Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Real American Idols

This may be the most obvious blog topic ever, but I don't care. It likely suprises no one to say that America is in a severe state of decline, rotting from our insides out. Everything that once made America great is now rendered a punch line by the likes of Bill Maher. Amongst the myriad of problems America has one of the most prevalent is our obsession with celebrity.

While Andy Warhol stated that everyone will get their 15 minutes of fame, not everyone deserves it. America has always had a fascination with celebrities but that has turned into obsession. We idolize musicians, actors, reality TV folks, and rich people. Even the most popular TV show is ironically entitled "American Idol". (I really don't have much of a problem with American Idol, most of the people on the show are relatively talented, the show is well-produced, and at its essence it is a simple and innocent concept).

Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Elvis Presley- these people are American icons, and celebrities. But they had an iota of the screen and print time given to someone as talentless as say, Paris Hilton. (See previous blog, Kelly Osborne and Vocal Overdrive as well) Now, it is very unfair to compare the exposure of those stars in their hayday to someone of modern time, simply because of the amount of exposure available. In 1950 you had radio, TV still in its infant stages, and newspapers. Now you have internet everything, cable, satellite, cell phones, terrestrial radio, satellite radio, podcasts, etc, etc, etc.

The problem with this obsession is that it is hollow. Most everyone we idolize has a craft that produces nothing but entertainment. Entertainment is almost completely hedonistic. It does very little to contribute to the advancement of society. Our real American Idols should be people of merit. People of character, with deep moral convictions, whose motive in life is not to become famous, but to benefit the world they are in as much as possible during the fleeting breath of life we are all given. Great war heroes, government servants (not politicians), great thinkers and scientists, teachers and authors. These people should be the Real American Idols.

We might want to look to the Greeks and Romans amongst others. These were great empires like our own that fell into oblivion. The most valued men in Greek society were their philosophers- that's why we know the names Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates thousands of years after their deaths. The most valued men in Roman society were great war heroes, that's what Roman boys aspired to be and that's probably why Rome so completely dominated the world at the peak of their civilization.

How many people in our society can name a great American philosopher of modern times? How about a great war hero of the last 20-30 years? If you can come up with more than one of either, then you are the exception. Yet how many people can tell you the name of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's daughter? We are sick. If it's really true that Nero fiddled while Rome burned, it was probably because he was obsessed with becoming the next "Roman Idol" instead of defending his city. Nero- the Clay Aiken of yesteryear.


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