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Hallo again to all.

Our reader survey is brief and we only ask about once per decade. Please?

The phrase 'binge watching' has appeared in our language in recent decades. Enabled by digital delivery of television, it refers to the sequential viewing of a large number of past episodes of a weekly programme, avoiding sleep, formal meals, or ordinary human contact.

We haven't tried binge watching, not even Downton Abbey, but we must confess our vulnerability to binge reading. When P. D. James' Death in Holy Orders was published in 2001, we found the time and obsessiveness to binge-read the ten books that Ms James had written before it. With titles including A Mind to Murder, A Taste for Death, and Unnatural Causes, you can easily and correctly guess that these are murder mysteries.

Icon of the Melanesian Martyrs, in the Chapel of Saints and Martyrs of Our Own Time in Canterbury Cathedral.
After recovering from our 11-book binge reading of murder mysteries, we found ourselves seriously wondering why almost all mysteries are about murder. Why not other crimes? Why aren't there mystery books about stock fraud or automobile theft? Why aren't there mystery books about assault and battery or crimes such as child molestation that are every bit as heinous as murder? Some mystery books include stock fraud or automobile theft as part of the story line, but there's always someone killed (or occasionally kidnapped) and someone else trying hard to find out whodunnit.

We remembered this old and unanswered question today when we read an article by the Bishop of Ankole in The Uganda Monitor discussing the bustle and politics surrounding the Church of Uganda's Martyrs' Museum. The saga of the Uganda Martyrs is probably explained best in this Wikipedia page; there were 23 Anglican and 22 Roman Catholic people who were executed for being Christian and quickly referred to in the British press as martyrs. Newspaper letterpress type cases may well have run short on the type slugs needed to print 'the blood of martyrs'. Martyrs became martyrs by dying. Even the verb 'to martyr' implies killing.

The question that had befuddled us so long ago, about why there were no decent mystery books about stock fraud or automobile theft, crept cautiously into our thinking. Is it true that a living person isn't entitled to be called a martyr? What if someone is badly beaten, or fired from a good job, or ostracized from the community for speaking up as an Anglican or a Christian? Is it fair to call them martyrs? Is the symbolic value of martyrdom reduced if we start referring to people who are still alive as martyrs?

Probably. But there does need to be some name for it. Risking your career or your personal reputation to do something ethical or moral but controversial is a good thing. Taking a stand in 2015 at your workplace on controversial issues like race or gender equality or the response to refugees and asylum seekers is not likely to get you killed. But it can very easily get you fired or marginalized or shunned. As you are standing in line at a soup kitchen waiting to get the meal that you can't afford to buy because you were fired for exposing unethical workplace behavior, you can inside your still-living head think of yourself as a martyr. But you certainly can't say it out loud; that's for other people to say about you. Which they probably won't.

The soup is chicken noodle with fresh garden vegetables, and it's very tasty and healthy, but you only get one bowl if the line is too long. And if you can think of a word besides 'martyr' that works here, tell us.

See you next week.

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11 October 2015

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