Sunday, 24 July 2011

Norway and Amy Winehouse – they’re both important

Saturday 23 July was a pretty grim day. We woke to horrific news from Norway. A bomb blast and a massacre by a cold-hearted, right-wing gunman; the majority of his victims young. Then at around 4.30 GMT Twitter rumours started that Amy Winehouse had died. Twitter’s rarely wrong about these things. The online community held it’s breath and, alas, the jungle drums were confirmed to be correct.

A pretty grim day by anyone’s estimation.

But then something strange happened. Some people started berating those placing RIP messages for Amy. Exclaiming that anyone who felt sorry for her loss was forgetting the victims in Norway. How wrong they were!

Here’s how I see it.

Whilst the two incidents both involve untimely deaths, the nature of the victims and the scale of the situations make them very different to deal with emotionally.

Amy was famous. A singer. Her best stuff was highly personal and will have spoken to many at a deep level. Fans, especially, will have felt a connection with her and the grief they experience will be similar to when someone you know dies.

Norway, on the other hand, is of a scale that is incomprehensible to most people. The number of victims and scale of the attack are still being understood. In the weeks to come victims’ names and stories will leak out into the media. The gaps in the story will be filled and people will start to be able to comprehend the full nature of the situation.

So, you see, it’s perfectly natural to feel emotional about both events – and in different ways. Sadness about the death of a troubled, yet talented, young woman and shock at a meaningless act of violence that took countless lives.

Grief is a complex emotion. It affects everyone differently and everyone deals with it in their own unique way. So to berate someone for expressing it, or to assume that because they have not said anything they don’t feel anything, is a harsh stance to take.

Next time – think before you tweet.


  1. Well said. It's a bit like saying if you care about and mourn for the 90-odd in Norway you're not showing "sufficient" compassion for the thousands (many young children) dying in the famines of East Africa?

    Death is a difficult thing. It's not a comfortable space for moralistic high grounding or point scoring. I'm sad Amy's died. I saw her 3 times and met her once. I'm horrified by what happen in (probably) unavoidable and completely incomprehensible circumstances. Of all of these, though, Africa is the one where we can make a difference. Maybe we should do that, rather than squabbling about the relevant significance of tragic loss (either singular or plural!)...

  2. @ToyBoxStudio - great point - definitely better to exert energy preventing further tragedy.

    @Debbie - thanks. Much appreciated.