Whenever a celebrity dies people seem to split into a few categories: the fans that mourn, the people who show their respect regardless of their personal opinion of said celebrity, and then those who bring up the question 'why don't people care when anyone else dies'.
I am sure there are more categories to mention (the 'lets think of all the jokes we can about said celebrity and put them on Twitter' one jumps to mind) but it is the conflict between the second and third ones mentioned above that really confuse me. I believe that the latter - the 'why do people only care about celebrity deaths' paradigm - seems to me quite naive and very presumptuous. And the judgement of this group seems not to fall on the fans most distraught about the death, but on those who show their respects regardless. This really interests me.
I most often place myself in the 'respect paying' category. Is this because I only care about celebrity deaths... not really. In fact, not at all. I care about the death of anyone, including criminals and enemies*. Why? Because whoever dies and wherever in the world, that person has friends and families. Despite what that person may have said or done there will always be someone mourning. I pay my respects not for the person who has died, but for the people they have left behind.
I guess people in that third category would then ask 'what makes the celebrity death different - why publicly show your respects to those people?' The answer to this is that there are a great deal more people who will mourn the loss of someone high profile i.e. that first group I mentioned... the fans. When a celebrity dies it is not just the family and friends that mourn, but everyone who was touched, influenced or inspired by that person.
While I don't personally mourn the loss of Whitney Houston for example, I have friends who do and it is for them that I show my respects. For someone to suggest that I don't show respect to other people who die - whether that be a malnourished child, someone with cancer, a service man or woman in the middle of a war zone, someone whose body has just reached its end - is firstly ridiculous and secondly, down right insulting.
For starters, if I publicly announced my sadness at the loss of everyone in the world that dies I wouldn't have much time for anything else. But does that mean that I am not aware that six million children die each year from malnutrition before their fifth birthday? Of course not. I mourn the loss of those people in other ways - I support charity work and campaigns. That is my was of publicly acknowledging the loss of those people.
Just because some people mention deaths on Twitter and Facebook and not others' doesn't mean they don't care. It just means they have chosen a different way to show their sadness - one perhaps more appropriate, in that person's opinion, to the death in question i.e. wearing a Poppy in November to recognize service men and women or taking part in the Project for Awesome to highlight the world's inequalities.
In the time that it has taken me to write this blog about 3500 people will have died. This blog is for them.
*"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." - Article 3. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone.