Dude. Seriously. Those are my only options?
Today, we’re looking at Pat Campbell. Pat was perhaps best known for ‘Deck of Cards’, to which I’ll return at a later date, but given that babies and delivery rooms are currently at the forefront of my mind as my wife toils towards the end of her third trimester, today I bring you the jaw-dropping tale of misery and woe that is ‘The Deal’. It is a narrative of staggeringly poor judgement told with all the sentiment of a really bad episode of Touched By An Angel. The lesser of stomach amongst you would be advised to proceed with caution, although the lesser of stomach amongst you really shouldn’t be reading this blog in any case.
A quick sniff of Pat Cambell’s biography – such as it is, the details on the web are scant – shows that this sort of rubbish is perfect for him. The back cover of his 1970 album, Just A Quiet Conversation, reads “Pat Campbell was born in Ireland, but it might just as well have been Nashville. He’s been there many times and he’s welcomed as a friend by the biggest names in the world of country music. On each visit he brings a little piece of Nashville home with him, but also leaves a little of Pat Campbell there in return.” He was trying to avoid passport control, then.
There’s no voiceover on the link I’ve embedded, but if you can’t bring yourself to download the original I invite you to experience the drudgery of ‘The Deal’ by reconstructing your own. For reference, Campbell delivers the song in the form of a spoken monologue, with a vague sense of cadence at the end of what you might consider to be ‘verses’.
I guess it was about midnight when we arrived at the hospital
The Doctor was waiting at the door and they carried my sweet wife to a delivery room and I was left alone to
walk the waiting room floor.
I, like all first time fathers, I guess I was nervous
For my long awaited son was about to arrive in this world.
I even cocked myself a little chuckle as I thought,
“You know something, it could be an old girl”.
But I could feel the worriedness and tension mounting in me
as I paced the room time and time again
and finally I reckon it got to me an’ I sat down and
placed my head in my hands, and then I looked up as the whole
door swung open and the doctor entered with his head bowed low.
And then he told me of the complications and the decisions only
I could make, and urged me not to be too slow…
Oh for a long timeless moment I stood there, staring at him in
shock and disbelief, I mean, how could I tell him to save my wife
or save my child when they both mean the whole world and
everything to me…
I excused myself and walked off down the little hall and my
footsteps carry me to the chapel door, with an aching heart I
entered and with head bowed low I just knelt down on the floor.
“Oh you must love them an awful lot Lord,
Maybe even as much as I do because you can’t make up your own
mind which one to extend your welcome hand to… now I know I
never ask for very much Lord, but if I could make you a deal,
well I guess you know what it would be… let them both live
their lives and if you gotta take one, please, please let it be me”.
And then somehow I got to feeling a little better and I hurried
back down the hall an’ the doctor wasn’t there… and as I wondered
where he was, WHY! my legs gave way and suddenly I began to fall.
“What was wrong?” I wondered, “Why was I lying there on the floor?”
Gosh it seemed like an eternity until I looked up and I saw the
Doctor come running through the door… Well he’s bending over me now
and his eyes tell me that soon my life will be gone and the only
thing I can think of is that now, he’ll have to make that decision
alone, but then he turns to his nurse and he says, “It’s too bad that
he won’t know of the miracle that’s happened and that somehow they’re
both going to be alright”.
And I tried to force a last little smile as I think, “It’s too bad he
don’t know of the deal I made with my God tonight”.
A little commentary, reproduced from a blog entry I wrote back in 2009.
The concept of Campbell’s dilemma is akin to the episode of The Simpsons where Ron Howard, in an obvious parody of his real life persona, pitches a movie to a bored executive by suggesting that there’s “this robot, he’s got a heart-breaking decision to make about whether his best friend lives…or dies.” When the executive appears nonplussed, Howard swiftly adds “His best friend is a talking pie!”, which gets him a huge bag of cash and a reprise of the Happy Days theme. Even before this, things are pretty grim: left alone in the waiting room while his wife goes through the labour without him (this was the 60s, don’t forget) Campbell (yes, I know he’s only playing a character, but his delivery is so revolting I am going to permanently weld him to the song) describes his nerves about the impending arrival of his “long-awaited son”, before allowing himself a chuckle with the realisation that “it could be an old girl”. (A very young one, actually, but let’s not go there.) You can almost visualise his thought process: “Ooh, it’s going to be a boy! Except I don’t actually know.” It’s like Carousel’s ‘Soliloquy’ condensed into fifteen seconds, with none of the emotion.
It’s in the chapel that things get much worse. It’s worth noting, purely as an aside, that none of my whinging about this would amount to anything if the song had been delivered with even a trace of irony, but that’s not the case – the implication throughout is that we’re supposed to take ‘The Deal’ absolutely seriously The pleading, heartfelt anxiety of Campbell’s prayer to his heavenly father is undermined somewhat by the fact that this whole thing makes no sense at all. I really don’t want to get too theological here, but in the first instance I take great issue with his assertion that “You must love them an awful lot, Lord…because you can’t make up your own mind which one to extend your loving hand to”. What, there wasn’t room for both? That’s not evidence of a loving God. That’s evidence of a sadistic bastard who delegates to avoid the guilt. Why Campbell isn’t pacing the floor shouting at the ceiling in his hour of need is frankly beyond me, but I’m willing to let that go, because he’s undergoing emotional trauma. That being said, his crowning moment of stupidity is his decision to offer himself in order to save his family.
