Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Puzzled About The Video

I'm occasionally stumped at certain differences between the Sri Lankan and the British psyches. Sometimes I approach things with a Sri Lankan viewpoint or attitude and am surprised when I hear the British one and sometimes I take a British view and struggle to understand the Sri Lankan one.

One of the things that I have a very British attitude about is death and bodies, that kind of thing. I'm not sure if it's a typically British attitude or if it's a Western attitude but it's vastly different to the Sri Lankan, or maybe the Asian one.

Sri Lankan culture presents death and grief in much more matter of fact ways than is done here. When a dignitary dies the newspapers usually show pictures of the body, of people paying their respects to the person. They'll often show members of the family in the peak of their grief and there's little or no sense of keeping things private.

Over here a picture in a newspaper of a dead body would probably signal the end of many newspaper people's careers and images of a widow at her beloved's funeral in the throes of her grief would be considered a massive intrusion of privacy. Perhaps it's to do with the British stiff upper lip, the need to maintain a public image at all times, maybe it's to do with differring religious beliefs although I can't quite see how that would be so.

Over the years I've come to accept the contrasts though. There's not necessarily a right or wrong way to behave, just different ways.

But I've been puzzled and perplexed about this video that's doing the rounds. You probably know the one I'm talking about, it's the CCTV footage of the LTTE suicide bomber at the EPDP offices.

I'm amazed at the way in which this has been published and put out for all to see. I have watched it, which maybe makes me part of the problem, and the fact that it's out there makes me feel unbelievably uncomfortable.

The Sri Lankan blogosphere has been awash with the predictable types adding links to it and insulting whoever they want to in the process. I even had a comment on this blog which gave the link and said something like

"Have a look at this link, you can even see her head bouncing off the wall"

I deleted the comment, which is only the second time I've ever not published a comment deliberately. I just find it a bit sick to be honest. It's not so much the principle of seeing a suicide bomber in action, there's a certain part of me that thinks that's what the assassin wanted. It's the rubbernecking element of watching other, innocent people, getting hurt and dying.

I take no pleasure in watching the suffering of these people, yet I admit that I did watch it. The other morning I saw that it had been put out on the MOD's website and this totally dumbfounded me. These days everything gets on Youtube one way or another, but to be on the MOD's site shocked me. Then I saw stills from the footage splashed across the front page of one of the Sunday papers.

I wonder if the family of Steven Peiris had any say in the broadcasting of it. Perhaps they did, I really don't know, but I strongly suspect that the others who were injured and their families didn't have any say in the whole world being able to watch their suffering.

Maybe, by making the footage available to all, the GoSL hopes to gain some public sympathy, a totally way out and radical idea but one that isn't beyond the realms of possibility!

Where am I left in this confused post?

I just don't know.

Is it good to put these things out there or should they be kept in private?

Is it disrespectful to the dead and the injured, to their friends and relatives?

How hypocritical is it that I watched the scene and added to its "popularity" by that very act?

All these questions remain unanswered, any thoughts?


T said...

i actually just watched the video today too. i knew it was out there but something kept me from youtubing it, and i didnt see it until someone sent it to me via an IM today. it was one of those things that repulsed and fascinated me at the same time. i replayed that instant where she blew up quite a few times to see who died, the reactions of the people around etc and each time i jsut felt sick to the stomach. i was also told to look out for the head, something which i would be much better off not having seen. the comments section underneath is also quite interesting to read.

i was totally put off by the intro to the video, the use of it as anti-ltte propaganda. no doubt that's what it is anyway, but it just seemed wrong.

to answer your questions, im not really sure. it IS disrespecful and intrusive to circulate a death this way, but at the same time, seeing IS believing. to actually SEE a sucide bomber that way is powerful. i'm a little more aware today than i was yesterday on the issue because of that video, even though im not very happy about it.

Parthi said...

i was thinking the exact same thing as you did while watching the video...why so suddenly it was freely available all over the net and I also thought it was another way by the government to show some sympathy towards them and also to make the public ignore the corruption going on in the country

niro said...

I think it's in our genes. Humans are inquisitive creatures and the Sri Lankans are way ahead of the rest (including me). That's why we gather around in thousands when there's a rumor about a bomb (stupid as well).

Remember the tsunami. How many of us watched the horrifying videos over and over again. I was a victim too. But still something inherently irresistible drove me to see the other videos a few times.

