The value of a life

I really don't want to end up somewhere like this!

About 150,000 people died yesterday

Many people died yesterday… in every country there were deaths. Some people died of old age, some as a result of an accident or an illness, some tragically and some peacefully. In total, about 150,000 people died in the world yesterday. Of course the media cannot report all of those deaths, and we are more likely to hear of the deaths of individuals from our own country than those from overseas, but yesterday really highlighted to me how the current cult of celebrity has skewed the lives that we, apparently, value… or at least that the media values.

Last night we watched the news at 10pm on the BBC. The main story was the death of Peaches Geldof – daughter of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates. Clearly a tragic death – she was only 25 and had two young children. Probably her greatest claim to fame was her famous parents, although she had (probably as a result of having famous parents) been a model, TV presenter and written for various newspapers and magazines. The BBC web site currently features a link to a piece about the death of Peaches Geldof on its front page.

Much later in the same news bulletin last night the deaths of two British women in Tenerife were briefly reported: Uma Ramalingam and Barathi Ravikumar drowned trying to save two children who had been swept into the sea. Mrs Ramalingam was a consultant obstetrician and Dr Ravikumar was a GP. The children were rescued but both women drowned. I had to search for a story about these two women on the BBC web site today.

In addition, yesterday the Rev. Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit priest who ‘became a symbol of suffering and compassion in the war-ravaged Old City district of Homs, Syria’ was shot dead. According to The New York Times ‘After Syrian government forces isolated and laid siege to the rebel-held Old City for more than a year, a truce in January allowed the evacuation of 1,500 people, both civilians and fighters. But Father Frans, as he was known, insisted on remaining in the monastery where he had lived for decades, offering refuge to Muslim and Christian families alike and sharing their deprivation and trauma.’ This story did not even merit mention on the BBC TV news last night… and today I only found a report on the BBC web site because I searched for the priest’s name.

And what of all those who died yesterday as a result of the conflict in Syria? At least that’s a situation we hear a little about here in the UK on the news. Other conflicts and those who lose their lives as a result get almost no coverage. The web site Wars in the World currently lists the warring hotspots in Africa as: Central African Republic (civil war), Democratic Republic of Congo (war against rebel groups), Egypt (popular uprising against Government), Mali (war against Tuareg and Islamist militants), Nigeria (war against Islamist militants), Somalia (war against Islamist militants), Sudan (war against rebel groups) and South Sudan (civil war). And that’s just one continent. There are people dying in all of those countries (and many more) and we barely hear of the conflicts, let alone the deaths.

Now, I don’t want to play down the death of any one individual, but I am appalled that our cult of celebrity gives such prominence to the passing of one young woman and pays so little attention to massacres of innocents. Perhaps our newspapers and TV stations need to remember the value of all lives and give some prominence to those who had so little chance to speak up for themselves even when they were alive.

I’d like to think that we would value every life and that the passing of each person is mourned, just as I’d like to think that each person should be valued and cherished when they are alive… whoever they are, wherever they come from and whether or not the media deems them to be ‘important’.


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  1. Thank you for speaking out. I agree wholeheartedly. I wish the mainstream media reported thoughtful pieces rather than just trying to titillate us all the time.

  2. One of our beloved celebrities over here died yesterday too, or was it Monday? Anyway, Mickey Rooney, passed away on the 6th. I’m sure the news was abuzz with his passing. Me? I stopped watching the news a long time ago, and the placing of celebrities above the little folk in all things was one of the many reasons why. The only reason I know that Mickey Rooney passed on is the plethora of RIP posts for him on Facebook.

    Celebrity culture is everywhere. I think it’s human nature to need heroes and celebrities, But where do you draw the line when it comes to putting them on a pedestal?

    • Oh for more heroes who are heroes because of something more than ‘celebrity’.
      Mickey Rooney did make it onto our news on Sunday… but he wasn’t the ‘top’ story

      • Oh, I’m sure he was nothing more than a blip on y’all’s radar. He probably got a lot of press here though. The media makes heroes of celebrities everywhere for (my opinion) two reasons.

        One, they don’t have a lot of news and there are many stations that are broadcasting 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week. They have a lot of time to fill.

        Two: the world is getting smaller, What used to make a hero just doesn’t cut it anymore. I mean local heroes are great — the firehouse that helped raise money and gave their time to help a neighborhood rebuild after a disaster, or the waitress who won the lottery and built a new school, or the local moneybags who gives to the poor. And that’s all well and good, but they would never be able to withstand the global or even national spotlight.

