So the big news today pretty much across all the news sources I’ve looked at has been the death of Steve Irwin. And, like a lot of people, TSP and I have been talking about him, his conservation work, how his work as a naturalist contrasted with his ‘crocodile hunter’ image (which never involved hunting them at all, as far as I can see).
I always feel a bit weird about the sadness that surrounds celeb deaths, especially those who haven’t really made much of a dent in your life – I mean, John Peel’s death felt like something major had gone from the lives of an entire generation of British radio listeners and musicians, but Steve Irwin was always a novelty character on UK TV, someone to be giggled at as he hammed up an encounter with some poisonous critter or other.
There’s a deep and genuine sadness for his family – his wife and two small children – it’s always terrible to hear of families that are bereaved. And that’s just it. There are loads of bereaved families every day, there are naturalists and conservationists dying, there are humanitarian workers being killed, peace protesters in the middle east, aid workers in Darfur, good people, unknown, unsung wonderful selfless people who die and leave a devastating hole in their families, but don’t make the news because they weren’t showbiz enough.
This isn’t to take anything away from sadness of Steve Irwin’s death, or to suggest that we should have a TV channel for obituaries of ordinary people. More that we should be aware of our own dispensation towards colourful characters, be they in the media or in our social situations. It’s easy to mourn the death of a star, just as it’s easy to mark any event in the lives of people who make themselves the centre of attention, but it’s harder to see, to recognise the good done by those who don’t do their positive work in the spotlight, who don’t have a catchphrase, or a film about their life, but instead get on with doing their thing. And if we’re not careful we’ll miss them, miss the chances we have to celebrate them, the encourage them and to support their families if they are tragically taken away.by