When Princess Diana was killed in 1997, I remember thinking to myself, sure it's sad that a human being was killed in the prime of their life, but what did Diana ever do (other than be pretty, miserable, and a princess) to warrant the massive outpouring of grief displayed throughout the world upon news of her death?
With the sudden death of Steve Irwin, Discovery Communication's erstwhile Crocodile Hunter, I feel the exact opposite. Irwin, unlike Diana, actually offered the world something pretty amazing, and that was his irrepressible personality and his love of sharing the wonders of the natural world. In an era of cardboard celebrity, Irwin's Aussie larrikin was no act for the camera-it was the man himself, and it is what made him such a huge success, particularly with children. Yes, his personality was something of a cartoon made real, except unlike others, he was for real. We all need heroes, and this man who bravely wrangled crocodiles and snakes was a perfect fit for the younger set, as well as the young-in-heart. What a thing to share with the world.
Now I'm sure some readers are thinking how could I possibly admire Irwin, given his some of his pro-green stands and my own convictions. From what I researched today, Irwin's positions were hardly threatening considering the depths some environmentalists will go in order to roll back civilization in the name of the intrinsic value of nature. Irwin worked to save wild animals from needless death, using his own wealth to purchase habitat refuges over calling upon government coercion, and he was outspoken against the irrational poaching of rare animals for trinkets and use in quack medicines. These views are hardly offensive, and if Irwin held other positions that I disagree with, I can live with it.
Why? Because Irwin's pro-green positions weren't what was most striking about the man. Instead, it was his zeal and joy for life that set him apart. Wouldn't it be nice to be so in love with what you do and who you are with that your every sentence is an act of passion and exuberance? I'm not saying I wish a world of larrikins, but who would you have to be to pull it off a life like Irwin's and have it be real? To see something interesting and think, "Wow, that's absolutely incredible! To be able to share your excitement and vitality with others? To teach millions of people about what it is that fascinates you?
So in that light, I am sad that the Steve Irwin is no more. And for once, I expect that the crocodile tears in the world are for real.