On Caring About More Than One Thing At Once


A quick Twitter search for “Amy Winehouse” leads to a page riddled with finger wagging superiority. “Now everyone forgot about Norway!” remarked one. “Kids get shot all the time; Amy Winehouse only dies once,” remarked another. Fjord kayaking Christ with a beehive. It’s possible to care about more than one thing at a time. Remarking on one tragedy does not mean that you aren’t aware of another, that you don’t feel bad about it, that your heart doesn’t go out to its victims. Why is it so difficult to resist moralizing mourning, and why are we so quick to gauge one’s Humanity Score from a handful of social networking posts?

Amy Winehouse’s death resonated with people for different reasons than the attacks in Oslo did. Amy’s job was to be a performer. Her art connected with people on a personal level, and because art is subjective, it makes sense that her passing would lead to many people who she personally affected commenting on how she impacted them.

Perhaps people are more willing to discuss Amy Winehouse because they feel more qualified to discuss what happened to her. Individual tragedy is easier to wrap one’s mind around, and we feel like we can digest its pieces- one woman with immense talent, gone too soon. Her songs were played on the radio, so it’s reasonable to assume that Amy Winehouse is a part of an experience that many of us have shared. We can bring it up and expect an exchange to ensue. Norway’s tragedy, in contrast, is so much bigger than one talented woman who appears to have died a victim of her own vices. It’s millions of unknown faces, of people we’ve never met (or who aren’t commonly known as individuals) who mourn for their countrymen and their own lost sense of security. It’s an extremist with an almost unreadable manifesto shooting a gun at children. It’s mental cacophony, and it’s difficult to muster a comment beyond, “That’s terrible” or “How awful.”

If the only world event worth commenting on is the most severe tragedy, then where does the pissing contest end? Yes, what happened in Norway was terrible, but what about what happened in Japan? What about what happened with the Asian tsunami? What about 9/11 here in the good ol’ US of A? (You said you’d never forget!) What about everything bad that ever happened?

Keep your thoughts with Norway, tell everyone about it all the time if you want to, direct every one of your Facebook friends to donate to the Red Cross, but chastising others for not devoting enough social networking space to a greater tragedy doesn’t help the Norwegians, it helps you look like a sanctimonious jerk.

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