On Selective Grief And Social Media Superiority
Posted on November 16, 2015
November 16, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey
This is ostensibly a music publication, as fast and loose as that term can possibly be anyway, so it stands to reason that the vast majority of you are regular showgoers. Whether that’s shows at basements in your neighborhood, at small bars, larger clubs or some combination of the three, I’m going to go ahead and make the logical assumption that most, if not all of you, go to shows to see bands you love, to discover new bands to love, to see people you love and be around strangers with common goals and interests and life trajectories. You go to shows to escape the inanity, the short, yet excruciating exercise that everyday life can be, for a few hours. You go to shows to feel safe. Or you just go to dance around and bang your head, whatever. You do you.
It’s a gross understatement to mention that this weekend’s horrific terror attacks across Paris that killed at least 129 people, many of them massacred while inside The Bataclan for an Eagles Of Death Metal show, was an attack on that safe space, on our way of escape as music fans. For a lot of us, what transpired inside that room that terrible night is our worst nightmare come true, a deadly intrusion on the one place where a lot of our sisters and brothers and friends and family can feel safe, can take temporary shelter from an unspeakably cruel and senseless outside world. It’s completely frightening. It makes you want to live out the rest of your life inside a bubble. Most of us won’t do that, of course, but the grief for these victims, especially in the larger underground rock scene, has been outpouring. We relate to them because we’ve been them. We are them. Changes are afoot, no doubt. Many of us are already used to waiting in long, slow lines before being patted down or wanded before entering larger venues, but venues will have to increase security—something most self-policing punks loathe—to ensure that their spaces remain as safe as possible. How that will manifest itself exactly is still up in the air, but one would have to assume it’ll mean longer lines, stricter re-entry policies, and more highly trained security personnel on the floors of most venues.
Amidst the outpouring of support and cheesy Facebook profile picture updating and all of that, there’s been some sharp criticism pointed at those sharing solidarity in their own small way on social media. The term “selective grief” has been thrown around a lot. Sure, you’re upset about the terror attacks in Paris, but what about the deadly attacks in Beirut? Or Syria, four years into a bloody civil war which has yielded the exodus of millions of refugees searching for new homes in faraway countries? Where’s the Facebook photo filter for those? Many have pointed out that the Paris attacks hit closer to home. Paris is a large, metropolitan, cosmopolitan world city that many of us are familiar with, that many of us have visited. Much like the United States of America, France is an abhorrently wealthy, modern democratic country with nuclear weapons and a questionable human rights record. Paris’ iconography, the Eiffel Tower, the Lourve, the Palace of Versailles, its romantic allure, is immediately identifiable by most of us. And yes, its European whiteness is also familiar to most of us. The same cannot be said, rather unfortunately, for the Middle East, which has been so deeply embroiled in conflict for so long that news of more conflict in the region, no matter how dramatically grim, often yields little more than a shrug because at this point, what are we supposed to do? It’s hardly the right reaction to a part of the world being systematically destroyed, over and over again, but the resignation with the situation is a very, very real thing.
But that’s the whole thing about grief, isn’t it? The term “selective grief” is a misnomer because grief is always selective and stronger when it hits closer to home for whatever reason that it does, such as when a space we consider safe is horrifically violated. Grief is an imperfect feeling, riddled with confusion, hazed by uncertainty. Criticizing others on social media, for crissake, about how your grief can beat up their grief, isn’t the answer either. Trawling twitter as the attacks were being carried out—twitter is still far and away the best social media platform for breaking news—half of my timeline was people tweeting in so many words that everyone else should shut the fuck up because Serious Things Are Happening. Are we so far up our own asses as a society to not recognize the irony in doing that? Education is important, of course, but in situations such as these that education so often comes served with a side of arrogance, and a heaping pile of perceived moral superiority that’s about as frustratingly counterproductive as anything. We’re products of our environment, for better or worse. Let people grieve how they’re going to grieve, and don’t tell strangers on the internet to shut the fuck up and grieve this way on a public platform to demonstrate how much better you are than them. Just be nice to people, for crying out loud.