A poll last week found that, after Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela, the public figure Britons most respected was Jade Goody—the British reality TV star dying, very publicly, of cervical cancer. Once dismissed as racist and ignorant, Goody has become "a parable of modern-day redemption," writes Guardian columnist Madeleine Bunting. Amid a crisis of immaterial wealth, she offers "the irreducible basics of human life: love and death."
Faced with an "unremittingly gloomy" economic future, one might expect the public to seek cheering up; instead, we are fixated on the agony and despair of a mother dying at 27. Our interest in Goody is not macabre, but a natural response while we feel our way through the wreckage of the collapsed economy. Through Goody's death, Bunting writes, we are grieving for our own lost world—and slowly reassuring ourselves of "the better qualities of human nature."
(Read more Jade Goody stories.)