Misunderstood, or just trouble?

By Clyde Davis: CNJ Columnist

The clock radio woke me this morning, tuned to a local station, with the voice of the talented and troubled British singer, Amy Winehouse, rolling back and forth over a series of notes. This soul/pop/blues artist really is very gifted.

I remembered that, recently, she was in the online headlines, not only for her own substance abuse issues, but for her husband’s incarceration. Reminiscent of another gifted singer of a previous generation, though still active, Joan Baez, whose husband also did jail time.

There’s one difference which may seem small, to those who regard jail as jail, but which looms big to me: Baez’s husband was incarcerated during the Vietnam era for his public antiwar stance and participation in antiwar activities. Winehouse’s husband, on the other hand, was locked up for what amounts to evidence tampering and witness intimidation.

It says something, I fear, about where we have come from and where we are going as a society. Certainly it is unreasonable to give undue value to the activities of a spouse of a famous person, and hold that entertainer accountable.

Still, isn’t there something to the idea of being a role model, a person to whom others turn for image, and the resultant culpability which this entails?

The one locked up for taking a stance for something he believes in, the other locked up for inarguably criminal activity.

Perhaps it is reflective of what Scott Peck proposes as a fundamental description of evil, this being the idea that evil is rooted in selfishness and the capacity to place oneself first, over any other consideration.

I am certainly not saying that Winehouse is evil- as I stated, I love her music, her voice and her potential. Nor am I saying that her husband is. I am simply saying that acts rooted in selfishness seem to be the accepted norm in our society, increasingly so.

In other words, people today may be more vulnerable to the influence of evil because they tend to put themselves first, not considering the influence their actions may have on others.

If pressed, I might place the Rev. Wright’s actions in the category of unthinking selfishness, too, as it becomes plainer and plainer that he is enjoying the spotlight and not too concerned about the impact on Obama’s campaign.