Private troubles and public issues

Not a brilliant week in some ways. We were kind of pole-axed by the letter from Katrina Percy in response to questions raised here. Rich was at Fulham with Tom and Owen on Wednesday evening when we received the email from Charlotte, our solicitor. The day before they received GCSE results (and both did brilliantly, love em). I was at home.

I don’t want to say much about the letter and luckily I don’t need to. George Julian has written a careful and thorough commentary in three parts, starting here. Grannie Wise made a welcome return to blogging about it.

For us, fourteen months after LB died, and having been on the receiving end of the shite detailed laboriously on these pages, this response to a very straightforward set of questions (which really should never have to be asked in the first place) was a pounding too far. I felt sick on and off for the next couple of days.

I recently gave a talk in which I thought about private troubles and public issues, terms used by American sociologist C.Wright Mills. I argued that while the grief we were experiencing (and would likely continue to experience for our lifetimes) was a private trouble, LB’s death was a public issue. His death was an issue that should concern us all. It underlines how society perceives people like him to be not fully human.

In the letter, Katrina Percy was very much framing what had happened as a private trouble. Her trust had done absolutely everything right and we were just a nuisance. Even down to her insistence that questions would only be answered in a face to face setting. The most micro level. Meanwhile, over in the States, the annual conference of The society for Social Problems (SSSP) was taking place. The SSSP ‘is a diverse sociological community for scholars, activists, and practitioners, committed to social justice’. Mark Sherry, whose students made such a remarkable contribution to #107days, was at the conference and proposed a resolution around what had happened to LB.

(‘SSSP resolutions constitute an important opportunity for our scholar-activist membership to publicly declare their sentiments, thereby creating a channel for greater visibility and more direct influence upon a variety of “publics,” i.e., fellow activists, scholars, students, decision-makers, social action groups, voters, and others.’)

Yesterday morning I got this message from Mark on facebook;

Sara, there were hundreds of people involved in motion. It went to a Directors (or Chairs) meeting, before it went to the general assembly. There were some minor ammendments, and people wanted elaboration, but it eventually passed unanimously. I was very moved, I left that session close to tears. There are good people in the world. I will scan it and send the entire resolution to you. But the massive outcome is this: “Be it further resolved that SSSP add a special session at our next conference in honor of Connor Sparrowhawk. The session will ensure that the issue continues to be discussed into the following year, with scholars examining the social problem further.”

A very public issue. And enormous thanks to Mark and the SSSP.

4 thoughts on “Private troubles and public issues

  1. Likely very incongruous, but what kept going through my mind as I learned more than I would want to about KP was John Donne’s famous Meditation, and the line “Everyman’s death diminishes me”.

    Of course this is a public issue; as well as a searing, devastating wound to you. A “Leader” who even thinks you could or should “move on” is terrifying. KP just doesn’t seem to get that where she is leading to is the concern here. She does not see herself, and her role, as diminished, and she does not seem to see it as anything other than a personal tragedy to you (which it is, of the worst kind) easily contained if only you would see through her eyes.

    I don’t know how you found the courage to resist that. I am not sure many of us would – which is what KP counts on. Not easy to deal with the self-styled leaders, and the power they assume they have. But this genie is out of the bottle, and KP might just have to come to terms with that.

  2. Many people care so much Sara. Yesterday I had a little day out with my stepdaughter and grandchildren. I see them just a few times a year. In the playground Cath and I had a few moments. I told her about Connor. We both looked at his photograph and shared a moment thinking of you as Mums.

  3. KP needs to be more carefull with her words and her letters , this is coporate manslaugter at the least and yes miss KP YOU ARE AT THE TOP OF THE TREE AT THE MOMENT.

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