Insensitivity

Dot writes: on Wednesday night both Ken and I woke in the small hours and noticed that the rain sounded very heavy and there was even a bit of thunder. Then we went back to sleep, and when we got up for the day Ken cycled off to UCD and I spent the day mostly indoors with Hugh, apart from a rather damp walk. We visited my friend Sarah and Hugh played with her little boys (or rather, he played with their toys: he is still a bit young for real co-operative play). We had a nice day.

Apparently, according to this morning’s Metro, that heavy rain we heard caused flash flooding in several parts of Dublin. The DART was closed south of Dun Laoghaire (i.e. our bit of the line), the M1 tunnel was ‘a lake’, traffic was deadlocked and householders faced ‘misery’. Only we didn’t notice. Isn’t it odd how often that happens? These spectacular events occur – distastrous, if it’s your living room full of water or your car floating off down the road – and a few hundred yards away people carry on oblivious. But in the media it’s all that seems to be happening. (I remember when there were the big floods in York in 2000 you’d think from the television the whole town was under water – especially as they kept showing pictures of the King’s Arms, which floods every year anyway – but my house was only two roads back from the Ouse and completely unaffected.)

The world of television and newspapers is like one of those strange homunculi they draw to illustrate the nervous system, with the size of each area determined by how many nerve endings it has – huge lips and huge hands and tiny little skinny legs. In fact, the analogy is rather a good one, because the size of each place in the media’s eyes depends not just on whether it’s just had a flash flood or a presidential election or a dead popstar, but also on whether anybody is bothering to pay attention to it. They have a lot more to put up with than heavy rain in the Congo, I would have thought, but I can’t think when the Metro last mentioned it.

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