Exclusive Interview with the soul of David Beckham

Philosophers' Mail Interview Principles

The Philosophers' Mail has secured access to the inner lives, the souls if you like, of some of the most famous and influential people on the planet. On a regular basis, we will bring you interviews with the movers and shakers defining our times.

We never work through PR agencies, we never attend press conferences and in fact we have never met any of the people we have interviewed.

We have a distinctive view of what is needed properly to get under the skin of a celebrity. Most news outlets try and get in the same room as the person, and then ask them questions, hoping thereby to work out who their subjects 'really' are. But that can be a frustrating process.

The journalist sits opposite the subject in a hotel suite and sees their questions ricochet off their armour. Most subjects don't know 'who' they are, or they don't want to tell you.

We prefer to go with the evidence that is already there. By definition, there will always be quite a lot already. We chew it over, hoping thereby to touch on a few of the essential things that make celebrities interesting.

We pick subjects to interview from whom we think there is stuff to learn. We don't think the people we feature are excellent in every respect. In fact, they are invariably a bit awful in some ways. But that does not make the virtues they do possess any less instructive.


One of the endearing and helpful things about David Beckham is his modesty. Modesty gets interesting when someone has things to boast about but doesn't. He's good at talking about changing nappies, and how tricky it can be driving the children to school when they are fighting in the back.

His talent lies in knowing how to find common ground. His life is astonishing, completely unlike how most people live. But even when asked to discuss things that only he has experienced, his instinct is to head for what can be shared. He often talks about being too tired to go out once he and Victoria have put the children to bed, something any parent can relate to, and ordering a pizza, even if the setting for this exhaustion and meal is a mansion (which he doesn't mention) with 20 bedrooms.

Another vital thing about Beckham is his air of passivity. One feels that if his wife told him to die his hair pink and purple, he'd make a note to speak to his hairdresser. Our culture is so big on independence, virility and being your own boss that it is helpful to come across a person who is obviously making a great success of life without subscribing to any of these ideals.

We tend not to think of passivity as a virtue, but it can and should be. It's the ability to let things wash over you, to be able not to fight. It's not that we should be passive all the time, but we could on occasions benefit from being a bit more fatalistic, less determined to have things our way, less focused on being the one who decides.

Beckham is a good ambassador for passivity because he's been so prominent in the most rugged parts of the masculine arena. Beckham has lived in the locker rooms, he has been one of the lads, he's made his share of aggressive tackles. So when he seems unassertive, even a bit submissive, in his marriage, we don't brush it away and feel it's alien or pitiful. Prince Edward might also strike some observers as being rather pliant, but he is not much of a role model because he feels excessively close to fragility. By being virile in so many ways, Beckham makes a good kind of passivity more plausible and psychologically available to us all.

Coming soon: Interview with the soul of Angela Merkel.


The School of Life