        But we live in a global world now, like it or not, want it or not (these messages prove that). And people look for global and national “heroes” and who better to fill those shoes than celebrities, politicians, and players of national sports? The media is simply giving the people as a whole what they want. The fact that these celebrities are as popular as they are proves that. It’s just people like yourself and myself who find the whole thing disturbing.

        My humble opinion anyway…

  3. Life is cheap here. Workers die in the mines, children die from preventable diseases, people get shot for challenging power and corruption, or for simply entering the wrong neighbourhood. Recently workers on a gas pipeline were murdered by the remnants of the Shining Path marxist rebels, who have now teamed up with the cocoleros to run narco-trafficing operations in Peru’s more lawless reaches. Every day there are hundreds of stupid, pointless and corrupts preventable deaths. Although I’m pleased to say that Peaches didn’t make the papers here today, sadly Miley Cirus did.

    I’ve taken to reading Alain de Botton’s “Philosopher’s Mail” as an antidote to, and to aid understanding of, modern media. He sasy some interesting things about this strange and vapid cult of celebrity that help me to make some sense of it all. Most of all, it’s helping me to stop paying so much attention to it all. I hear the really important stuff through my networks anyway, =o)

  4. I totally agree with you. The two Brits who died attempting to save children and who probably have saved children in the course of their jobs should have been the lead story. Peaches Geldof may have warranted a mention because of her celebrity following but surely only secondary to the true heroes of the day.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  5. Amen to that. The cult of the trivial irritates me no end, and I wonder sometimes that the BBC there and ABC at home consider themselves serious journalists with the tripe they dish up. Thank you for making public the heroism of those we SHOULD have heard about.

    • I really wish I could have found more about those we NEVER hear about… I looked at the Human Rights Watch web site to see about the latest deaths in various places around the world, but none was for this week as it takes so long for that sort of information to filter out…

  6. There’s kind of a circle don’t you think? The very fact that poor Peaches, who was a tragedy waiting to happen, did in fact make it to all the front pages … is kind of her cause of death? I pray I die in obscurity, happy, at peace with my God and my family.
    For those who die in wars, through other acts of violence, and in any conflict anywhere, I have no words. There is no just war. No good reason to knowingly take another life.

  7. Very, very well said.

  8. That thought struck me too, as I listened to the news — although I had no idea who she was! Thank you for your very thoughtful words, and for the examples of people who should also be remembered.

    • I’m sure I could have found lots more worthy people, but the juxtaposition of Peaches and the two doctors was so striking on the news that I felt it shouldn’t pass without comment.

  9. It really troubled me too today 😦

    • Nice to know I’m not alone… clearly, though, the media don’t see things our way

      • I know I may get a boo hiss response to this, but I felt the same when Princess Diana died. Mother Teresa who devoted her whole life to helping others with no financial backing died the same week. Nobody batted an eyelid because a celebrity died 😦

        • I was very interested in the way that the media manipulated the death of Diana… people who had been completely indifferent to her when she was alive suddenly seemed to be regarding her as a saintly figure. I can remember watching her funeral (whilst I did the ironing) and being shocked by the level of emotion and the sense of national mourning was created… a feeling that it is very easy to get swept up with.

  10. It is so nauseating. News channels world over gloat and revel in celebrity news. And I feel like screaming, ‘No, these guys are not the celebrities, the true ones are out there rescuing people from fire, danger, disease and starvation. Go and cover those stories of heroism and celebrate their achievement and sacrifices.’
    Thank you for sharing the story of the doctor couple. I dint know this. What an irony !! they go to save the kids, rescue them, but get drowned !! A tale of twisted fate !!

    • Yes, I thought the story of the two doctors was terrible – a real tragedy and such a loss both to their families and to the wider world. There ARE real heroes out there and we should celebrate them.

  11. I too was reminded of Princess Diana’s death when I read your piece. It wasn’t until the next day that I realised that Mother Teresa had also died.

  12. The problem with television having to share the deaths of noble and real people is that there won’t be ratings in it and ratings pay the bills. Celebrity is an A list ticket and it is to be sought after at all costs. A poor anorexic celebrity is worth 100 noble martyrs that we really SHOULD be reading about. What does that say about us as a society? I don’t want to know. I tend not to watch television. Steve told me about Ms Geldof who was on our far flung Antipodean television news as well. Never even heard a squeak about the other people that you mentioned and I didn’t even know who they were…how easy would it be for governments to feed us all rubbish because we seem to love to hear it…

    • I does make you wonder what we are being distracted from… but more that there does seem to be such a demand for ‘celebrity’ news… sigh

      • We get what we deserve to be honest. If we didn’t demand it, it wouldn’t pay and they would drop them like hot cakes…

  1. The value of a livelihood | The Snail of Happiness

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