While I realise the sensitivity relating to the issue, I feel compelled to write about the death of Amy Winehouse. Let me start by offering my condolences to her family, who have, after all, lost a loved one and will be suffering at this time. No death is more or less important than any other, and Amy’s family should receive the respect that they deserve.
However, that whole ‘no death is more or less important than any other’ is something that grates with me right now. In Norway, scores of youths have been brutally massacred through no fault of their own, but their story is playing second-fiddle to the death of an individual.
It truly encapsulates the celebrity-obsessed world we live in that such horrific news gets completely ignored by the majority of people in favour of mourning the loss of someone who was – at the end of the day – a drug addict.
Of course, it is undeniable that Amy Winehouse had talent, and consequently such a loss is quite rightly deemed a ‘waste’. Who is to say, however, that any of the 92 people currently believed to have been murdered in Norway were not equally talented in their own individual way? Why is their loss not deemed as significant to the world as that of someone who acted with such disregard for life so frequently?
Equally, the simple fact is that many of those bandwagon-jumpers bemoaning the loss of a ‘great talent’ are among those who mocked and berated her lifestyle as recently as a matter of weeks ago.
Why is there a peculiar obsession with criticising or even hating people for what they do when they are alive, only for them to almost immediately be catapulted to a standing far beyond their genuine character once they have passed? It may seem utterly insensitive, but why does the death of someone transform opinions so significantly? It not only shows a lack of conviction in personal thought, yet also dishonours the deceased. If you don’t like them when they’re actually living on this earth, don’t patronise their memory by attaching yourselves to them in death please…
It is, in many ways, not dissimilar to the passing of Jade Goody. Initially vilified in the press and public spaces as a ‘brainless racist’, the game changed when she was no longer with us. The media and society as a whole began to hold her up as something of a role model after her sad – and yes, it is sad, because every death is tragic in its own way – death in 2009. I truly do not understand why this was the case with Jade Goody, nor why it will be eventually be the case with Amy Winehouse. If you have an opinion on someone, at least have the bottle to stand by it.
I do not wish to speak ill of the dead, and will freely admit to being much more touched by the passing of Jade Goody than I ever will be by the early departure of Amy Winehouse. This is for one incredibly simple reason. Despite being far from a fan of Miss Goody myself, she was essentially a young woman cruelly struck down by a beast that has ravaged the world and devastated lives without offering any real explanation. Perfectly healthy human beings have suffered at its hands, and any death from cancer must therefore be seen an utter tragedy – including that of Jade Goody – regardless of my personal feelings towards her.
The thing is, with Winehouse, it was different. We don’t know the ins-and-outs at present, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the death was almost certainly linked to a series of alcohol and drug-related problems. That is why I struggle to have any sympathy for her, and indeed find myself deploring those who treat her as if she deserved any. It was, ultimately, her choice of lifestyle, and if you play with fire, every now and then you’re going to get burnt.
Of course, there will be many an argument that Amy was a ‘troubled soul’ who had ‘issues’ and ‘needed help’. That is fair enough, but there are still problems with this belief. Firstly, many among us have difficulties in our life, but are intelligent enough to seek the relevant help when required, and do not become dependent on the deadly cocktail of drugs and alcohol. Why, just because she was famous, was Winehouse excused from such activities with a shrug of the shoulders and a declaration that it was ‘part of her image’? It is possible to see why Winehouse fell for such temptations, but the fact remains it was her responsibility. She was a grown woman, and needed to take control of her life. Sadly, she did not, and paid the maximum price.
What I also find incredible is how many ‘celebrity-type’ people noticed she was ‘in trouble’, but how few seemed to make any genuine attempt to help her. To be frank, where were they all when she needed saving? It’s all well and good wittering and twittering about it now, but, ultimately, these supposed friends were nowhere to be seen when it truly mattered.
Again, I don’t wish to belittle the memory of Amy Winehouse, and do accept the many ways in which this can be construed as a tragedy.
However, I would urge people to look at the bigger picture, the bigger issues, and instead spare a thought for those who are more perhaps more deserving. Unlike Winehouse, those involved in the Norway massacre had little or no control over their destiny, and yet it appears many people aren’t all that bothered by it.
It is a very sad demonstration of how immune people have become to ‘bad news’, while celebrity culture dominates in every aspect of life.
His context may have been extremely wrong, but days like this make it hard to look past Joseph Stalin’s claim that “One death is a tragedy; One million is a statistic”.
As these two very separate events show, it is pretty much spot on in terms of how the public view the world…