On Wednesday night, having seen the front page of a red top famed for salacious gossip and outright lies, the actor Ralf Little took to Twitter and stuck his hand in a metaphorical hornets' nest, concerning the news that his former friend and ex-footballer, Clarke Carlisle, had tried to commit suicide.
'Oh dear. Looks like Clarke Carlisle's going to get away with it - AGAIN. #Teflon #nonstick'
Little received reams of abuse for failing to understand the circumstance that led a grown man step into the path of an oncoming lorry. Carlisle told the paper
‘I had to die,’ he said. ‘This wasn’t escaping or running away. This was the perfect answer. It made everyone happy and it ticked every box.’
Little, realising that he had gone public without providing a background, said that he would clarify these comments later and did so -cranking up the drama a notch while the world waited. And waited. And waited. Some wags speculated that he'd employed Harper Lee to write his next tweet.
Little spoke eloquently about his history with Carlisle and of their falling out although he had no wish to go into detail and 'do some tabloid’s job for them.' Suffice to say there was some fruity talk of money and the police and it was made clear that both men had given up on each other years ago.
'Pray depression never bites'
Carlisle replied through his wife’s account, stating that they had seen each other once in ten years and that was for him (Carlisle) to apologise for his ‘repulsive behaviour as a young man.’ Furthermore, he hoped that Little wasn’t the man he was back in the day and that he would ‘pray depression never bites.’
We can only read between the lines but it seems that they were once bosom buddies and ‘high excitable young gentlemen’ as Jeeves would have it, but something came along to drive them apart. Little seems to have held his grudge for much longer than his old mate and had either reached a point where he could hold his silence no more, or was just being a bit stupid.
I'm in two minds about this, mostly because I'm neither party to their friendship nor to the demise of it, but there's a nagging feeling that somehow, somewhere Little has a point given the others who were nearly injured that day.
I doubt very much if the poor lorry driver could cheerily tell all of his brush with near death. You often hear of Tube drivers who suffer terribly when they've inadvertently aided a suicide and that it’s the sound of the body on steel that keeps them awake at night. Then there are the motorists who swerved the collision to avoid a pile-up. What did they do to deserve sleepless nights at thoughts of their own mortality? Ralf Little is right in this case. Clarke Carlisle is guilty of gathering others into his pain.
Hmm. That word –‘guilty’. ‘Guilt’.
The actor seems to be claiming that Carlisle is gleefully crossing the fingers of one hand while pointing at his diagnosis with the other and thereby using it as a casual explanation for his behaviour. After all, depressives rarely suffer alone, much as they would like to. Loved ones want to help but can't, or at least not always. Soothing words can help but they can’t alter a chemical balance in the brain, but that does not help the unhappiness of people who can’t bear to see their most cherished suffer.
The contention is that Carlisle got away with it and will continue to with impunity. This is wrong on many counts. Of course, there are other people to consider -- no one is suggesting otherwise -- but if Carlisle's depression is of the same strain as mine it will feature an overpowering sense of, that word, guilt.
'He has to face the people he's harmed'
This is suggested by his claim that he 'had to die.' Had to. That shouts of guilt before the incident took place and if he was in that frame of mind beforehand, he will be feeling it tenfold now. I can't imagine that he left hospital and raised a rueful grin to his wife and three children and proclaimed 'Phew, that was close! Got away with it.' Now he has to consider the people he was close to taking with him. He has to face the people he’s harmed. He has to face the public, not all of whom are sympathetic. That doesn't just enhance a sense of worthlessness, it justifies it. Another layer of thick, headache inducing gloom deposits itself onto the stratum. The mood deepens further.
Ralf Little points out that he knows people who struggle with mental health issues, and is unfortunate enough to know those who have lost friends and family members at the hand of drunk drivers, so maybe it's this that caused him to tweet. There are certainly sympathies there. Is he suggesting that the suicide attempt is an excuse to mask yet another drink-driving offence? He is certainly keen to point out the numerous convictions but, that would be a hell of a price to pay to prove a point. If Carlisle really is made of Teflon he could hardly celebrate ‘getting away with it’ while he's being scraped of a road.
The most significant paragraph in Little’s article is this:
‘Am I really that out of order for suggesting that’s not on? Do we repeatedly overlook reckless destruction of other lives because someone apologises, again and again, and says it’s an illness? Isn't there a point where we can go, "enough is enough"?’
Okay, he’s framed it in fairly crass terms (‘says it’s an illness’) but there is a point when continual destructive behaviour erodes the wall of basic humanity and you feel like turning away from that person. That’s a perfectly understandable position and one I’ve been in myself but surely there’s a place for seeing both sides rather than an all-out accusation.
Depression is seen by some as an excuse, a convenience, a ‘you can’t say anything because…’ sense of angry hopelessness. Well, you can say something. The crime of stupidity isn’t confined to one state of mental health. Clarke Carlisle has done some stupid things. So has Ralf Little. So have I and so have you. One of the reasons why Ralf’s statement was delayed was that he had no time to write as he was tweeting while driving and couldn’t set it down just then.
It’s doesn’t logically follow that ridiculous behaviour points to depression or any other ailment. If Ralf has wiped his hands with Clarke then fine. Exasperation comes to all at some point and no one is blaming Ralf Little for reaching that point with someone whom he feels has let him down once too often. It is wrong, however, to accuse him of getting away with it. Clarke Carlisle got away with one thing only– his life, and though there were other people involved that day, it’s important to remember that he was in a position where he was prepared to die brutally rather than live. Of course it was a selfish act but who the hell thinks rationally when you ‘have to die.’ Who cares what the public thinks at that point? All suicides are selfish to a degree because you’re relieving a pain you can no longer fight. Is anyone seriously arguing that Clarke Carlisle was somehow faking it?
I hope Carlisle makes amends to those he has wronged and I suspect he will once he is either medicated or counselled or both. Equally, I hope Ralf Little can bring himself to forgive at least some of the past misdemeanours for his own sake at least. No one wins in this situation and we can only hope that the outcome of this spat can be one of a mutual understanding.
Karl writes for The Anfield Wrap. He is troubled with the modern world, grimaces at ball playing centre halves and frowns at fancy-dan back heels. Apt to talk about the magnificence of Ray Kennedy wherever possible.
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