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Seeing Things Differently Now



On June 25th, 2009, many thousands of people on our planet died and passed into eternity. It was a day like every other day so far as the mortality factor was concerned. Yet , in another way, it was a very different day so far as many people are concerned.


Michael Jackson died that day. As did Farrah Fawcett. So did Bob Knight.


Who's Michael Jackson? You're kidding, aren't you? Even if your knowledge of him is sparse, just about everyone would be somewhat aware that he was a person well known in contemporary music circles. Farrah Fawcett may not be as well known as Jackson but most folk would recognize her as a television personality a couple of decades ago.


But who was Bob Knight? An actor? A television personality? Perhaps he was a politician? Come on, give me a clue. Bob Knight was a truck driver from Canberra who was shot in the head as he drove his truck past a shoot-out of some kind. He was in no way connected to the shooting. It was a random shot, it would seem, that killed him instantly. Had he been a nano-second earlier or later he may well be alive today. Of those three deaths, I think the most tragic was that of Bob Knight.


Michael Jackson apparently died as a result of complications related to prescription medicines - part and parcel of his chosen lifestyle. The death of any person is tragic to a greater or lesser degree. Nonetheless, Jackson made choices that eventually led to his death. Dying of cancer, Farrah Fawcett's death was also tragic. I assume she made no deliberate choices that led to her cancer. She was one of many who finally succumbed to that dreaded disease.


But Bob Knight just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That was the death that most impacted me. I just could not get past the "unfairness" of that situation. What were the chances of being hit and instantly killed by a stray bullet that was never intended for him in the first place?


Then there were those deaths on June 25 that we will never hear about, thousands of them. Maybe tens of thousands of them. Countless children dying for lack of food or medicine. Others dying of old age. Then there were those killed on the roads of the world. So the list goes on. Each and every life was of incredible value. And no one life should be mourned or celebrated more than any other. Despite the outpouring of grief, Michael Jackson was no more valuable than any of the many children who died that day. Nor was Farrah Fawcett or Bob Knight.


Yet, despite its cause, death is still the most democratic institution on earth. One death per person. It's unchangeable and inevitable. Death is the great leveler, the great equaliser. It strips away riches and reputations. It refuses to recognize age as it targets young and old alike. It exposes the foolishness of human categories that would, for example, make the life of a Michael Jackson more valuable and significant than that of Bob Knight.


So what's the point of all the above? Is it going anywhere? Is there a conclusion that will emerge shortly? I guess I'm writing out of a sense of injustice. I want to be an advocate for the value and significance of the Bob Knights of this world. I also want to challenge the adulation of Michael Jackson that, to my mind, approximates to the worship of a demi-god.


Jackson was a sad expression of humanity. For whatever reason, he seemed to live a life of confusion. He couldn't make up his mind if he was male or female, black or white, gay or straight, adult or child. And for all this his fans worshipped him? I never met Bob Knight but I think I'm well within the bounds of probability when I say that Bob had probably resolved those distinctions that seemed to have eluded Michael Jackson.


When it comes to human value systems, I sometimes think that someone has gone through the shop and arbitrarily changed all the price tags. The result has been that we so easily place value on what is essentially valueless and vice versa. Let's learn to value every human life. Let's both mourn and celebrate each and every valuable life while it is being lived and when it finally comes to a close.

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