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Was applause appropriate at vigil for murdered students?


APPLAUSE, by which I mean mass, free-form hand-clapping as opposed to rhythmic clapping, is the standard way that groups of people here in the West demonstrate their appreciation of an artistic performance or a noteworthy achievement. In either case these responses are spontaneous and voluntary. 

Only in totalitarian regimes did applause seem to have been hijacked as a vehicle for displaying approval of a political idea and, as with so many aspects of life in those places, was de rigueur. Woe betide anyone who shirked their duty to participate in a standing ovation at the end of every paragraph in a leader’s speech.

Therefore I was quite shocked to hear applause breaking out at the vigil in Nottingham following the shocking murders in the city early on Tuesday. The gathering was in no sense a celebration and in the England I grew up in would have remained a sombre and reflective event. Just as it is on every Remembrance Sunday, at every war memorial throughout the country, as men and women gather to pay their respects to ‘those who fell’.

My other experience of unexpected applause came at the end of a flight from Kiev to London in 2012. Although it was a British Airways plane, apart from the stewardesses, I seemed to be the only one not speaking either Russian or Ukrainian. I was surrounded by a party of excited Russian schoolboys, who had their Russian-English phrasebooks out and asked me to adjudicate on their pronunciation. ‘We need to learn how to speak to girls,’ one of them told me earnestly.

It was an uneventful flight in perfect weather and yet as we touched down at Heathrow and the plane’s brakes came on hard, some of the passengers started to applaud, a response which quickly grew into the entire plane clapping enthusiastically like a concert audience at the end of a performance. I’ve never experienced anything like it on any flight to or from any other country before or since and I was inclined put it down to the recent cultural and political history of that part of the world. TCW readers who have experienced the golden age of Aeroflot will no doubt joke that they were just relieved to find themselves still alive.

But Nottingham seems to suggest that using applause to convey approval rather than expressing pleasure or celebration, has ‘caught on’ in our increasingly virtue-signalling society.

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Brian Meredith
Brian Meredith
Brian Meredith is a retired graphic designer who grew up in the Midlands but has lived in Devon for over forty years. A semi-professional musician since his early teenage years, these days his main interests are writing and recording his compositions in a modest home studio.

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