I want to be famous!
Everyone wants to be famous nowadays. That’s often blamed on people being stupid, shallow and narcissistic.
That doesn’t feel right. When people say they want to be famous, ultimately what they mean is something far more touching and vulnerable: they want the world to be nice to them.
Currently, it’s not illogical to want to be famous, because unfortunately, the world won’t generally be nice to us unless we are famous. This is deeply damaging and a major political problem.
The more that dignity and kindness are given only to the very few, the stronger the urge will be to avoid being simply ‘normal’. The more that ‘normal life’ is stripped of a basic level of dignity and security, the more dreams of outlandish fame and fortune will arise in compensation.
Those who pin the blame for ‘celebrity culture’ on some character defect in modern people are missing the point. The real cause of celebrity culture isn’t narcissistic shallowness, it is a deficit of kindness in our political and economic arrangements.
A society where everyone wants to be famous is also one where, for a variety of essentially political reasons, being ordinary has failed to deliver the degree of respect necessary to satisfy natural appetites for dignity.
Insofar as the modern world is celebrity obsessed, we are living not so much in superficial times as in unkind ones. Fame has become a means to an end; it is simply the most direct route to the sort of respect that people are despairing of winning in other, less celebrity-dependent ways – for example, through steady effort rather than dramatic wins in talent contests.
If we want to decrease the urge for fame, we should not begin by frowning upon or seeking to censor news about celebrities; we should start to think of ways of making kindness, patience and attention more widely, fairly and democratically available, especially to the young.