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Steven Weber

Steven Weber

Posted: April 15, 2007 05:26 AM

Fame! We Want to Live Forever!


It's time to finally acknowledge the silently creeping scourge that has remained hidden in plain sight while infecting the public in an ever widening stain.

It is a bane that is as insidious and intoxicating as alcohol, "sexier" than cocaine, and even piggybacks all manner of routinely abused recreational drugs to heighten its own morality-pickling effects.

It is more pervasive than fluoride.

It is a barely indiscernible linchpin of pop culture yet is often dramatized in movies, television shows and music.

It is available to virtually anyone and seems to require little financial or emotional investment to obtain.

It has become the raison d'être of a vast swath of America's youth and its warping characteristics in themselves have transmogrified into three-dimensional entities that kids want to grow up to become.

It has impacted the world of business, most noticeably the entertainment industry which, being an integral part of the global corporate matrix, influences aspects of countless related concerns and, therefore, society as a whole.

I'm speaking of Fame.

Nowhere in nature is Fame found. There is no organic substance from which Fame can be synthesized. It is a completely manmade state of being. The leopard does not lay in wait to photograph the tiger because it's prettier; the ostrich does not suck up to the wildebeest because it makes ropier dung. More than ever, people feel an irresistible impulse to plant the flag of their own existence in a way that is rarely more substantial than the most basic graffiti. They are aided and abetted by My Spaces and You Tubes and Huffington Posts, these electronic, spasmodic messages-in-a-bottle flung out across the polydimensional internet to wash up on every conceivable doorstep to celebrate or be celebrated. People whose lives were once lived in relative anonymity can now be acclaimed as having Been There and Done That.

But so what? Rarely has the bestowal of fame and celebrity in one's life ever relieved that person's discomfort or mended the psychological wounds that incited the individual to seek the attention of as many strangers as possible. It is a vain attempt at best to fill their bottomless cup of need. And with the abundant, artificially induced attention being paid to and by these digital Kilroys comes the warping, twisting effects that our bodies and minds are just unsuited to handle. Just as America's problem with obesity would be dealt with easily if we only ate seasonally rather than all year 'round (as living creatures were meant to do), so would the rampant shallowness resultant from the widespread craving to obtain fame be lessened if it wasn't so highly and consistently prized. People equate being well known with being relevant and in a culture where every available square inch of existence is bought up and used mainly for commerce, a person apparently only matters if their life is portrayed through the glaring two-dimensionality of Fame.

When one has their first encounter with Fame, endorphins stream into the blood causing a an overwhelming sensation of triumph. Whenever more than three people are facing the newly enfamed, they've felt they've "made it", they've "arrived". Essentially, the feeling supersedes its now passé cousin---the orgasm---entirely, causing a vastly more satisfying reflex: an ego ejaculation. The Famous walks about as though imbued with a new found awareness, a parallax view of sorts, seeing the world and their place in it in "proper perspective".

After a time when the once extolled virtue of humility has been all but eaten away by the drug's subtly corrosive effects, Fame begins to work at the roots of normal dignified behavior and enhances the Famous' sense of self importance. They begin to think of their own off-handed remarks (greeted by the sycophantic approbation of their equally affected clique) as perfectly drawn witticisms, clever proclamations and sage council worthy of Benjamin Franklin. And within the community of Celebrities and Celebrants there is often a pecking order wherein those who have succeeded in attaining lesser degrees of fame seek the approval of those who have attained more, hoping to remain at their superior's side or at least be within the confines of the velvet roped VIP section of any restaurant, dance club or event to nibble at Number One's discarded scraps.

The Fame-afflicted ascend steadily upon swift, rising currents generated by the gathering assembly of pundits, correspondents and gossip-mongers jamming the airwaves that engulf every eyeball, earhole and frontal lobe. They seek out other Celebrities to talk about their shared experiences as "famous people" with an engorged sense of power, often accompanied by derision aimed at all others who have not attained a modicum of renown. This then allows the Famous to divest themselves of common social niceties (i.e., "please", "thank you", etc.) and flout the rules of civility as though they were burdens that their new station allows them to lift off their shoulders and place onto those of their personal, ever attendant beasts of burden (aka "fans").

For the Famous, the ultimate danger is that it creates such instability that even with heightened awareness bordering on paranoia, one's perceptions of reality are wildly inaccurate and soon the very throngs that lifted you on their shoulders may just as soon hurl you to the earth and stomp you into mulch. Thus, one of Fame's more terrifying side effects is that it can cause the sea of admirers to suddenly and unexpectedly devour its own champions.

And thus the cycle is repeated for the great and the small, over and over, mimicking the rapid breathing of a nation being diverted away from more healthful pursuits and towards an imminent heart attack. And while this behavior is concentrated most strongly among entertainers or sports figures, it is no longer confined to that group. Addiction to Fame has spread to areas as diverse as finance, medicine, science and most egregiously, public service. The cycle has created a nation which alternately glorifies itself, heckles itself and finally rubber-necks at its own crash site and whose collective and individual attention is wrenched away from what it should be doing: living.

Witness the swarm of publicity surrounding Anna Nicole, Don Imus; the high-tech low-aiming PR machines cranking out bilge about George Bush and Hillary Clinton; the huge ratings of American Idol and Dancing With the Stars; the virtual reworking of history and the shameless cross-pollination of art and commerce; the homogenizing of America where everything---even one's very existence---is a commodity hanging on a chrome rack to be browsed through by a glassy-eyed consumer, hoping to be themselves one day so perused and consumed.

It's been said that "politics is show business for ugly people." The exclusivity it implies may have been true once but is no longer an accurate description as politicians, doctors, scientists, spiritual leaders, commentators, journalists, etc. have all been exhibiting the symptoms of a deep and abiding addiction to Fame. Any profession, once noble in having the distinction of being able to help the individual or contribute to society, has now lost that defining nobility and has been relegated to being merely a convenient means to a glorious end. The scientist becomes one so he/she may write a book and become...famous. The nutritionist becomes one so that he/she may develop a well known diet and become...famous. The journalist writes hard hitting exposés and thoughtful essays not to enlighten but to become...famous.

The media operates on a moment to moment principle, much like stock traders reacting to the sudden rise and fall in the value of a share or a skier schussing down a snowy slope whose treacherousness is uncharted. Little thought is given to constructing sound plans for the future as that would slow the process down. Every move is motivated rather by the impulsive response to immediate stimuli of the crowd, putting down a small square of pavement beneath each footstep without ever constructing a path leading to a specific destination. And since the media is basically the eyes and ears of the nation, its citizens having put its trust in its glittering promises, so America progresses without a path leading to a specific destination, except the one laid out for it: consume, discard and consume some more. And the distracting effects of Fame and the irresistible possibility that everyone can taste of it, provides the authentically powerful---the media and the corporations that control it---with the opportunity it needs to continue its destructive dominion.

And if you don't think what I am saying is accurate, just go back and read this self-serving, long-winded diatribe of ego-ejaculate again. And get out of my way. You're blocking my light.