Saturday, January 18, 2014

Public or private?


I saw the picture of a still born baby of twenty weeks on someone’s blog yesterday.  The folks at Mamamia put it up in the interests of helping people who have suffered a miscarriage.  

It shocked me and clearly, not only me. The editors at Mamamia equivocated about putting up the pictures as well. 

There’s something devastating and surreal about the sight of such a tiny underdeveloped baby, one who should still be inside his mother’s womb and alive, not outside in the world before-term and dead.
 
I do not oppose the publication of such images on line because something tells me the motive behind their publication is not one of inducing gratuitous shock.  It's more an effort to help people share the load of their grief.

So many horrible things are otherwise veiled in secrecy and hidden from the public view.  People must bear the worst of it alone. 

My own miscarriage happened when my baby was only ten weeks into life.  There was no foetus to be seen.  It was no less traumatic for me for that, but to get to twenty weeks and lose a baby would have to be worse.  The further into a pregnancy, the more alive that baby becomes in one’s imagination, and to lose a baby full term must be worst of all. 

But why compare these events?   They are all ghastly in their own right.  The thing about this woman publishing the photos from her still born baby’s brief stay in the world is meaningful in a world where many would prefer not to know the details.  While others search for them.  
 
I had an email recently from a woman who read some of my writing and cannot understand my motives for writing about the traumatic events from my childhood and my attempts now as an adult to understand them through my writing.  She believes my musings belong in a diary or journal.  They are not for publication.
 
Clearly, there’s a whole range of views about what is fit for the public view and what should stay private.  

As one who comes from an incestuous family, I lean towards more exposure of these things in the public view because too much secrecy can be dangerous.  Witness Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers of renown.
 
I also recognise the wish I felt when I saw that unborn baby not yet ready for the world, my wish to turn away, and not to see something so disturbing, so raw, so unprocessed. 

And then there’s all this derision for those who take selfies and put them online, particularly, the pretty young women.  Narcissism, the critics say.  On the other hand, it seems it’s okay for any other person to take a self portrait, including centuries of artists who have recreated their self images as one of least difficult ways to get a model and so practice their craft.
 
Narcissism or artistry?  Catharsis or gratuitous shocking of unwitting and unwilling others?  

Who knows?  As far as I can tell, the jury is still undecided.

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