Stiff upper lip days are over as public emotions spill out

Neighbours leave floral tributes after two people were killed after a house exploded in Riddings, near Alfreton, on Sunday, September 20.

Neighbours leave floral tributes after two people were killed after a house exploded in Riddings, near Alfreton, on Sunday, September 20.

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Time was that we were known for, and quite proud of, the stiff upper lip and our sang froid. Those times seem to be long gone.

Now we see more commemorative flowers onroadside ‘shrines’ or even park benches than we do in the cemeteries.

The growth in the number of tattoos means that people are literally wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

Somehow, a single photograph, sad as it may have been, has reversed a perfectly sensible national policy. I think there is one major cause of our increasing emotionalism and one very obvious turning point.

The erosion of the stiff upper lip must surely be the result of psychologists insisting that it is bad for us to bottle up our feelings. We must ‘ talk it out’ and show ‘emotional intelligence’.

Those who take this advice seriously end up on the Jeremy Kyle Show.

When was the last time you heard a reporter ask: “What do you think about ...?” Instead, it is always: “How did it feel... ?”

The turning point was, quite clearly, the funeral of Diana. Something that had been simmering in the national psyche boiled over in 1997.

The world looked on in wonder as we created a lake of flowers, wept in the streets and applauded a passing coffin. Restraint and rationality were deemed mere candles in the wind.

Would you bet against August 31 being renamed as Diana Day when the 20th anniversary comes round in 2017?

There are a number of consequences for this loss of proportion in the way we see ourselves.

Suddenly, every minor problem is a crisis; every sad event is a tragedy; we no longer have problems to be solved, only challenges that we are encouraged to see as opportunities. Of course, emotion has its place.

I have a more visceral response to music than most, but I do not think I am alone in wishing for a rebalancing, with understatement and moderation reasserting themselves in our national character.