Trisha De Borchgrave

Post Manchester: Ariana’s Grand Crusade

While Britain obsesses about the aftermath of its general election, the tribute concert for the victims of the Manchester terrorist attack gave an insight into the young demographic that will count from now on and more than ever.


One week after the benefit concert for the families and victims of the May 22 terrorist attack in Manchester, it is worth pausing over the sentiments of the 23-year-old pop singer who was caught up in the tragedy that night.

Ariana Grande’s subsequent seven-day mobilization of some of the biggest stars in the music industry to perform alongside her revealed the magnetic synergy of today’s cultural icons. Multiply their status to the power of social media and their influence covers swathes of a planet that politicians can only dream about and parents marvel at.

And while today’s youth Instagrams its way into adulthood, often at the risk of incurring low self-esteem and high levels of anxiety, it is also empowered by global synapses communicating with communities that far exceed their geographical boundaries.

Parents may have worried about their child’s psychological readiness for a return to the source of trauma just ten days after the terrorist attack inside Manchester’s Arena venue. After all, the consequences of such horror will percolate and haunt for years to come. But the generation of instant gratification has also adapted neurologically to the effectiveness of immediate, emotional connection.

Urged on by their cultural heroes, the young hugged the person next to them and celebrated life together through the prayer of a song lyric … pop-star pastors asked 50,000 to stand in silence in remembrance.

When the adrenaline high of seeing their favorite singer at a live concert intensified the absolute shock of a bomb explosion minutes later, for many it spelled the end of innocence. Yet that correlation was replaced with a renewed sense of hope. Purring with the susurrations of someone they trust, Arianna extended her hand and lifted them off the floor of fear and confusion and into a gathering of mass therapy.

Beautiful, and with a voice from the gods, she appeared like a regenerated avatar, cleansed of carnage; the life-affirming embodiment of survival. A modern-day Vera Lynn, her simple words of love and togetherness did not need to be any more complicated, because she too was a victim of today’s realities, and the sweet-sounding salve to wounds that might well develop into scar tissue in need of longer-term care from parents and professionals.

Manchester’s comeback concert was kick-starter recovery. Pop-star pastors asked 50,000 to stand in silence in remembrance of those hurt and slain. And urged on by their cultural heroes, the young hugged the person next to them and celebrated life together through the prayer of a song lyric, led at one point by the kneeling mega-entity Chris Martin of Coldplay with the words, “I will fix you.” The sea of waving arms was biblical and a moving testament of how goodness outnumbers evil by the millions.

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The familiar sounds of a child’s secure world for those growing up in the 21st century have reverberated with the drumbeat of conflict and terrorism, but here they were; loving, expectant, connected, hopeful, and validated by their aliveness, not by those seeking to destroy them. The Black Eyed Peas singing “Where is the love? brought home spiritual truths that should be on instant replay in the minds of those making political decisions on their behalf, and in ours, among digital devices competing over rushed goodbyes and good nights to those we love most.

And lest anyone presuppose that the ordeal of the past few days had reached closure that night in Manchester’s Old Trafford Cricket Ground, the night skies rang out with the gritty brilliance of music god and grumpy shit Liam Gallagher. Tambourine manacled in a Guantanamo orange jumpsuit, he served as a reminder of the tough days ahead and a reflection of what those in the front rows who lost a child or a parent will have to bear and who asked not to be filmed.

So after a mass of mantras, from You are not alone, Let’s not be afraid and Let the world hear your resilience, to the galvanizing force of thousands singing “loud and proud,” this was proof that our society – messy and confused as it may seem – can get it right. In our struggle to come to terms with others’ suffering, we became the true believers in today’s angels of goodness, who, through the benevolent and heart-wrenching power of music, stuck one huge, beautiful, bejeweled middle finger at the perpetrators of evil.




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