The death of the nurse who took the prank call from a couple of Australian DJ’s has elicited a number of different responses. I am not a fan of this kind of humour, but the outrage at the making of the call has arisen only as a result of the tragic outcome. These kinds of calls seem to be part of the standard fare of some popular radio stations and have been, for many years, without any kind of protest. So what did happen and should there be outrage?
In this particular case, I do not know exactly what happened, and I am not going to speculate. Rather I want to look at the more general case. There are occasions when one does something that one knows will cause some upset in another, but a massive overreaction appears to happen. In my own life I have observed that certain situations elicit a totally disproportional response from me. For many years, I was not even aware that I was overreacting in certain situations. But I can see it now and, more than that, I know that I have a couple of areas of acute sensitivity. I call these my fault-lines.
I have inadvertently, at least once, hit such a fault-line in another person. It was a truly shocking experience for me. Whilst I knew my action would not be well received I had no idea of the extent of the damage that would result. In such circumstances there tends to be one of two responses.
1. I am responsible for the whole mess.
2. I am responsible for none of it.
Neither response is accurate or helpful. The truth always lies somewhere in the middle.
In my own experience, the process of unpacking what I was actually responsible for and what was far beyond me was not simple, and quite painful. I learnt a good deal about myself along the way. That process was useful in itself, because it forced me to examine my motivations much more closely and, as a result, I believe I am more honest in my interactions.
Part of the processing of that experience required reflection on experiences I have had where my fault-lines have been triggered. I was able to unpack the most significant time that this has happened. I was able to let go of blame that I have clung to for far too many years. Precisely because I was finally able to recognise that the intention of those who had triggered the fault-line so many years ago was far less sinister than I had presumed. I think they did want to teach me a lesson, but I am utterly convinced that if either had known the extent of the damage they would cause, they would have chosen to act differently.
So too, with this tragic ending following the call, the person who receives those calls is never going to feel good about themselves. They are the butt of someone else’s joke. It isn’t kind, but it also isn’t malicious. The DJ’s are responsible for intentionally making fun of another person, but I don’t believe they are responsible for her response.
Should we be outraged that they intentionally made fun of someone through a prank call? And if outrage doesn’t seem right, then what is an appropriate response?