Rick Parfitt …and now George Michael. What a truly shit year. My heroes and heroines have been dying with unseemly haste. I cannot count the number of greats who have departed life in this abysmal year. It’s so shocking, it’s creepy.
But why this year? What has been exceptional about 2016? Since the start of the third millennium events have been turning darker, we believe. People are afraid of the future, it’s hard to be optimistic. But, hold on, have we not been here before? I’m not old enough to remember the Great War, or even WW2, but I do most vividly remember the Vietnam war, the first television war. I lived through the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which lasted thirty years and, to some extent, continue to this day. Those were frightening dark times, too. People died before they had lived. The difference today is that news, any news, is instant. Social media affords us the opportunity to be informed, 24/7; to live the news more or less as it happens. When bombs exploded at night in 70s Belfast we knew only that they were close or not so close, big or not so big. The news of where and who had been attacked was made public the following day, often not even then. Each celebrity death this year has been a body blow, these were the performers I shared my childhood with, shared my teenage years with, became an adult with. And now, as these lives end, and we learn of them immediately and in some detail, they feel so personal, they genuinely hurt.
Is this immediacy a good thing? I think it probably is. People are informed, they can show they care, if they do. They can respond to sad or bad news within minutes, seconds, it seems. And there is no excuse, in 2016, for not knowing. Caring is a different matter. The residents of Syria may not benefit from our social media obsession. They know what is happening to their city and its citizens, mainly through personal experience. They know that we in the West must also be aware of their agony. But, lacking any response, they must wonder, do we care?