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"Never Speaking Ill Of The Dead: Selective Practice?" Topic


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Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 9:19 a.m. PST

1) I still don't understand this selective aversion to speaking ill of the dead. Generally never done in the US and a few other places but, on the other hand, evil dictators (past and present) are fair game?

2) Most importantly . . . If I could not appreciate, stand or respect a person while alive, wouldn't it be hyprocrisy on my part to, all of a sudden, express respect just because they have died?

I don't get it. This selective aversion must be an ideal carried over from past cultural, religious or superstitious thinking (Roman and Greek), but only picked up today by the US, UK, and a few other peoples:

link

Someone please explain this inconsistency to me. Not trying to be controversial. Just being honest, as I never grew up with a selective application of this practice. I have a feeling that most of my people will "dance on the graves" of the hated without a second thought.

CC

highlandcatfrog26 Aug 2009 9:23 a.m. PST

I agree with you wholeheartedly, but since I don't want to end up in the DH I shall not express my thoughts on the most recent obituary thread.

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 9:28 a.m. PST

Perhaps later then? After that discussion has run its course? Though not about a recent obituary please – just in general.

I really want to hear your thoughts on 1) the selective application of this – ok to do with some people and not others – and 2) the change in tone some people take, particularly if it was someone they hated while alive (appears like borderline hypocrisy for some of us).

Thanks for understanding that here I'm not trying to be controversial about any one obituary announcement.

CC

Photonred26 Aug 2009 9:28 a.m. PST

And yet when Reagen, Ford and Ann Richards, died some had no problem with their comments.

DontFearDareaper Fezian26 Aug 2009 9:54 a.m. PST

There are plenty of forums besides this one for those who want to speak ill of the recently departed. The rules for obituaries are clearly outlined in the FAQ. Do the rules on occasion appear to be applied unevenly … sure, but as has so often been quoted before, "Bill's House, Bill's Rules".

You can always rant on Frothers where it's open season on pretty much anyone or anything.

Dave

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 9:58 a.m. PST

Dave,

I understand that Bill's rules are his, and the reason I show a certain level of restraint – as difficult as it might be in some circumstances.

But those other forums seem to be a minority to me, particularly when compared to how graciously people talk in the tv news when people pass away.

Do you think then that it is simply an individual selective practice, or is there a real cultural aversion (in the US, UK, and a few other places) to do this (in general)? If so, is it a new practice?

CC

adub7426 Aug 2009 10:13 a.m. PST

"selective application"

I don't see an inconsistent application. Within the first few days, it is customary (and the rule here on TMP) to speak of the good things people have done and wish the family well through this tough time. This is as more a favor to the family, friends and supporters. After a reasonable time of mourning, the gloves can come off and more critical views may be expressed. After years, you don't even have to be nice about it.

***note: after you're last post, i think your asking more of a sociological question. feel free to ingore the following paragraph***

Inconsistency in punishing for breaking the rules is a general problem for TMP and nothing specific to this rule. Call the OFM a doo doo head will get you in the DH only about half the time. This is due to the Editors inability to police every thread, abritary use of the complaint button, and general mood swings of the Editor.

The only exception I do see is if the person was an enemy to all humanity. Timothy McVeigh and Jeffrey Dahmer would get very little if any time of mourning.

But Ted, along with most politicians, movie stars, and sports figures, doesn't qualify as an enemy of humanity. Disagree with his politics is OK. Disagree with that all of the events surrounding Kopechna's death, Ok. Even today, druken vehicular hommicide--depending on circumstance--is still a fairly forgivable offence (an accident vs. murder). But he's still a Senator, repected by many and, as with most people who die, should be afforded a period of mourning.

In other words. Wait a few weeks and then call Ted a doo doo head.

Col Durnford Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2009 10:17 a.m. PST

Simple good manners. Not shared with everyone. If you ever see a guy with a baseball cap on in a restaurant it will not be me. Same reason I have no comment on some Obits. If you can't say something good and all that.

