Sunday, 5 July 2015

On Natural Selection and Unintended Irony

Cindy George aged 32 and her three children, Pio aged 5, Teuruaa aged 3, and Telyzshaun aged 2, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a house in Ashburton.

Pebbles Hooper, a 25 year-old gossip columnist and the 'socialite' daughter of two Kiwi fashion designers condemned Cindy George as a careless or delinquent parent whose death was 'natural selection'.

Hooper acknowledged she'd get 'major slack' (by which I presume she meant 'flak') i.e. she knew her comment would be controversial, but she was obviously unaware of just how offended so many people would be.

She first said that she stood by her view but then deleted the tweet. 

A statement, probably worded by her legal and/or PR advisers, was issued today in an attempt to ameliorate the ill-effects on her reputation and employability. 

I doubt I'm alone in finding these weasel words to be as offensive as the original tweet, if not more so.

find it hard to believe that Hooper would have written anything as callous and cruel about the woman in Whanganui who made a tragic mistake and forgot she had not delivered her toddler to day care and left him in her car where he died of heat exhaustion. 

So why did Hooper demonstrate both a callous indifference to four tragic deaths and a stunning arrogance in feeling entitled to express that opinion on a public forum?

I can only conclude she's not very bright and completely lacks empathy, and/or she intended the comment to shock in order to enhance her reputation as a person who has the guts to say the things that others only think.

The insertion of the outrageous and shocking to leaven the usual fare of banal trivia is standard stuff for today's gossip columnists - filling the void where intelligence, insight and wit ought to be - but the comment and the attitudes it betrayed went beyond even our modern pale.

Whilst I, like a lot of others, condemn Hooper for being an air-headed, stony-hearted scribbler who thought it was acceptable to sharpen her claws on a dead woman, I reserve a greater opprobrium for those who encourage her view of herself as remarkable and entitled. 

If Ms Hooper had bothered to do some research before she put finger to key pad she might have learned that CO poisoning is the most common form of poisoning world wide and is disturbingly common in NZ. 

This is because a lot of people do not know how toxic the completely odourless gas is, or the many ways in which it can be produced, or that the symptoms  of CO poisoning mimic other common ailments.  I doubt very many people realise that low level chronic exposure to CO can affect cognitive processes and, as the levels accumulate in the body, victims can become progressively more vulnerable to acute poisoning when they are exposed to higher levels of the gas.

I doubt it's well known that some people, by virtue of age, being smokers or having cardio-pulmonary health problems, are more at risk from CO poisoning.

Rather than cruelly labelling Cindy George as a careless or delinquent parent, Ms Hooper could have taken time to consider scenarios in which Ms George was just a tragic victim of a horrible accident.

She had 3 children under 5 to care for on her own.  She'd been asked to turn on a car kept in an attached garage so the battery would not go flat.  She was confronted with the problem of how to run the car safely, keep an eye on her small children, and not leave the house open to the bitterly cold weather, or to intruders.  

Perhaps leaving the internal door open was her solution to keeping her kids supervised and warm and fulfilling the request to run the car. Perhaps she was worried that if she left the garage open with the car running someone might steal it. Perhaps she thought that exhaust fumes were only dangerous if you run a hose into the car or that they wouldn't get into the house from the garage.  Perhaps she had not meant to leave the internal door open but was distracted by something indoors after she'd turned on the ignition and was on her way to turn the car engine off when the fumes overcame her. Perhaps this was because she was more susceptible to CO poisoning because of other health problems. 

We do not know and we may never know for certain.

What we do know is that Cindy George and her dead children deserve dignity in death, and her surviving children and other members of her family deserve our support and time to grieve and to heal.

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