Monday, May 21, 2007

Fond Farewells

Writing an obituary is a depressing business. Not so much on account of any regrets you might have over losing the dear departed but more because convention dictates that one should find something nice to say of them.
Not always easy. And truth tends to have to take a back seat in many cases.
My late cousin was a highly respected Harley Street man. Apart from medicine, his principal interests were women and the turf. In pursuit of the latter (not the former) he got into the business of breeding racehorses and successfully cornered the market in slow ones. Had there been a demand for milk carts at the time, no doubt he would have cleaned up.
As it was, his obituary in The Times extolled his many virtues but, with laudable honesty, concluded “and a marginal judge of horseflesh.”
Obituarists of the late Jerry Falwell would have had a particularly tough time, I feel. Unless one happens to be a member of his mis-named “Moral Majority,” mis-named since it was far from being a majority and probably not very moral to boot, it would be hard to find much to praise. Although, by televangelistic standards, he appears to have kept himself scandal free, this may have been on account of his obeying that most relevant of commandments, the eleventh, “Thou shalt not be found out.”
Since he preached hatred of almost every group in the world who disagreed with him, few had much to say in his favour.
Newspapers routinely have pre-scripted obituaries on hand for emergencies, such as the death of a notable (it saves having to drag the sub-editor in of a weekend) and no doubt they have one prepared for Mr. Mugabe, a notorious tyrant, whose antics have been ignored by the major world powers, so keenly supportive of human rights where they impinge on their own affairs. Zimbabwe has no significance, oil or even Muslim interest and thus atrocities perpetrated there are barely mentioned. Britain, whose former colony it once was, seem totally disinterested in the fate of its former colonialists. Thus I wonder, what will the press have to say of Mr. Mugabe.
Writing of the death of a fellow actress, Bette Davis, that goggle-eyed charmer, once said that one should always find something good to say of the deceased.
She said, “So she’s dead. Good.”

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