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 10:18 a.m. PST

"The only exception I do see is if the person was an enemy to all humanity. Timothy McVeigh and Jeffrey Dahmer would get very little if any time of mourning."

Some would describe that as inconsistent application of a rule ("an exception"):

link

CC

GoodBye26 Aug 2009 10:19 a.m. PST

My thoughts are that the recent dead are no longer ours to judge as they are unable to defend themselves.

They belong to the creator and history for judgement and neither of those are the rights of men in the few days following the event.

When Charles Manson passes, I'm not going to miss or mourn him, I also don't see any point celebrating his death. I'll most likely just keep my mouth shut for a few days.

Donald~

DontFearDareaper Fezian26 Aug 2009 10:20 a.m. PST

If we are talking strictly about cultural taboo's I can't really speak to English tradition and culture but in the US I think its been generally considered impolite at best going all the way back to the time of the pilgrims.

In terms of the forum, I remember Bill writing at one point that he didn't want anything in the obituary thread to be written that couldn't or shouldn't be read by a member of the deceased's family.

In general, there is no real reason to speak of the dead outside the obituary thread on TMP unless it is in the context of military history and wargaming. Within that context, the rules are greatly relaxed. For example, there have been a number of lists or polls about who was the worst commander, often with scathing comments about the poster's choice.

Dave

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 10:22 a.m. PST

"I'll most likely just keep my mouth shut for a few days."

Do people in this culture give other evil individuals the same break for a few days? I wasn't around when Hitler died? How was the news received here in the US?

CC

lugal hdan26 Aug 2009 10:23 a.m. PST

I think the idea comes from the Christian (or maybe specifically Catholic) idea that you pray for someone's soul after their death, which may or may not help them towards their ultimate fate. (Google "pergatory" and "limbo" for a proper explanation, I don't want to get into defending Catholic theology as I'm ill equipped to do so.)

Speaking Ill of the Dead is sort of an anti-prayer, and unless you're willing to consign the deceased to Hell, then you should hold your tongue.

Simply disliking someone and wishing them eternal damnation seems to be the line.

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 10:24 a.m. PST

"If we are talking strictly about cultural taboo's I can't really speak to English tradition and culture but in the US I think its been generally considered impolite at best going all the way back to the time of the pilgrims."

Ah. Thanks. That's exactly what I was trying to find out here!

Do you recall where you read or heard that? I really want to know.

CC
PS. Basically, I don't just like to know what people do (meaning cultures, not individuals) but, most importantly, WHY they do what they do. Is there an underlying factor for that particular culture vs others (like mine)?

GoodBye26 Aug 2009 10:27 a.m. PST

Do people in this culture give other evil individuals the same break for a few days? I wasn't around when Hitler died? How was the news received here in the US?

Sorry CC I was born in 1956, well before my time. I tried to use the Manson analogy as he is the most evil living human being I could think of at the moment.

I suspect lh is close in his assessment, maybe stemming from the judge not lest you be judged bit.

It does seem a tad impolite at the very least to offer disgraceful or ill words about the recently deceased as in almost all cases somebody is in pain over the passing. I suspect even Manson will have someone mourn for him at his passing.

D~

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 10:32 a.m. PST

DRDHauser,

No problem. Much appreciated.

My Dad fought in WWII, in the US Army. But, being from Puerto Rico, just about everyone there follows the practice of "dancing on the graves" of the severely disliked or hated. And there were a lot of celebrations for Hitler's death and others on the island – so I'm told by a lot of the old ones.

The "never speak ill of the dead" tradition here is very foreign to me, meaning I will not understand it until I find the source/origin.

Thanks again. Good example though.

