Friday, April 10, 2015
The late Mr X
I was astonished - though maybe I shouldn't have been - by the overwhelming publicity given to the death of the Australian cricketer and cricket commentator Richie Benaud. No doubt he was a great dricketer, and clearly a nice man and a talented commentator, but to watch TV and read the newspapers you would have thought he was important on a scale in which clearly he weighed little when compared to other notable men whose death has attracted less attention. How, in real terms, does the death of a sportsman compare to that of a man or woman who has made a really lasting and important contribution to humanity? - a scientist, a composer, a writer? If Benaud's name is remembered in a century's time it will be simply as a name in a book about cricketing history, read only by rather strange people who take an interest in the sportsmen of a hunded years ago. The amazing work of some scientists on the other hand should mean that their names are remembered and celebrated a century hence,while that of at least some composers and writers may mean that their names are bracketed with those which we celebrate two or three centuries after their deaths.Yet the death of a writer, a composer, even a scientist often rates only half a column or so in the more serious papers. A sense of balance has gone awry somewhere, hasn't it?, when the fact that someone is enormously popular for relatively insignificant though popular reasons prompts an almost hysterical outpouring of grief? Completely understandable, when one thinks about it, and to be astonished' is no doubt a silly reaction. But an interesting comment on popular sentiment.