Now, I’m all for the idea of laying down your life for your friends. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to go through with anything quite so unselfish, but there can’t be many more noble ways to go out. If you do it well enough, they name a high school after you. Nonetheless, Campbell’s actions here aren’t an act of glorious self-sacrifice akin to the untimely execution of [spoiler] in 24, or the guy who chucks the wounded colleague over the lava, destroying himself in the process, halfway through Volcano. Because Campbell’s decision to save his wife and child and ask for himself to be taken in exchange entirely fails to take into account the fact that he’s leaving them to manage on their own. It could be that it’s actually a blessing in disguise for his wife, given that she can presumably now raise their boy / old girl in comparative peace without the threat of one of his mawkish monologues every time they experience a momentous event, or even worse, a trivial one. “Look, Celia, these are playing cards. Did I ever tell you the story about the time I was caught playing cards in church…?”.
But still. It’s the principle here. If you really want to strike any sort of deal with the Almighty, you don’t offer yourself in exchange. This isn’t Watership Down. You say “Dear Lord, if you have to take someone…take Oscar, who I know has been embezzling the company for months even though I can’t prove anything. Or take my mother-in-law. No, please, take her. Or the chap who cut me up on the A46 this evening.” But oh no. Not good enough for our Pat. Far better to say “It’s fine, God, I don’t mind the pain of the sudden coronary and the inevitable blast of guilt that will catch me in my final moments, with the realisation that I’ve left my wife as sole breadwinner and my baby boy / old girl without a father. I’d rather go out knowing I’ve made the supreme sacrifice. And widow’s benefits really aren’t that bad these days.” Campbell isn’t a Captain Oates. He’s a frigging idiot.
This? This has made my jaw drop and my blood boil. This got me into a night-long argument on the Facebook page where I discovered it. Normally I stay out of such things, but…well, look at it. I mean look at it.
Yes, because of course this is how angels work. Angels aren’t the kindly, helpful beings you see on glurge sites. Angels need feeding, and the heart of their diet comes from Facebook exposure. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be Facebook. Any old form of social media will do. So long as you pass it on. Note, of course, the originator’s URL, tastefully understated (but still very clear). That’s completely by the by, of course. This has absolutely fuck all to do with increasing web traffic. This is all about testing your faith, which is something else that angels do regularly. But this isn’t a ‘test’. And it’s not from the angels. It’s manipulative hokum designed to target the weak and vulnerable – people who may actually need help – and persuade them that life will get better and their cancer will be cured if they pass on an image, and all for the sake of upping someone’s hit count.
As I said, I normally avoid arguments about this sort of thing. Religious debate online is five per cent evangelism and ninety five per cent trying to prove the other person wrong. I’m happy to let people have different beliefs to mine, because even if I don’t agree with them I am not going to be able to convince them with a bit of elementary logic and Wikipedia pasting – and even if I could, it’s a hollow victory, because all you’ve done is made someone else look stupid. Remember this, folks. I learned it the hard way so that you don’t have to.
But on this occasion I waded in, albeit in a very low-key fashion, because this is wrong. Its very inception was wrong, and at some point I will feed this back to the image’s presumed creator, when my blood pressure drops a little. In the meantime I’ve made a few salient points that have largely been ignored, which is what I expected, but at least I got to vent my spleen. “Where’s the harm?” was challenged. “What if someone read this when they were considering suicide, and it stopped them?”. Which is a good point well made, but for every aborted grab for the painkillers, I’ll show you three people who prayed that their sick relative would get well only to have them die three days later, or – worse – four people who left their spouses and went to an internet romance hookup with a guy who then raped them, all because they believed the angels were watching over them.”
“Are you saying people are stupid, or unable to think for themselves?”
“No, I’m saying that people are easily duped. It’s very easy to get swayed by this stuff. I don’t think people are stupid, but I do think they’re naive and easily influenced and inclined to believe whatever they read on .he internet. It’s the same reason I’ll rip into the tabloids whenever I get the chance, because I see plenty of evidence there that people can’t think for themselves – or at least they can’t see what’s obvious to me and many other people I know. This doesn’t usually matter, except when it breeds fear, contempt and hatred (all of which sell newspapers). And in this case it reaches out to people who may genuinely be in trouble and need help – and they’re not going to get it from a repeated meme. So I’m not saying people are stupid, but I’m saying they’re misguided and sometimes led into things that in a proper frame of mind they might be more inclined to ignore. I think the sensible among us have a duty to do something about that.”
There’s a bitter irony in the fact that even by posting it here, I’m contributing to its exposure. But I’d like to hope that no one who actually reads this is going to post it on to their friends. Or if you were about to, I’d urge you to think again. If I can make just one person see how stupid this is, that has to count for something.
The sad thing is that the website from whence this came, whilst inundated with glurge, nonetheless contains a few nuggets of wisdom, choice quotes and worthy offerings. This isn’t one of them.
- Tax returns are mandatory: if you want to fight the system, use your vote.
- Enjoying beer or wine (as I am at this very moment) does not make you a drunk driver, provided you leave the car in the garage.
- The occasional McDonalds, enjoyed responsibly and in moderation, will not make your child obese. Long term smoking, however, is statistically likely to kill you.
I will give him the cosmetics.