The email I received this morning soliciting Whitney Houston articles made the call that any articles should be submitted as soon as possible. Strangely, and I assume this is purely an administrative oversight on the part of Blogcritics, I did not receive an email concerning Ian Gerard Sartorius-Jones, the 21-year-old UK soldier who died in service in Helmand province on 24 January, or the death of 84-year-old Freda Read last week in a house fire in Blackburn, Lancashire. Neither, in fact, did I receive any emails concerning the deaths of thousands of other individuals, including the hundreds who died of starvation, treatable diseases, or after being trafficked as cargo to a myriad of destinations, including the 'developed' world, for the purpose of sexual exploitation. What am I to take of this oversight? It must surely be that that the equality of all human beings spoken of in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is but a myth.
I do not intend to criticise Blogcritics here – they are doing precisely the same thing that will be taking place in newsrooms across the globe whilst Twitter is still trending on the subject. In fact, it is I think reasonable to publicly acknowledge the joy people have brought to people's lives. It is reported that Bob Geldof said of the late Michael Jackson that when he “sings, it is with the voice of angels. When his feet move, you can see God dancing.” It is of the very essence of humanity to recognise others' talents and so it is surely right to give thanks for these. In this sense the singling out of Houston from the, frankly, far more tragic death of a barely adult soldier, for example, is reasonable in that she has wider recognition for her talents.
And yet, there remains something unseemly about the level of treatment that has and will continue to follow yesterday's events. We will read much that Houston's death is a tragedy, of fans whom she never even met being inconsolable with grief, of life not being the same with her passing. It is, to put it bluntly, tosh. Houston's innate worth as a human being was precisely the same as that of the thousands of other deceased, of whom we never even hear about. It is the same as 'the bum' you work past on the way to work, the same as the welfare claimant struggling to find work, the same as you and me. It is that which the cult of celebrity, even celebrity that is premised on genuine talent – as Houston's surely was – rather than simply 'being famous' denies. It is this perpetuation that has set up the horrifying spectre that 'celebrity' is now a highly sought after life goal.