Like David Cameron, our hapless British prime minister, there is nothing I can add about the Norwegian atrocities that isn’t what everyone, I hope, thinks, so I suspect none of us feel much better for his vapid announcement that he was going to have a meeting about terrorism, any more than the Norwegian police will be that relieved to hear his offer of British police help. He has asked for a “review” too about right wing groups in Britain. We all know by now that reviews are either a waste of time or they are just a posh word for what is happening anyway. I don’t think he was implying that none of this had been thought of before, well I hope not. He is prime minister, I guess, and feels that he has to say something. Well, maybe fair enough.
Those deaths in Norway were truly shocking and so it is only natural for everyone to feel the need to say something, to express their shock. This is why the social networking sites are so full of one-line statements of grief – there is really nothing to say but, it feels better to say something and then we understand why cliches retain their power over us.
The idea of young people dying has a special poignancy of course….so many hopes crushed when the natural order of things turns topsy-turvy. The violence and horror of their deaths makes it more shocking too – more shocking, sadly, than all those other young people dying or starvation and illness around the World but that is the nature of shock. Those others are mostly dying slowly beyond the world of Western news cameras and newspapers.
Another young person is buried today, the singer Amy Winehouse. Another crushing of hope and another personal tragedy for her family and friends.
Her death too has been a public shock and, of course, a mega news story. Another rock death in the 27 Club, instant glamorisation, instant immortality, instant leap in record sales.
Here, once more, the social networking sites and radio phone-ins have been filled with well-meaning platitudes and the newspapers have poured over her life and death with only to be expected hysteria. Another rock saint is born even before the post-mortem reaches its conclusion about the cause of her cruelly premature death. She must join the others up there on a sanctified rock’n roll cloud forever worshipped with Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones in their glory days, Jim Morrison inspirational singer and poet with The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, one of the greatest guitarists in the history of the instrument, Kurt Cobain who, with his band Nirvana, blew new energy into late ’80s rock and Janis Joplin, “the Queen of Psychedelic Soul” and the brave female pioneer in the male dominated rock aristocracy of the 1960s. Poor Amy! It was enough to have made the records that she did, it was enough that she possessed a powerful and soulful voice and her premature death is tragic enough too without us sanctifying her death with sloppy musical comparisons.
Not wishing to delve into the incoherent and delusional writings of the Norwegian murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, I can only imagine his gloomy and pessimistic mind-set. At 32, he has lived longer than Amy Winehouse’s 27 years and considerably longer than those Norwegian teenagers, many of whom weren’t even old enough to question life, but, in his delusion, he doesn’t seem to have grown out of that adolescent melancholy that haunts most of us at some time or other during these difficult years. There is a magnificent legacy of rock music that speaks directly to all of us, inspiring and strangely uplifting in its depressive and youthful embrace.
Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin were masters of this anguish. Amy Winehouse, at her best, gave voice to some of those feelings and, by the way she lived her life, seems to have become a victim of them.
What was really stolen from those lost teenagers was not just an anguished adolescence but much more than that – the joy that is truly the legacy of anyone lucky enough to live beyond their formative years.
A less publicised death this week was the passing of the Greek-Cypriot film director Michael Cacoyannis at the decidedly unfashionable but glorious age of 90. He will always be remembered as the director of that quirkily joyful film Zorba The Greek (1964) but some of his others really are really worth digging out too – especially the ones based on Ancient Greek culture like Electra (1962). Amongst all the darkness of recent times with its horrible stories of murder and death, I found myself smiling even at the mention of Zorba. If you want to know what those young people missed then watch this again; that wonderful, crazy and life-affirming dance on the beach where two quirky and unlikely people (Alan Bates and Anthony Quinn) learn how to laugh. It was this spirit that, in the end, got rid of Greece’s right-wing dictators and that will always win against the right-wing crap that was shown in all its horror and futility in Norway this weekend :
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