I was woken at 0430h on Sunday the 12th of February, 2012 by an IM from a friend announcing the death of once world class singer Whitney Houston, who, sadly, as of the last decade or so, due to poor judgement and even poorer choices on her part, was relegated to the much less flattering status of has-been. Sad? Of course, but nowhere near the periphery of the worst news to have ever been brought to my attention so I internalised the news, half-heartedly mulled it over for a split second then went back to sleep.
The first thing I did when I officially woke up a few hours later i.e. when I had my first cup of “fair trade” dark roast coffee and my first cigarette (a habit I’m trying to kick) was to log into facebook. Not because I wanted to post a “heartfelt” eulogy to the late “great” on my wall but because I was very curious to see what those who were so inclined had to say, how distraught they were and how many of them were exhibiting signs of a suicidal inclination as a result of Ms Houston’s death. I am sad to report that there were many. Were it not mildly funny in a dark humour sort of way I do believe I would have cried at the tragedy that is human nature, the evidently escalating levels of apathy towards issues I feel are more deserving as well as the seemingly spreading mutation in humanity that makes an affinity for the asinine and superficial an inherent characteristic within us.
A friend put up a very apt and profound post on his facebook wall which, I admit, inspired this latest blog post and it reads as follows:
“Ok, Whitney had one of the greatest voices of our time and she died (possibly from too many drugs.) What of the THousands (sic) on children with no voice who die because they lack access to essential drugs? Im (sic) sick of this Whitney Hullabaloo!” – Oneas Ndawi
Now, please, don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with mourning the death of a fellow human being, even if your entire relationship with this person was mostly one sided whereby to you they were an icon and fantasy friend and lover who belted out heart wrenching ballads of love, love lost and love unrequited just for you as though they knew and understood your pain while you were to them just another of millions of nameless, faceless fans, if you were lucky enough to be humanised, and if not, you were just another sold record, another purchased concert ticket and just another vote on world music charts. I admire the tenacity and capacity of your love, loyalty and dedication towards another human being. I really do (tongue lodged firmly in cheek).
It’s just too bad that this oh so powerful love and commitment that your person can master and contain is only limited to pop culture idols, media and business moguls, religious leaders and icons and sporting heroes. It really is too bad that there is just so much of it for them that there is barely enough leftover for your family and friends and there just simply isn’t any left over for the homeless children in your cities (who really are just a nuisance if you think about it right?), for the women who were raped by soldiers in the DRC, for the starving people in developing countries who live so far below the poverty datum line their chins are scraping the ground, for the thousands of brilliant and talented youth in your communities who cannot afford to further their education and instead have to drop out of school so that they can help support their families or for the robbery of people’s dignity through the “human zoo” that is a showing of the Jarawa, a nomadic protected tribe that lives in the lush, tropical forests of the Andamans in the Indian Ocean who are made to dance for food by tourists purely for their own racist, twisted and lewd entertainment.
I must admit that when one of my favourite musicians, the Barefoot Diva Cesaria Evora, kicked the bucket last year I was indeed saddened by the news but I did not feel the urge to make a public comment about my grief. Mostly because I feel that whatever astral realm she might be in right now, no doubt sipping on some cognac while on stage, barefoot, mid-performance entertaining the celestial beings of our religious and spiritual beliefs, she might be taking some time out to scan my facebook page to find out just how distraught I am. I hardly think it features on her to-do list so what would be the point, other than sharing information that is, which was hardly the case when people posted their anguish at the deaths of Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs or Whitney Houston.
I remember when Steve Jobs died sometime last year, the cyber realm was abuzz with bereft mourners across the globe. I have to admit that I had no idea who Steve Jobs was when the news broke and I say this with no shame whatsoever. I mean what did Steve Jobs give to the world that it needed and that ingeniously averted a cataclysm of some sort? Really, I am dying to know. I can wait. Judging from the anguish exclaimed by Jobs zealots on social networking fora, one would think that without his “I” gismos, Armageddon would surely have been upon us? Actually, come to think of it, poor Whitney. Her send off was nowhere near as elaborate as that of Jobs.
I very regularly put up posts on my facebook wall on various human rights issues in an attempt to pry an opinion out of people and get them thinking and talking about stuff that really should matter and I must say that I am constantly disappointed by people’s lack of interest but just let me put up a post about Justin Bieber’s talent or lack thereof and suddenly there is a sign of life in my immediate cyber galaxy. People who are always no shows on my wall suddenly crawl out of the woodwork and either like my post or shock horror gasp gasp, go so far as to comment with the now ubiquitous “lol”. I’ll be honest, from an egotistical perspective I am often chuffed that some people find me moderately funny given that I have, for a while now, harboured the ambition to try my hand at stand up comedy if this writing thing doesn’t work out (no, not really) but if I had a choice, I’d rather people commented on the issue of high levels of maternal mortality rates in developing countries where abortion is illegal or how extremely vulnerable street children in any country on the planet are and how citizen involvement is vital for child protection in our countries. To be fair, I get a little more action on my wall, albeit usually of the bigoted sort, but action and interaction nonetheless, when I attempt to coax people into a discussion around gay rights (which usually somewhere in the middle of the filth that is hate language manages to become a religious platform or sermon on how homosexuals are a skid mark on the undergarments of creation and how the great Lord will one day be merciful and show his righteous believers his grace and smite them all into extinction).
All this makes for an interesting analysis of the human psyche because in as much as it is understandable for one to feel a sense of loss when one of their icons passes on in order to make his/her appointment with ferryman Charon over by the river Styx one cant help but wonder if people really do not care about the average person who was not so fortunate as to achieve fame and fortune before their death to make their death or suffering prior to it noteworthy and if this blithe ignorance is as a result of our nature or our conditioning over recent centuries? I have posted news, as have a lot of other people, on how Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of child deaths under the age of 5 years old from preventable diseases in the world and how in spite of a notable decrease in this phenomena it is still nowhere near enough to ensuring that we will meet goal 4 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, news on how the annual number of induced abortion has increased in Africa between 2003 and 2008 mainly in countries where abortion is illegal with research findings showing that of the 6.4 million abortions conducted in 2008, only 3% were under safe conditions therefore implying that continued criminalisation and deprivation of sexual health and reproductive rights of women risks the lives of millions of women and girls as well as posts on how climate change is real and does really affect us all from environmentally to socially to economically to politically and how there is a great need to have continued discussions around adaptation to better prepare ourselves to the inevitable.
I appreciate that our favourite musicians, authors or actors become a part of our lives as we invite them into our homes and into ourselves by identifying with them or rather feeling that they identify with us through their craft when we let it signify or symbolise the most pivotal moments of our existence but is that really more familiar than all those other issues that I have mentioned that really do impact and influence our day to day even when we so incorrectly feel that they have little or naught to do with us? I wonder if the prospect of the seemingly fortunate being just as less fortunate or sometimes more less fortunate than us is a form of escapism or a morbid and sadistic sense of comfort? Whatever it is, I long for the day that people start to notice, acknowledge and become vocal about humanitarian issues and not just when Brangelina adopt another orphaned third world baby or Bono organises another concert for those living with HIV and AIDS or Matt Damon catches another soccer ball on TV for education in South Africa.