This entry is difficult to write – as it starts with a tragedy involving other people, none known to me, and as it is based in the reporting of this which touched a nerve with me, but beyond that connected with reporting of many other events over the last two or more years, in terms of their reporting and of prevalent discourse.
The landslide in Dorset was dreadful. My heart goes out to those who have suffered in this event and to the kin and friends of the woman who died; in particular her boyfriend and his father, participants in the same event, escaping narrowly themselves. I must say, from the outset, that this entry is not about these people but is about the reporting of the tragic circumstances of which they were part.
So, to the reporting. I was disturbed, distressed – as an outsider, and one who looks at discourse and presentation of media items – by the way it was portrayed on telly; and seeing this, as a discourse researcher, as part of an ongoing trend.
“The beach was packed with families enjoying...’ No, it wasn’t necessarily. There were people there, it was packed with people in various interrelationships, young, old, singles, couples, children running and playing, carers, friends, dogs, seagulls, and yes, boyfriends and girlfriends; and all with relationships and other connections to other generations. I am so tired of hearing that only ‘families’, whatever these are, matter, with the implication, increasing with every usage, that anybody else – say, a child who comes to a place with friends and a mutual carer, whether a babysitter or a grandparent – is outside the pale.
Let’s give just one example of beach-goers – this from my own childhood, an expedition to Lunan Bay in Angus. My mother was invited by a friend to go there. The small party of four included: the driver; her grand-daughter, my friend; my mother; myself. I was then around five or maybe six years of age. We were not ‘a family’, but were a party that much enjoyed our collective day at the beach. People live and have their beings in groupings that are not easily described or conceptualised but should not be wiped away by a simple descriptor of ‘family’.
This discourse of ‘families’ is increasingly prevalent and my question is what it may do to other ways of living that don’t fit within the neo-conservative version of how ‘families’, defined in some way, connect to their big society. Doesn't 'bigness' go beyond the bounds of 'family'?