Well the Meghan and Harry interview has done its work in generating a lot of opinion and discussion. It seems to me that polarisation is likely to align along pre-established lines. Steve Kneale writes here about how it is likely to reflect culture with Meghan and Harry’s approach and therefore support reflecting a younger, new world culture.
I would also add that if you have experienced the harshness and toxic culture of an established institution, including the failings we’ve seen in church cultures and examples of toxic and abusive leadership then I suspect you are likely to sympathise with the Duke and Duchess. If you have on the other hand ever found yourself in a position where conventions, rules and a sense of duty constrain what you can and can’t say (including confidentiality rules) whilst others through gossip, insinuation, innuendo and half stories have put you and others under a cloud of suspicion that it is impossible to refute, then you are likely to find yourself sympathising with the Queen and the Cambridges (William and Kate).
If you’ve read my last couple of blog articles you will realise that I tend towards the critical end of the spectrum However, I also want to challenge those of us who are perhaps less sympathetic.
This morning, Christianity Magazine published this article about why not to watch the programme. The original article included the accusation that Meghan had played the race card, that phrase has now been dropped although other intentionally offensive comments such as a comparison to Mein Kampf are left in. The overall thrust is that the interviewees are self-seeking and using race and emotional health for money, fame and attention. This opinion is asserted as categorical fact, rather than what it is, opinion.
I was taught that when you debate, you deal with the substance of argument. However, you seek to have a charitable attitude to the motives of others and think the best of them. I was taught that as a general rule for debate when at University studying Law and as an essential Christian ethic when studying Theology. Imagine for comparison if we had suggested that the author of the article had written his article to get attention for himself and that it would lead to pay checks. Imagine that we suggested the magazine had gone to him and got him to write in such a way to generate views in order to build up their audience and get more subscriptions.
But my primary issue is this. You may or may not be disposed favourably towards particular people. You may like or dislike them. You may see an interview as a justifiable last resort in whistle blowing or you may see it as an inappropriate and unhelpful way of going about things. However, those opinions don’t actually touch on and therefore cannot take away from the substance of the matter.
At the heart of the matter are three issues
- Accusations of bullying and the creation of an abusive culture. Those accusations go both ways, from and against the royal couple.
- Reports of racism, both in terms of specific, personal comments and a systemic culture.
- Revelations of mental health issues, serious emotional distress and suicidal thoughts.
Our opinions on the setting of an interview and our like or dislike of personalities does not take away from those issues. Just because someone communicates in away we consider unhelpful does not mean that their reports of bullying and/or of racism are not true. Just because someone is rich, famous, in a position of power, successful etc does not mean that they are inoculated from emotional distress and suicidal thoughts.
So, my appeal to those watching the interview or hearing parts of it reported and going on to discuss it is that we try to do so in a way that is compassionate and respectful, that does not presume to see into hearts and judge motives.
I would also urge that those discussing and writing about the interview take those three issues :racism, bullying and mental health seriously.
The Christianity Magazine link now takes you to an apology from the magazine, they belatedly recognised that the original article was simply wrong. The author ihas a similar article for Christianity Today which questions whether rick people can be victims again showing a lack of understanding of abuse, bulling, racism and mental health