CC

Streitax26 Aug 2009 10:33 a.m. PST

Well, I don't recall great outbursts of public rejoicing whe Saddam Hussein was executed. Perhaps the messiness of the execution had a 'calming' effect, I don't know.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2009 10:34 a.m. PST

I think it's a mixture of "gentlemanly behavior" and "flogging a dead horse," modified by a situation where an individual knows what the majority opinion of society is regarding the deceased. So, for example, the overwhelming majority of people on TMP would hold the opinion that Adolf Hitler was a genocidal maniac worthy of eternal torment, and a member here would likely feel no social restriction whatsoever on stating the same. Conversely, Mother Teresa is widely revered, and there is strong social pressure against offering criticism of her, especially after her death, whereas statements of praise would be expected. However, a figure who is more controversial and about whom opinions are more mixed, such as a political figure, will cause those concerned with "gentlemanly" social rules to keep silent so as not to offend other's grief or desire to praise the deceased. Others might withhold comment out of the observation that criticizing a dead opponent does nothing to the deceased, who is beyond all influence, and (at least in Western culture) is an act that is socially disapproved of, reflecting poorly on the critic.
Note that there are always those who either couldn't care less about social niceties, or are simply motivated by a juvenile desire to offend, and will comment negatively regardless of the socially dominant view. Others may feel (somewhat logically) that death in and of itself does nothing to make noble one whom they feel was ignoble, nor does it magically grace flawed arguments with the weight of infallibility, and therefore will feel no restriction whatsoever on expressing logically critical views. And others are just filled with spite.

On TMP, of course, the threat of DH-ing will naturally temper responses.

I myself take the viewpoint that some comments aren't worth the hassle, and 'tis better, if one has nothing good to say about the deceased, to say nothing.

DontFearDareaper Fezian26 Aug 2009 10:34 a.m. PST

I think hdan has the jist of it. In western culture the practice has it roots in catholicism and the concept of pergatory.

I know it was something I was taught as a child along with other things like not wearing a hat indoors, opening doors for women, not swearing in front of children, etc.

dave

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 10:35 a.m. PST

Streitax,

Intersting you should bring up Hussein. I got into a lot of trouble (with lots of TMP members and Bill) for saying some things at that time (and for posting a video clip).

Parzival,

From what you describe, seems like after the two obvious extremes on overly good and overly evil, there are 4 clearly defined groups. I was thinking a little too simplistically it seems. Thanks for the good analysis.

Don'tFearDaReaper,

Hmm. And yet, most other (mostly) Catholic countries seem to follow the "dance on their graves" attitude. That's why I thought it was more a cultural than strictly a religious limitation. And a different accepted view of what is considered "common courtesy" or "gentlemanly".

CC

Connard Sage26 Aug 2009 10:41 a.m. PST

It's just a common courtesy, an extension of 'if you can't say anything good, say nothing'

Mass murderers, dictators, and general low life scum have exempted themselves by their own actions of course.

ArchiducCharles26 Aug 2009 10:48 a.m. PST

- And yet, most other (mostly) Catholic countries seem to follow the "dance on their graves" attitude. -

Aaaah? I'm Catholic, French Canadian, and we don't usually dance on the recently deceased graves, either. As Connard said, common courtesy.

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 10:50 a.m. PST

Hmm.

Italian, Spaniard, Latin American (including Brazilians) and even African Catholics seem to follow a different set of rules from their decendants in the US, Canada, and other English-speaking cultures.

As for the practice followed by the French, or their descendants elsewhere, I am not really all that familiar.

CC

ArchiducCharles26 Aug 2009 10:53 a.m. PST

I think the French attitude is similar to "English" culture,as you put it, which might explain the French Canadian attitude.

Connard Sage26 Aug 2009 10:54 a.m. PST

Now racism rears it's ugly head. This thread's heading downhill fast.

Somebody take the shovel off him, for God's sake.

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 10:56 a.m. PST

Connard,

Racism??? Where do you get that? Who's attacking what race, religion or culture here? Aren't cultures different and for different (and sometimes ancient) reasons? Or are we not allowed to discuss those reasons without being labeled "racists"?

I don't get it.

I think this discussion is being carried out in a reasonable and non-offensive way. Or am I missing something? Or is someone reading too much into what is being said?

CC

Oddball26 Aug 2009 10:58 a.m. PST

Put me in that "Dance On Your Grave" group.

