(Dionne Warwick – What The World Needs Now)
This week the world has had been rocked by wave upon wave of tragedy: parts of Somalia were declared to be in famine, an allegedly fundamentalist Christian bombed Oslo and shot 84 people dead at a youth camp in Norway, dozens of people died in China after two trains collided, and – yes, I’m going to put it in the same sentence for the sake of this blog – Amy Winehouse was found dead at her home, aged just 27, after losing her battle with drink and drugs.
All of these tragedies have been at the top of the headlines, with heads of state pledging help and support to the nations affected, and of course they have provoked widespread messages of shock and condolence on Twitter and Facebook. One of the reasons I love Social Networking so much is because you see so much humanity during the darkest hours: it is the united voice of these mediums that helped a little girl get her bucket list fulfilled a few weeks ago, and it was the united voice of these mediums that at least helped ensure the phone-hacking scandal has sparked some (hopefully) big changes to British Journalism. People reach out on Twitter and Facebook, do what they can, and if they can do nothing, they at least are a place for people to share messages of comfort and grief. That’s no bad thing, right?
Wrong. Apparently. Because, while the combined mourning of Norway, Somalia and China was of course permitted without question, as soon as Amy Winehouse’s death was announced Twitter and Facebook became a tasteless outlet for self-righteousness, ignorance and cynicism for anyone that didn’t care much for her, who then felt it was alright to judge and in some cases mock those who chose to voice their sadness at Amy’s passing.
In short, these people are idiots. But for clarity’s sake I’ll post their main beef with freedom of speech below:
- “Forget Amy Winehouse – over 90 people just died in Oslo!”
Yes. We know. We can think of little else at the moment, and the horror of what that one disturbed individual committed is so vast I don’t think many people really know how to voice their sadness. We certainly can’t explain it, and most of us can’t even articulate condolences that even begin to cover the atrocity of what happened on Friday, and yet it was top of Twitter’s ‘trending topics’ for 24 hours after the attacks, so the suggestion that people weren’t talking about it as much as Amy Winehouse is fairly redundant anyway.
To suggest that people shouldn’t also mourn the death of Amy Winehouse in addition to the Norway massacre doesn’t even begin to make sense. There are still people fighting for their lives in Norway – if, heaven forbid, one of them doesn’t make it, bringing the death toll up by yet another life, and everyone tweeted condolences for them, would everyone rant about that, as if it somehow disregards all the previous murders that were committed on Friday? I’m pretty sure that’s a no. So why do the same when people take the time to pay their respects to Amy Winehouse?
It doesn’t mean those people have magically forgotten Norway, as @Rhodria pointed out:
I really fail to see how making this – in the words of @GarethAveyard – a “misery based pissing contest” is in any way helpful, or in any way comforts those still mourning what happened in Norway or any of the other global tragedies that occurred this week.
As to why, on Facebook at least, ‘RIP’ messages for Amy were so widespread in comparison to messages for those in Norway – that’s very simple. Facebook statuses are a very personal thing. People felt they had a personal connection to Amy through her music. Add this to the fact that people probably feel more qualified to remark upon Amy’s passing than they do to remark on the inexplicable massacre in Norway, and it’s not surprising. It doesn’t mean people care less.
- “She deserved it – she was a junkie. Why should we care?”
Tell that to all the friends and relatives of anyone that’s ever died from their addiction. No really, do, because they’ll punch you in the face and quite frankly that’s just what you deserve.
To start with, yes, taking drugs is voluntary , but after that your body changes and you become physically dependent on them. As author and lifelong addict Hunter S Thompson describes it:
“It makes you behave like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel… total loss of all basic motor skills: blurred vision, no balance, numb tongue- severance of all connection between the body and the brain. Which is interesting because you can actually watch yourself behaving in this terrible way, but you can’t control it.”
Even if you do manage to beat the addiction (something which takes amazing personal strength – not something Amy had a lot of judging by accounts of people who knew her), you’re never really clean. Irvine Welsh
, author of Trainspotting
, describes this:
It was a stupidity and a weakness. I’ve not touched it for years, but it’s in your vocabulary. If something bad happens in your life, it’s always there in the background, waiting for you to trip up.
(Both quotations taken from here
Besides all of this, anyone that thinks a junkie deserves to die forgets that they are in fact talking not about a label or a statistic, but a human being. One with a family, friends, and in this case millions of fans, all of whom do not want to see their loved one die. How anyone can think it’s alright to mock or openly deride people who are sad about someone’s death is beyond me, irrespective of the circumstances.
The people who make the remarks I mentioned above entirely miss the point of… well, just about everything. They are ignorant of so many things: the nature of addiction, the nature of grief, and the nature of social media, among other things. They also seem to miss the entire concept of mourning:
a. It’s personal, so telling people who they should and shouldn’t mourn for is pointless.
b. It’s not all-consuming, and so you are capable of being really sad about more than one thing concurrently without having to list out everything you’re sad about just to prove you haven’t forgotten anything important.
And on the most basic level c. It’s SAD, so DON’T use it as an opportunity to spit ill-conceived bile at people you supposedly care about when they’re actually feeling pretty unhappy about someone dying.
The world is a sad enough place at the moment. So before people continue with this bizarre grief-snobbery, it would be really nice if they could ask themselves “By saying this, who am I actually helping?”
My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the terrible events of the last few days.