The Cumbria massacre has made me think about jealousy. The girlfriend who dumped Derrick Bird via text, the terms of the family will, the fall-out between the brothers might, outwardly, make some sort of piled-up motive for the taxi driver’s actions. But the real fuel for his rage, I suspect, came from a hideous home-brewed cocktail of resentment, grief, hatred and full-strength, old-school, toxic jealousy. What a corrosive mixture to carry around inside you, as he apparently did, for years. What a tragedy that he couldn’t offload some of those feelings somewhere. But no-one wants to hear about jealousy – it seems truly the most corrupting of emotions. It belittles the person who feels it and justly horrifies those at the receiving end. Shakespeare’s lines from Iago, though so often quoted they have all but lost their meaning, do truly have it right:
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss,
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger:
But O, what damnèd minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!
Of course, the irony is that it is Iago who is saying these lines to his master, warning him of the cruel pangs of jealousy – the very same person who creates, nurtures and carefully ratchets up Othello’s doubts and fears until, past sanity, he kills and loses Desdemona, precisely because he fears losing her so much.
If jealousy were not so hateful, I could almost admire it as an emotion. It comes from nowhere, and does not go until nothing is left. Most of us don’t even need an Iago to get things started. A word out of place, a misjudged email, and those of us who are that way inclined have short-circuited all logic and reason and pronounced a sentence of guilty on a loved one. Jealousy really does ‘mock the meat it feeds on,’ making a fool of the person who feels it, and usually successfully accomplishing the destruction of the love and the relationships in doubt.
Of all the deadly sins, I can see the point, or even enjoy, most. Gluttony – well yes, obviously. Lust – nothing wrong with a bit of that now and again. Envy – did I tell you I love your handbag? Sloth – I really don’t feel like writing my novel today. Anger – well, you definitely need a jot of that to drive in London. Pride – actually, I’m quite proud of my novel, and you can buy a copy here: www.amazon.de. But jealousy? Where does it get us? Nowhere, fast. Unless, of course, that really was lipstick on his collar …..