Saturday, 23 July 2011

Rest In Peace

It has been a sad day today. Waking up to find that the death toll in Norway is so much higher than was being reported last night is truly tragic; it is one of those events that on some level defies explanation yet makes everyone desperate for one. No matter what degree of analysis his political or religious alignment gets, there will never be an entirely satisfactory explanation for what motivated this man to kill so many other humans.

There was the instant surge in Islamophobia over Twitter and Facebook when news started to break of the bomb attack, before the anger and rhetoric swung towards condemning right wing fundamentalists as the real identity of the terrorist emerged. In all honesty I don’t believe it matters or helps the people of Oslo and Norway as a whole to start pointing fingers at groups or religions. A whole lot of people pointing at each other saying “it was your group who did it” helps no-one and only serves to enforce the idea of ideological lines in the sand which we must fight over and spill more blood.

Yes there is a serious problem with militant right wing groups in Europe, just as the world is right to be concerned about the threat of groups like Al Qaeda but what matters right now is bringing people together and emphasising the point that this was carried out by one inconceivably cruel and deranged individual, rather than damning entire cultural, social or religious groupings. Divisive statements and accusatory mud flinging only serve to sow precisely the kind of discord I imagine this man hoped for, people like him, the people who value human life so little and have the mental capability to carry out such acts want attention, they want to cause pain, anger and suffering and so the best response the world can have is to join together in condemning the man, calmly and rationally looking at the groups he claims to be aligned with and, without wanting to sound like too much of a hippy, not answer hate with more hate.

The victims of the attacks can be better honoured by people looking to do everything they can to avoid another attack of this kind rather than spreading more animosity and vitriol. Their families will draw more comfort from sympathy than from their loved ones death’s being used for political point scoring. The key problem with any mudslinging is that it is rare anyone comes out looking particularly good.

This evening the news also broke that Amy Winehouse has died. The singer was only 27 and though it hasn’t been confirmed in anything I’ve read that the death was drugs related, the assumption is forgivable due to her long history of problems with substance abuse. It is a tragic event, because regardless of her issues with drugs, the death of any 27 year old is a sad event, especially one who clearly had so much to offer the world. I don’t believe she, or her family and friends, deserve less sympathy due to her personal life; Amy Winehouse deserves our sympathy and pity for ending up so addicted to drugs and drink that she couldn’t find a way out, even with the help of professionals. People making jokes about how she ‘should have gone back to rehab’ etc are pathetic and slightly sickening, to try and find humour and some sort or pleasure in the untimely end of a woman who clearly was troubled. It shows a lack of basic humanity in them if they decide that it’s funny that she died because she was addicted to drugs. As my sister accurately put it, would they be making jokes about rehab if their sister or best friend had died from a drugs overdose? I’d hope they wouldn’t and so that poses questions about why it is ok to say it about Ms Winehouse, just because she’s a celebrity.

Then there’s the depressing number of people stating anger and disappointment at people showing so much sympathy for Amy when something so terrible has happened in Norway. I have two main problems with those people. The first and lesser issue is that I didn’t see the majority of them posting anything last night or this morning about the attacks in Norway, there were no messages of condolence and sympathy then, but now they can make an aggressive and negative comparison they are jumping on the opportunity in the manner that seems so common on the internet.

The second and much more pressing reason is that I don’t understand why they seem to believe sympathy for one person must take away from the other situation. I can only speak for myself, but I have it in me to feel grief for the people of Norway affected by the attack AND a singer who died far too young. I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t express sadness at the death of Amy Winehouse just because another tragic event occurred recently. One doesn’t cancel out or dilute the other and the likely self inflicted nature of one doesn’t make it any less sad.

I am deeply saddened that there are people so utterly evil that they can commit atrocities such as the attack in Oslo and I will mourn the passing of a talented but troubled singer. If you don’t have it in you to do both then maybe you need to take a good hard look at yourself.

There is only one song that could finish this post, the song that Amy Winehouse will be remembered for, the song that proved that despite whatever else went on in her life, she had an incredible, passionate and soulful voice, one which will sadly no longer be heard.

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