Friday, 23 September 2016

Calling all anti-cancer heroes/Join the Rebellion against Cancer

These advertisements, supporting the Youtube “Stand up to Cancer” campaign, to be seen on bus shelters currently give an insight into the way that people now see themselves. Before I proceed I will acknowledge that in even presuming or daring to make comments on this campaign which do not amount to a wholehearted endorsement of it I run the risk of being roundly and unequivocally accused of not caring about people with cancer or not understanding that conducting research into a cure for cancer is, generally, a good thing; or, yet again, of being defeatist or complacent. In the face of such unreason I can defend myself only by saying I do commiserate with those unfortunate enough to get the disease and with their loved ones and I do think devoting our efforts to the search for a cure is a good thing. You either believe me or you do not.

Having got past that I’d like to proceed to what is really interesting me. That is the terms in which this campaign is couched. The narrative is that there is an evil oppressor – like a Saddam Hussein style dictator and, then, there is us – his subjects. Our role in the narrative is to stand up against him heroically, to say ‘no more!’ In modern times this is who we have to believe we are. We are Garibaldi, Che Guavara, or Simon Bolivar cocking a snook (or an AK47) at the forces of oppression. We are revolutionaries filled with heroic virtue and passion. This is fine except for two small facts – firstly we are not this thing, at least most of us are not. And secondly cancer is not an evil-intentioned dictator to whom personality can be ascribed and it may not even be, in the long run, defeatable. It may just be a function of mortality – one of the many ways in which death is eventually dealt to us all, one of the many ways in which our systems eventually pack up.

Whence this need to cast ourselves as heroes fighting a wicked tyrant who is, on principle, against life and happiness? Who is this imagined person? Is he/she just a chimera who exists (or not) just to facilitate the angry posture which we are striking? Does this ‘standing up’ to the bully Cancer actually mean anything at all? Might it smack a little of our trying to convince ourselves of an illusion which we think will materialize if we make enough noise?

One has to wonder also whether this approach is helpful to those many people who, while the campaign is in force, will be moving towards an unavoidable end thanks to cancer and are having it painfully demonstrated to them that, sometimes, at least, it is not possible to stand up to cancer. What’s next? – ‘Stand up to mortality?’

Recently on Social Media I witnessed a man demanding an explanation aloud (with many expletives) for why his elderly mother had died and he had had to pass on the news of her demise to his small children. He was full of indignation and outrage as if he had been sold a duff car and wanted a refund. His main priority seemed to be to convince his audience about how very angry he was at this intolerable development in his life and what a disappointment to his expectations it represented to him.

No comments :

Post a Comment