I don't think people watch them to amuze themselves (some may be) but i think it's mainly bcoz we are inherently inquisitive.

star said...

it is utterly pathetic. sl media policy has always been sick. the governing people would do any heck of a thing to get things there way so be prepared to see stuff from porn to utter violence like this from Lakehouse.

and btw, you can't compare british policies and media discipline here. there people are disciplined and rules are rules. here everything get bent by times.

Damith-TS said...

Ya my dad mailed me the youtube link, Ill have a look and comment on it.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

T - But what are you aware of? Other than knowing what a suicide bombing actually looks like I wonder if you, or any of us, have benefitted fom watching it.

Niro - I think you have a piont about the Sri Lankan nature , the way crowds of people build up around accidents etc.

Star - I know what you mena but I often compare Brit things with SL things as they're my 2 major groundings, it's a recipe for disaster but they're the 2 cultures and countries I know best.

T said...

well, exactly that. i know what it looks like. how i benefit from this, i dont know, but atleast i now know.

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Rhythmic Diaspora said...

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Damith-TS said...

I think its to do with our fascination when it comes to something like this. I mean if this was the sort of video that was available to us on a daily basis this wouldnt be such a huge shock etc.

I think the Govt is using this as propaganda. Whether its to gain sympathy for the Govt or to show what goes on in our country to the outside world or to show any tamil youths in Sri Lanka or around the world as to what exactly their brethren are doing in the name of "Tamil Liberation".

Maybe it will help stop some young tamils entertaining ideas about joining/supporting the LTTE.

It IS def wrong that this was put out on the net but maybe it could do some good in the long run ?

Mikals said...

If only you saw the pictures they put in the papers. Especially some of the sinhala ones. It's not the mourning or the funeral beds that are scary, but the actual bodies they show. Bodies of the victims, body parts, victims been treated at the hospital, etc (something I would want to be very private if it's me or my family). Imagine the grief of a family memeber seen his/her loved one torn out by a bomb/stabbed by a knife and lying a pool of blood on national tv/or an islandwide newspaper.
purely disgusting.. makes you wonder where the ethical standards/morality of the editors of these papers are..

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

mikals - I agree with you about the ethical standards of the editors etc, but we're the people who read the papers and watch the videos. I'm sure the average newspaper editor would say that they only publish things they think are going to be read.

I watched the video, that alarms me.

Mikals said...

Well, I guess it raises the question of moral standards vs how many copies u sell. That's another topic.

But I really do doubt WE(Sri Lankan people) want to see pictures of dead people, dead in the sense not funerals, but dead carnage, etc.
If they do come across it they might shrug it off, but do you really think they'll be inquisitive to see a wrecked dead body? If it's your neighbour killed by the phsyco serial killer, yes u might have the urge to see how it happened, but a strangers dead body lying in a pool of blood on tv/paper ? A young school girl somewhat exposed on a hospital trolly being treated? I doubt so.
I feel nausea even when I see such pictures, and feel so sorry for the family members for having to go through the flaunting of their loved ones remains. How would you feel?
Inquisitive is not something I would feel. And I highly presume the general public of SL feel the same too.

IMO I think these papers don't have much to publish in their papers and lack journalistic creativity or whatever that is to put out an interesting paper, thus the enlarged gruesome photos all over the pages.

Further, these editors professionalism seems way below average if you ask me.
Sad state of affairs..

Anonymous said...

Please vote for Murali at:


Its a shame for Aussie media to do this again and again to baselessly create suspicion among people as this has been already cleared a million times. It just shows that they are jealous to see Warne's record taken over by a better bowler.

daytripper said...

isn't it just a question of what individual societies consider/accept to be normal?

two island cultures.

the brits perhaps would find pictures of death and grieving an intrusion of privacy, but would not bat an eyelid on opening the papers and seeing some celebrity captured with their pants down, or a boob out.

and yet over here, that is considered the ultimate intrusion of privacy.

and isn't it ironic? :)

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

daytripper - Yes, it's very contrasting isn't it? Although since Alanis Morrisette got her hands on the word I really haven't got a clue what irony is any more!

tracy said...

lol. and that in itself, is ironic.
i really enjoy reading your posts, its one of about five that i check regularly. your daughters scare me, especially as i have one of my own who is still tiny, but a bundle of opinionated obstinacy.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Tracy - Thank you very much. I never knew you popped into these parts!

daytripper said...

yes, am erratic but always interested :)