You can’t view any major TV news show today without being bombarded with endless coverage and analysis of the early (some might say expected), 72-day divorce of Kim Kardashian. Neither can you escape the ad-nauseum ongoing look into Lindsay Lohan’s drunken cavortings and their subsequent legal repercussions.
Well-known media pundits, highly-placed legal experts, and shrinks offer straight-faced opinions about the intentions and life choices of people who are simply famous for being famous. What’s the point? I just don’t get it. Why should we give a good damn?
Tens of millions of Americans spend hours each day following the granular details and peripatetic lives of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Justin Bieber, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and a few dozen other celebrities.
I’d like to ask these fellow citizens what percentage of their time they spend reading about and/or engaged in critical thinking regarding the underlying causes of America’s joblessness and economic crisis, our lack of a clear energy independence policy, health care access, K-12 education, immigration issues, border security, our aging population, sending jobs overseas, terrorism, the Fed constantly printing money, and so on.
I bet the answer would depress all of us…
Personally, I’ve never been enamored with nor have “followed” any pop icons. I’ve never understood the phenomenon, although a hugely profitable print and TV tabloid industry regularly caters to the public’s insatiable desire to know about such folks.
What’s deeply disturbing to me is what this type of mass cultural narcissism signals for our collective future.
The same moronic public that is fascinated with all this gets to vote on who makes the laws and who they empower to govern. Each of them gets the same vote I do… and I spend hundreds of hours each year trying to stay up with what’s REALLY going on behind the scenes in geopolitically and economically.
Politically, on both sides of the aisle, we bemoan a lack of leadership and a pervasive unwillingness to tackle tough issues. Are we getting the ineffective government we deserve rather than the visionary statesmanship we really need?
Edward Gibbon, the 17th century historian, best-known for his six volume tome The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, says
“The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight.”
I think a solid argument can be made that our widespread (and growing) public fascination with celebrity is a telltale sign of immoderate greatness.
Further, much of America’s current prosperity has been “ripened” through the global outsourcing of much of both our basic and high-tech manufacturing base, gutting our jobs at home, squeezing the middle-class, and temporarily exporting our inflation to China.
Solid arguments can also be made that America is “overextended” in conquest, i.e., rabidly pursuing questionable elective military campaigns and wars overseas that have soaked our treasury for trillions… with very little in return.
When will our fellow citizens, currently distracted (some might say anesthetized) by the Circus Maximus atmospherics offered up daily by the networks and newspapers who are supposedly reporting on the 2012 Republican primary, figure out that we are selling ourselves and our children down the river… and ignoring the real issues critical to our survival.
A statesman tells the public the truth about what’s so, leads the charge, takes risks, and is willing to be held accountable for measurable results. Most of the politicians I know are, quite simply, loath to do any of these.
Renowned American architect and iconoclast, Frank Lloyd Wright, once said that “truth is more important than facts”.
Perhaps we need to be told the truth about our social and economic conditions, rather than hear a never-ending drone of inconsequential facts from unctuous, lazy-ass politicians with weak character and their co-opted media.
Is our immoderate greatness catching up with us? Is our decline and fall imminent?
Sam Kephart is CEO of Virtual Acumen Corp., a Spearfish, South Dakota-based creative agency specializing in digital media and marketing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.