though it seems even the British media know better than to pick on Royal Family members who are ill).

In this case, a bad idea quickly turned into disaster, leaving even the two media identities reeling over the tragedy. Despite mass outrage directed toward them, it’s notable that the Royal Family has chosen not to criticise them. And, their wisdom in reserving comment is obvious.

Two thousand years or so ago, a women caught in adultery was brought before Jesus to be judged according to the law, which back then sanctioned her being stoned to death. But Jesus comment to her accusers was so powerful, it continues to ring true today: “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone.” Were these people foolish? Undoubtedly. Yet, we have all done stupid and foolish things too? The Royal Family’s tact in this matter says it all with maturity.

A good life isn’t always about ducking bullets and hoping bad things don’t happen. Because, inevitably, bad things do. A rich life rests on doing the best we can, even when we stuff up royally. If we own our faults and dedicate ourselves to better then the potential to live well can, in fresh ways, come back.

Tragedies come. Disasters happen. But somehow, we need to create all the good we can with what we’ve got left.

Does that mean we should forget other people’s major misdeeds and pretend they never happened? No. But we can’t live in anger either. Life requires that we all seek to live life with meaning, and express character. Whether you’re a Royal or a regular citizen, we cannot squander life in fury without it becoming cruelly destructive. We need to work out just outcomes. But we also need to practice tolerance and wisdom as we do.


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