Jacintha Saldanha deserves to be more than a fable

Turning this nurse's fate into a lesson for modern society ignores the truth

Share
Related Topics

With 2Day FM's decision to cancel its Christmas party, and promise of a £320,000 donation to Jacintha Saldanha's family, a full stop, or at least a semi-colon, may now be written in to the narrative of her death. A large sum of money, and a promise not to have any fun: these are the kinds of expressions of regret we can understand.

Since the donation will do so much for Saldanha's mourning loved ones, and since this is all that really matters, it is impossible to wish it hadn't happened. As a public act, though, its effects are mostly for the worse. The difficult thing about understanding the Jacintha Saldanha story is that it seems like a parable of modern life, and this coda only serves to confirm it as such. It features a pregnant royal, and a media frenzy, and an innocent's untimely death, apparently the product of that vampiric glee. It reads like a tragedy fuelled by our obsession with celebrity, carrying an awful echo of the accident that killed Diana. And now there is a reckoning.

But those external circumstances have very little to do with Jacintha Saldanha, a woman about whom we know only the most banal particulars: woman, immigrant, nurse, mother of two, 46. Making a fable of her death, although it may feel like an act of respect, is really nothing of the kind. It turns her from an actual person, who may have died for any number of reasons utterly beyond our reach, into a projection of the culture, important as a device for making a series of arguments about the way we live, but otherwise to be discarded, as she soon will be, by everyone but those who loved her. What dignity is there in this? Blame, in the circumstances, is not to be distributed by the likes of us.

Perhaps there is an argument to the contrary. But I am only prepared to entertain it if it is made by someone whose view that the stunt could be deadly was formed before they heard of Jacintha Saldanha's fate, and not after. It would help if they didn't swing from hand-wringing over this tragedy to vacuous glee at the humiliation machine of the X Factor, too. To condemn the radio station at such a furious pitch now without such qualifications is nothing but hypocrisy, a vigorous contribution to the same culture supposedly being condemned.

One imagines that there are people at 2Day FM who also see it this way. But it doesn't take a seasoned PR operative to see that in the current climate, to say so would be a foolish move. That may mean that their donation is a publicity stunt. It is perhaps a marker of how depressing this whole affair is that it would be hard to blame them, even so. In the circumstances, cynicism is the only rational response.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform