Maybe it has always been thus—the crowd baying in the arena for more gore, more death. The angry revolutionary mob laying hands on whomever and administering ‘justice’ with the zeal of victors rather than the just. People taking picnics to hangings to enjoy the day out at someone else’s expense.
The ranting mob on social media has taken their place—purveyors of right and wrong, acting as judge, jury and executioner. Irish horse trainer Gordon Elliott certainly felt it recently.
A picture from 2019 surfaced of him sitting astride a horse which had dropped dead of a heart attack on his training ground. Granted, not the most appropriate of postures, but it certainly wasn’t the pose the big game ‘hunters’ celebrating the demise of a beautiful creature.
In his own words he explained,
“The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops. I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo but nothing could be further from the truth... I was standing over the horse waiting to help with the removal of the body, in the course of which, to my memory I received a call and, without thinking, I sat down to take it.”
And in that moment someone snapped a photo.
But it is what happened after the image surfaced that illustrates yet again the appetite for public excoriation and the destruction of an individual. As one denounces, often devoid of facts and failing to take time to establish a context, others rush in for fear of being seen to be tardy in condemnation. Then a series of one-upmanship begins, of raising the stakes in self-righteousness, each one matching or out-doing the other. Until a person is ruined. Or ‘cancelled’ as the new term is.
In Elliott’s case, owners have been removing horses from his stables, sponsors have cut ties, and he has been banned from racing for a year with six months suspended.
In a massive irony the betting company Betfair said, “his actions are completely at odds with the values of the Betfair brand.” Given that the gambling industry sits atop its own colossal pile of misery—people in glass houses and all that…
But all of this is only an indicator of things we have lost as a society.
We have lost perspective. It is apparently fine to be concerned about a deceased horse, while being part of a baying crowd that seeks to destroy a man. In our rush to virtue signal, or to vindicate our own omniscient appraisal of a situation, we lose perspective—we lose sight of the person. I have just finished reading Dan Walker’s lovely book Remarkable People. In it he reflects on the suicide of his friend, the footballer, Gary Speed. And one of the things he comments on is the need to remember the person behind the story, and how we treat them. We need to regain perspective.
We have lost forgiveness. An apology was given, forgiveness was sought. But we seem to be at a place in society where forgiveness cannot be granted. We slam those who are too arrogant to apologise and those who offer weak conditional apologies. But since we give no forgiveness what point is there in apologising? We live in a time where there seems to be no redemption; damnation has to be followed through on, for even when forgiveness is sought, it will not be given.
What does this say about our souls? Is there no grace? Why not? We race to condemn because we desperately want there to be people worse than us. Condemning others convinces us that we are somehow righteous ourselves. But God warns, “By the measure you judge others, you yourself will be judged.” The last thing we want is God to judge, instead we need mercy.
How we should be ready to forgive, to extend to others what we long for from them, and more importantly what we long for from God. Jesus warns that an unforgiving nature in us can expect no forgiveness from him on the Day of Judgment (see Matthew 18:21-35).
“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” (Luke 11:4)