You have won a kidney… yoink!

There are some Dutch people out there feeling like gimps today. And not because they’ve woken from a night at an Amsterdam ‘coffee-shop’ to find that they’ve eaten their cat-litter (“crunchy”), tv remote (talk about drugs making you lose control) and their goldfish (“Nemo, nooooo!”). They’re probably feeling foolish and, if they are honest with themselves, as callous as the hard bit on someone’s hand that they get from doing a lot of manual labour.

Why? Because they probably texted to vote in that kidney donor reality show. And it turned out to be a hoax. You know the one. Three contestants in dire need of a transplant (each) and one terminally ill donor who would have to decide between them, based on text messages from viewers. On one hand, what a great idea. Shuffling off this mortal coil with some b-grade model with a fixed smile holding your arm as the voiceover beams: ‘tell her what she has won!’ has got to be better than the agony most renal failure patients go through, right? On the other hand, though… are you out of your mind?

People’s suffering and desperation should not be a source of our amusement. A friend of mine has a T-shirt saying: ‘So many Christians. Not enough lions’. It’s a great shirt because we feel safely distant from a world in which some people were deemed so worthless that their desperate struggle for life was a source of entertainment. That’s a million miles away from say, professional boxing. Our watching people from poor communities with no other way out of poverty beat each other into severe brain-damage and applauding their guts (not literally in most cases) from the safety of our couches is nothing like that.

Watching some of the apparently mentally deficient contestants on any number of popular reality shows fight, cry, have sex and demean themselves in juvenile tasks, all for money that might as well be dangled over them on a fish-hook, is equally civilised. As is our reaction when they occasionally slip into racism or other blunders, for which we and our media will crucify them, though only once we’ve finished watching – this is getting good, could you pass me the crisps? There’s a luv.

My counterculture friends and I are equally guilty. There’s nothing like a self-destructive rock-star, because you can really ‘feel the pain in his music, man.’ As are we liberal intellectual, current affairs types (the fascists who rejoice at every 50 insurgents killed are really too easy a target) who watch the war to make our points about politics in general, who don’t quite rejoice that Iraq is a mess but do find any reports of improvements in conditions there inconvenient.

Many were outraged last week at the prospect of a TV show featuring pictures of Princess Dianna moments before her death. Yet we happily watch footage of JFK’s assassination. That cannot just be because she was ours or she was prettier, can it? A key icon of our faith is the naked, beaten, brutalised image of our Saviour as he dies of suffocation following torture. Are we only okay with that because we know it has a happy ending?

As Christ transformed violent death into a source of hope, do we have a duty, or at least an opportunity, to turn the horrific events, images and situations in our world into catalysts for compassion and reflection on eternal priorities? It seems unlikely if we continue to see our options as only either cocooning ourselves from reminders of suffering or text-voting for who lives and dies. And that will only change when we stop viewing life through a television and stop wishing we could change the world’s channel.

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3 Responses

  1. Absolutely brilliant…loved every word.

  2. you are most kind

  3. They often do the same thing with person-to-person adoptions. The birth mother meeting with multiple families and deciding who will get her child.

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