I don't change my views on a person just because they have died. There are several that I heard they "won't be coming down for breakfest" that I have fired up the grill with a steak and drank a scotch to celebrate.

That reminds me. I've got to go to the grocery store.

DontFearDareaper Fezian26 Aug 2009 11:00 a.m. PST

I decided to do a little googling on the subject.

link

There is a suprising dearth of information or maybe my google-fu is just weak. The one common thread I found was that most articles that broach the subject attribute it to a latin phrase whose first recorded use is by Diogenes Laërtius in "Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers", where he attributes it to Chilon of Sparta.

Dave

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 11:03 a.m. PST

Oddball,

If you don't mind me asking . . . is that a personal view or based on upbringing (common values in your culture, religion, etc.)?

Please, you don't have to answer if you don't feel comfortable doing so.*

CC
* I wouldn't want Connard (and maybe others) to feel I was being a "racist" here. :)

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 11:06 a.m. PST

Don'tFearDaReaper,

I found the Greek reference, and one single Roman quote. However, after that I only found references to British sources in the early Renaissance.

I cannot find anything in between, or even any recent source outside of Britain and other English-speaking countries.

You are right. Not much out there it seems.

CC

Connard Sage26 Aug 2009 11:13 a.m. PST

Steering swiftly away from racism/cultural differences. Which are often the same thing…

It may owe something to 'do as you would be done by', another common courtesy.

Turn it around. Maybe you don't expect to be eulogised after you're dead, but would you be happy if someone told your family that they thought you were a Bleeped text in life and that they're glad you're dead? Would you? Honestly?

Common courtesies don't seem too common these days.

ArchiducCharles26 Aug 2009 11:15 a.m. PST

- I don't change my views on a person just because they have died –

Me neither. But you won't see me at his funerals, spitting on his coffin, either. He might have been a Bleeped text, and I might be happy he's dead, but I still don't think it is acceptable to insult him on his own obituary or his funerals. In that case, I will just shut up.

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 11:21 a.m. PST

Connard: "Common courtesies don't seem too common these days."

That is exactly the point!!!

What is considered "common courtesy" in one place is not considered "common courtesy" in others. What is considered "gentlemanly" in one place, is entirely baffling in another.

Doesn't mean that (or this) location is wrong. Just different. Or are you offended by that and consider it as "racism"?

And, as far as I can tell, this is still a forum with members that are very multinational and multicultural.

CC

Oddball26 Aug 2009 11:27 a.m. PST

Cacique,

More a personal choice than upbringing.

I dislike hypocrites and strive not be be one.

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 11:28 a.m. PST

Oddball,

Understood. Thanks for the sincerity.

I guess that, in my case, it was upbringing*. Though I later grew up to agree with it.

CC
* Immediate family, plus aunts, uncles, friends, teachers, media, you name it. At least while I was growing up.

Space Monkey26 Aug 2009 11:36 a.m. PST

I think it's kind of childish to celebrate someone's death.
Doubly childish to think you need to jump into an obituary thread to announce that celebration.

Mind you, I've had my own battle with childishness over the demise of various public figures… I'm just saying I think it's a regrettable inclination.

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 11:43 a.m. PST

"Mind you, I've had my own battle with childishness over the demise of various public figures… I'm just saying I think it's a regrettable inclination."

LOL. Does that explain part of your TMP name/"handle"? :)

I think I'll start calling myself "caciquito caribe". I kinda like it!

CC

Space Monkey26 Aug 2009 11:50 a.m. PST

Does that explain part of your TMP name/"handle"?
I'm not sure how it would so I guess it doesn't.

K

EDIT: Oh, wait… hah… now I get it. Yeah, I guess you're right.

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 11:52 a.m. PST

Venus"Boys"3, as in "child" (like in your comment – where you refer to "childish")?

I thought that your quote above was an intentional (and very clever) pun. Sorry, I guess I read too much into it. :)

CC

Mapleleaf26 Aug 2009 12:08 p.m. PST

Read your Shakespeare

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar

So what else is news

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 12:18 p.m. PST

I like that!

Thanks.

CC

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 12:53 p.m. PST

OK guys.

Just in case I can't use the PM feature for a while while I'm "on the other side" (DH), take care, have fun and stay cool.

Dan
TMP link

Space Monkey26 Aug 2009 1:14 p.m. PST

I hope you don't get DH'd CC… I like your posts.
You do seem to have worked yourself up into a lather though… maybe just some self enforced time away from the keyboard… an hour or so to drink cocktails on the veranda… would do your nerves some good.

kyoteblue26 Aug 2009 1:21 p.m. PST

Good idea !!!!

Cacique Caribe26 Aug 2009 2:05 p.m. PST

Headed to the liquor store right now . . .

CC
PS. Maybe I'm just tired in general. I miss the wife, the dogs and home.

richarDISNEY26 Aug 2009 2:19 p.m. PST

I find it funny that less than a week before Michael Jackson's death, there were sill people making jokes about him and kids and surgeries and drugs… Now that he passed on, they are all gushing over how great of a person he was. I find that odd.

I don't get it, either Cacique Caribe …. Which liquor store? Meet you there!

beer

adub7426 Aug 2009 2:28 p.m. PST

" inconsistent application of a rule ("an exception"):"

You have a rule without an exception? A rare thing indeed!

Neotacha26 Aug 2009 2:52 p.m. PST

link

Not sure how accurate that is – it's on the web, so probably take with a grain of salt, but here's another bit of background.

Personal logo Wyatt the Odd Supporting Member of TMP Fezian26 Aug 2009 4:05 p.m. PST

TMP aside, it appears to be largely a English tradition to not speak ill of the dead. Assuming that Shakespeare wasn't quoting Antony's monologue verbatim, it would appear that even in the Bard's period, it was customary to say something nice about the recently deceased (at least in public):

"ANTONY: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interrèd with their bones.
So let it be with Caesar…"

Note that in this, Antony is recognizing that he is making an exception to normal practice.

Going back to Egypt and Greece, there are extant examples of people cursing the departed through a variety of means.

"But those other forums seem to be a minority to me, particularly when compared to how graciously people talk in the tv news when people pass away."

TV News is an aberration. Or, if you will, it is an exaggeration of US cultural norms. The producers will invite commentary, even from political enemies who will go out of their way to keep positive.

I think that in that case, it boils down to being setting yourself up for criticism and being seen as a petty individual by the nation if you pillory the deceased.

The question is, how long does the departed have to be dead before you can badmouth them. The going rate seems to be 10 years and falling. After Nixon's death, you would be hard-pressed to find someone saying negative things about him other than commenting on the Watergate incident in passing – and then in the most neutral manner. But, less than a decade down the road, you have the usual muck-raking and investigative reporting.

Caveat: Michael Jackson is the (current) exception. Anna Nichole Smith was another one. That largely goes back to the media and its need to sell stories. If/when Amy Winehouse or LiLo meet with a tragic end, you'll probably see a "grace period" of one week.

EDIT: I just NOW saw Mapleleaf's use of the same quote. Like minds think great!

Wyatt

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2009 4:48 p.m. PST

Assuming that Shakespeare wasn't quoting Antony's monologue verbatim, it would appear that even in the Bard's period, it was customary to say something nice about the recently deceased (at least in public):

"ANTONY: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interrèd with their bones.
So let it be with Caesar…"

Note that in this, Antony is recognizing that he is making an exception to normal practice.

True, but Antony's speech is also intentionally ironic. He is pointing out the absurdity of Brutus and Cassius both speaking in praise of the man they have just conspired to murder as an enemy of the Republic. By doing so he establishes them as hypocrites; either Caesar was an enemy of Rome and deserves both death and vilification— in which case their speeches make them liars— or he was not an enemy of Rome, and they themselves are the true enemies of the Republic. It's a very clever rhetorical trap that in fact relies on the illogic of the social rule "to speak no ill of the dead."

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