GLOBAL MOURNING: DEATH AND THE (ANTI) SOCIAL MEDIA by PAUL LAIGHT
“All that live must die, passing through nature to eternity.”
Death: the final frontier. The long anorexic finger of the reaper hangs over all of us and the annoying thing is we can do nothing about this. We are cold hard truth Cassandra. We know we are going to die; we just don’t know when. The cruel irony of life is we don’t know why we are here or where we are going when it ends. Today alone – according to Google – the utter bastard that is death has taken approximately 150,000 people worldwide due to: illness, war, old age, murder, accidents, suicide, natural disaster and so on. Of course we cannot grieve everyone but death is always magnified when we lose a famous or esteemed person. Recently we have lost musical genius David Bowie, acting gentleman Alan Rickman and hard-rocker Lemmy.
Of course these are sad losses to the art and entertainment worlds as all were esteemed entertainers who seemingly lived their lives to the full. Bowie especially had a phenomenal talent for Phoenix-from-the-flames-like reinvention and for me remains one of the greatest songwriters this country has ever produced; while Rickman was a fine acting talent who always brought gravitas to every role. Lemmy was well, Lemmy: a hard-drinking-hard-playing-hard-drug-taking-mad-man!
What I have observed is the various approaches to mourning across the world, media and more specifically the Internet, which generally explodes with a combination of emotions. More often than not humans also attack each other with Facebook and YouTube being especially brilliant for hilarious rows which quickly descend into personal attacks on parentage, religion, sexual preference; or whether someone’s Gran is a Nazi or not.
Ultimately, we all know death is a prick and people handle it in a variety of different ways, including:
- Overwhelming outpouring of emotion for the life lost.
- Praise and celebration of the artists’ work.
- Irreverent comments where people say “I didn’t know them so why be upset?”
- Aggressive comments which accuse people of “grief tourism”!
- Humorous retorts such as, “Bowie is dead at 69. Rickman is dead at 69. Donald Trump is NOT DEAD at 69!”
- Angry comments such as: “I hate you God – you took Bowie and Rickman but Rupert Murdoch is still living and now getting married!”
Personally I prefer the silent contemplative response and the people who are overly negative and criticise people for “grief tourism” irk me a bit. Indeed, it especially annoys me when the whole “you did not know them — so why are you grieving” statements come out. Well, I disagree with that because you do “know” them through their art and knowledge one has of their songs, acting, product and performances.
Surely, it’s instinctive to react to someone’s death? Are people really using a famous persons’ death to gain attention for themselves? Maybe they are; nothing surprises me with human beings. But to be honest, if they are holidaying in death and they’re not harming me then who cares! Let’s face it even the “grief-trolls” or “haters” or whatever-you –want-to-call them are scared of death and their defensive, satirical or ironic approach is a valid way of dealing with death and grief. Therefore, I respect their reaction as that is how THEY are grieving.
Ultimately, we’re all animals who get scared when illness and death comes a knocking and when a hero or an artist or someone famous dies we are all confronted with our OWN mortality and I suspect that is what we are most upset about. I mean who actually thought David Bowie would die – the guy is immortal surely?! But he has passed away and that is sad; but we should celebrate a wonderful life of creativity. We should also respect how a person chooses to grieve however over-the-top or emotional or irreverent or negative it may be. We are all human. Let’s just try and get on as we’re all in the same sinking boat. You win some – you lose some. Nothing lasts forever; apart from death that is.